Learning on the Land: Program Descriptions

 The following programs were offered during Orientation 2013. Check back later for the 2014 descriptions.




The Search for Little Life

Led by Mike Hayslett, naturalist-in-residence

Have a Master Naturalist show you how to take a closer look at life on Earth… in the little corners of campus. You’ll appreciate the “hidden” flora & fauna in nature, while learning how to slow down during busy times and hone your skills of observation, contemplation and journaling. Don’t miss this valuable anti-fast lane training!


Making Lasting Connections:  Sweet Briar Clubs and Traditions

Led by Kate Gorman, assistant director of Annual Giving

A large part of the Sweet Briar experience is bound up in her clubs and wonderful traditions. These clubs and traditions are celebrated at symbolic points of interest all over campus. Ask any alumna of her best memories of Sweet Briar and she will wax poetic over slinging paint at the Hitching Post, bearing lanterns in the Quad, sitting atop the Senior Stairs, laying daisies on The Monument and hanging banners from the Bell Tower. Sweet Briar women are connected and they always know how to have fun. Learn the depth and richness of those things uniquely Sweet Briar and get a head start on having a great time and making your own memories of a lifetime.

“The Hills Are Alive!”

Led by Marcia Thom, music instructor

Indeed, this phrase, boldly stolen from the movie “The Sound of Music,” is expressed every single day on the campus of Sweet Briar. In this adventure, students will hike and explore the nooks and crannies of the surrounding countryside, choosing elements of nature to create their own orchestra. Participants will be encouraged to “think outside of the box” and discover their own sense of music – instrumental and vocal. Be prepared to get dirty, have enormous fun and forget you ever used the words “good or bad”!


Gardens, Seeds, Soil, and Gardeners

Led by Bonnie Kestner, associate professor of physical education, and Donna Meeks, grounds superintendant

Using gardening as a metaphor, we will explore the horticultural landscape of Sweet Briar. Destinations such as the Community Garden, the Bloy Memorial Prayer Garden, Daisy’s Garden and the Greenhouse will be on our “tour,” so wear comfortable clothes and good walking shoes for our lengthy walk. Bring a small notebook and pencil to write reflections and a camera if you wish. Seeds will be planted, and students will take home a plant to nurture as well as a deeper appreciation of the new “garden” they will inhabit. 


Introduction to Mountain Biking on the Sweet Briar Campus

Led by Scott Pierce, assistant professor of engineering

This program is for students who are interested in mountain biking at Sweet Briar. The program is open to beginners who want to try mountain biking and experienced mountain bikers who want to learn where to ride at SBC. Routes will consist mainly of gravel and dirt roads, and we will point out plenty of single-track trails for you to try on your own. The group will be led by engineering professor Scott Pierce and his golden retriever Stanley. You are encouraged to bring your own bike; however, bikes will be available to rent for $30. If you rent a bike, bring a check or cash to your Learning on the Land program.



Led by Rob Alexander, professor of environmental studies

Geocaching combines the skills of map reading, orienteering, hiking and good old fashioned treasure hunts in a single game. Players are given global positioning system (GPS) coordinates and clues to the location of a hidden cache of treasure, and they use handheld GPS receivers, and their own wits, to help them locate the cache. Students will learn the basics of map-reading and GPS navigation and then will strike off through Sweet Briar's many trails in search of cached treasures.


Nature Observation at The Lake

Led by Joe Malloy, reference and Interlibrary Loan librarian

What is living and growing in the ecological environment in and around the lake, and what things can you identify? Be prepared for a nature treasure hunt! We will be swimming in the lake, too, so bring your swimsuit and water shoes. If you have a curious mind and an observant eye, this is the program for you. (Good swimming ability is required.)


Living Sustainably at Sweet Briar — How Can you Make A Difference?

Led by Cheryl Steele, dean of co-curricular life

Our group will discuss sustainability efforts at Sweet Briar. You will meet various campus resource persons and your creative thinking and ideas will result in publicity that you will create to make your statement about sustainable living in the residence halls. 


Canoeing on the Lake

Led by Cheryl Warnock, associate professor of theatre and dance

Come learn the basics in canoeing and explore Sweet Briar College’s beautiful Lower Lake. You may observe birds, turtles, fish, new friends and more. Bring shoes that you can get wet and will stay on your feet in the water. No flip-flops. Wear a bathing suit if you want to go for a swim.


Hiking, History, and your Green Career

Led by Wayne Stark, senior director of career services

Join Wayne Stark, senior director of career services, as he takes you on a journey exploring the history of Sweet Briar Plantation (get a sense of where you are) and the many possibilities that lie before you as you ponder your future goals and dreams (get a sense of where you are going). Traverse trails and byways while gaining insight into the land and the people who have lived and worked here for over 200 years. Come away with not only historical knowledge and an appreciation for the environmental beauty of Sweet Briar, but also an understanding of how to take the next steps towards being all that you envision yourself to be.


