Sweet Briar reveals academic investments in liberal arts and sciences including core curriculum focused on leadership

Library and studentsToday Sweet Briar College published its new core curriculum focused on women’s leadership, along with its liberal arts and sciences offerings. These new offerings are tailored to meet student demand for 21st-century relevancy and to their academic interests and career choices.

The 10 courses for the new core are:

  • CORE 110 Design Thinking (3 credits)
  • CORE 120 Argument and Persuasion (3)
  • CORE 130 Women and Gender in the World (3)
  • CORE 140 Sustainable Systems (3)
  • CORE 150 Expression and the Arts (3)
  • CORE 160 STEM in Society (3)
  • CORE 170 Decisions in a Data-driven World (3)
  • CORE 210 Contemporary Questions in Ethics and Human Difference (3)
  • CORE 220 Leadership Realized I (3)
  • CORE 310 Leadership Realized II (3)

“Sweet Briar’s curriculum invites students to look squarely upon the problems that our world faces,” said Meredith Woo, president of Sweet Briar. “It empowers women to craft the solutions that our world needs by creating an inclusive environment, and one that seeks out diverse perspectives to address diverse challenges. We’re also giving students what they have shown us they want through their enrollment in majors and minors — the academic programs they have deemed relevant for today and tomorrow.”

Accordingly, Sweet Briar is restructuring its academic programs, staying true to liberal arts and sciences and the College’s areas of distinction. The new offerings are well-balanced across the sciences, humanities, social sciences and the arts as follows:

Undergraduate programs:

Arts and Humanities

  • English and creative writing
  • Modern languages
  • Philosophy
  • Classics and archaeology
  • Art and art history [includes studio art]
  • Performing arts (music, theatre, dance)


  • Engineering and physics
  • Computational sciences [includes mathematics]
  • Biology and biochemistry
  • Psychology
  • Environmental sciences

Social Sciences

  • History
  • Government and international affairs
  • Liberal studies (education)
  • Economics
  • Business

Self-designed major

  • Interdisciplinary studies

Pre-professional tracks:


Graduate program:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching

In September, the College announced a comprehensive vision focused on excellence, relevance and affordability, creating a new business model for liberal arts institutions.

“Faculty leadership worked diligently throughout the fall 2017 semester on a set of 10 courses designed to help students develop habits of lifelong learning, innovation, ethical conduct, problem solving, collaboration and empathy,” said Rob Granger, dean of the College. The faculty voted on Dec. 8 to carry forward the new core, which will replace the general education requirement beginning with the 2018-19 academic year. “The new courses will encourage student engagement, identify interdisciplinary connections and stimulate intellectual open-mindedness. Now more than ever, this is an invigorating time to study at Sweet Briar.”

The College expects to hire approximately five new faculty members within the next two years. The exact positions will be decided by the faculty based on what they deem strategic to support the curriculum, but may include investment in economics, history and modern languages.

Considered a critical field for contemporary study, modern languages will be created to add important languages of the future and to concentrate on language proficiency. English instruction will focus on creative and persuasive writing in line with the new core. Chemistry will better support engineering, biology and pre-med. Existing minors under these programs will remain. All curriculum changes are effective beginning with the 2018-19 academic year. All current students who have declared majors will have pathways to complete them.

“We have a relentless focus on students, so in 2018 we also will be rolling out new student life initiatives,”  Woo said. Initiatives will include living-learning communities, a formalized team approach to advising (faculty, career, alumnae) and career planning from year one.

Woo also reaffirmed the College’s commitment to sustainability and stewardship of the campus’s resources, both natural and built. The College is working with the local community and passionate alumnae on multiple projects in the areas of renewable energy, land conservation and preservation of its historic assets. Twenty-one buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also this week, S&P Global Ratings raised its long-term rating to “B+” from “B” on bonds issued for Sweet Briar College, with an outlook of “stable.” The ratings report cited that the rating reflects the company’s “view of the college’s new board and senior leadership team, including a new president who officially took office in May 2017, who have taken a number of actions to stabilize the college.” The report specifically named Sweet Briar’s overhaul of strategic initiatives and developing related objectives to address the College’s immediate and intermediate priorities that include curriculum restructuring; reexamination of the tuition policy; implementation of multi-year planning; continued elevated fundraising support; and astute financial management and budgeting practices.

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