Sweet Briar College announces details on its centers of excellence

Fletcher HallA  month ago, Sweet Briar College announced that it would create three “centers of excellence” to help further the College’s academic distinction over the next decade. This week, President Meredith Woo wrote a letter to the Sweet Briar community announcing each center’s leadership.

Raina RobevaThe first center, “Engineering, Science and Technology in Society,” will be led by Raina Robeva, professor of mathematical sciences. The center capitalizes on Sweet Briar’s status as one of just two women’s colleges in the country with an ABET-accredited engineering program and builds on the College’s excellent STEM curriculum. Robeva’s research interests span a wide range of topics including systems biology, random processes, and fields and mathematical modeling. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among others, and has resulted in three patents. She is author and editor of three books on biomathematics and a forthcoming book on combinatorial computational biology.

Carrie BrownThe second center is “Creativity, Design and the Arts,” building on the proximity to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, one of the nation’s largest residential artist colonies. That center’s director will be Carrie Brown. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Virginia, Brown began her professional life as a journalist before turning to writing fiction. She is the author of eight books — seven novels and a collection of short stories — and has just finished a new novel, “Hector in the Promised Land.” Brown has taught creative writing for many years, including at Hollins University, where she was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing. She has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for work by an American woman writer, the Great Lakes Book Award, as well as, twice, the Library of Virginia Award for the best work of fiction by a Virginia author. This past weekend she was recognized again by the Library of Virginia with the People’s Choice Award for Fiction.

Bethany BrinkmanThe third center will focus on “Human and Environmental Sustainability” and will have two co-directors: Bethany Brinkman and Linda Fink. An associate professor of engineering, Brinkman specializes in environmental engineering. Her teaching focuses on project-oriented learning while encouraging creativity and problem-solving skills. She has actively collaborated with other departments — mathematics, art history and business — to emphasize the mutually supportive relationship between engineering and the liberal arts. She also has significant experience in the private sector, having worked as an environmental engineer at HDR Engineering in Minneapolis.

Linda FinkFink, the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Ecology and director of the environmental science program, researches and teaches ecology, conservation and animal behavior. She is a recipient of several grants from the National Science Foundation. As Woo noted in her letter, Fink’s “dedication and service to Sweet Briar are widely appreciated,” both for her work as an elected faculty leader as well as for her advisory role on campus land use and environmental issues.