Cemeteries & Ruins

Led by Lynn Rainville, director of the Tusculum Institute

Come prepared for a 2+ hour walk (on and off trail) as we explore the historic landscape of the former Sweet Briar Plantation. We will begin at the plantation house (currently the home of the Sweet Briar president), tour an old cabin used by the enslaved community, commemorate the lives of these individuals at the slave cemetery, stroll through historic fields and fences, and view the site for the reconstruction of Tusculum (Elijah Fletcher’s wife’s home).


The Sound of Flutes

Led by Mark Magruder, associate professor of dance

We will take a journey to a place of quiet beauty on campus. One spot, the bamboo forest, has inspired me to make many of my dances. One can feel a connection to nature here that few other places have. We will explore this area on many different levels. Everyone will learn how to make a flute and decorate it. Instructions on the basics of flute playing will be provided, so individuals do not need any musical knowledge to participate.


Meet the International Students!

Led by Tiffany Cummings, director of international studies

Sweet Briar has a number of international students from many different countries. In this session you can learn about their homelands, customs and traditions as well as make friends with students who may be fluent in numerous languages! 


Outing Cabin Certification

Led by Paulette Proter-Stransky, project coordinator for education, physics and engineering

Our group will hike to the Outing Cabin, located on Paul Mountain, just off Smokey Hollow Road. Sweet Briar women who desired to get away from campus helped build the rustic cabin in the 1930s. Today, the outing cabin still serves as a rustic retreat in the woods. The cabin is available for use by Sweet Briar College students, faculty, staff and their guests. To use the Outing Cabin, students must successfully complete an orientation administered by the Outdoor Program. Cabin leaders are responsible for the welfare of any guests they bring to the cabin, and also care of the cabin. During the hike we plan to discuss what we see and are experiencing; then to relax and roast s'mores over a fire at the cabin before we hike back. Completing this will count as a cabin orientation.

Writing in Place: Environment & Personal Expression

Led by John Casteen, visiting assistant professor of English

This program will include a one-mile hike on the college’s grounds where the group will explore, have a discussion on the methods of writing in place, and a free-write session in the woods surrounding us. Afterward, we’ll gather again as a large group in order to share work and experiences.

YUM!  Your Unlimited Menu

Led by Carolyn Burton, director of human resources

We all gotta eat, right? Let's explore together all your options for meals on campus, starting with the main dining facility (Prothro), Daisy’s Cafe and the Houston Bistro. Find out how to maximize your Bistro exchanges and how to make your meals at Prothro fresh and creative all year long. We’ll have hands-on fun (and learning) in a kitchen on campus preparing, cooking and sampling easy-to-make meals, snacks and desserts that are delicious, (mostly) healthy, affordable and can be made in your residence hall kitchens! Yum!


Walk a Mile (in another’s shoes)

Led by Dori Baker and Amy Payne, of the chaplain's office

We will take a two-part journey together. Part one will involve meeting and getting to know a few people who live in neighborhoods on the College’s 3,200 acres: retired housekeepers, professors and groundskeepers who’ve lived here for decades. At each stop, you’ll get a new walking partner with whom you’ll take turns asking and answering questions about where you’ve come from and what you’re leaving behind. When we walk a mile in one another’s shoes, we begin to form friendships that help us begin to feel at home here. We will end with dessert in the Center for Spiritual Life.


The Land as Art

Led by Tracy Hamilton, associate professor of art history

In the past four years, students who enrolled in the class The Land as Art learned of cultures who have used the land or been inspired by it to create art. As part of that class, we also walked the campus and eventually chose locations to create our own response to the land of Sweet Briar. In this session of Learning on the Land, we will retrace their footsteps and talk about how we too can merge the study of art and sustainability.


Sweet Briar Ghost Tour

Led by Sheila Alexander, development grants officer

Sweet Briar ghost stories are a fun part of the culture on campus. Learn about Daisy, for whom SBC was founded, her mother, Indiana Fletcher Williams, and the many stories of their hauntings on campus. Wear comfortable shoes for an afternoon of walking and standing on gravel and pavement as we visit the most popular locations of our ghost stories.


Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants

Led by Nell Schroer, Coordinator of Campus Student Employment

You don’t have to be a vegetarian — or a Michael Pollan groupie — to have a love for veggies! Come join us as we trek to the Community Garden to learn more about what fresh goodness is growing right under our noses, both on campus and in the local community.  We'll talk about real food and how to be thoughtful when we think about how to fuel our bodies. After we shake the dirt off our knees, we will retire to the kitchen, where we will learn how to juice and blend some of our very own fresh produce into a delicious afternoon treat!