Leadership Core and Centers of ExcellenceOur faculty has designed an innovative liberal arts curriculum that builds on Sweet Briar’s unique strengths in the sciences, arts and humanities. At its heart: a bold focus on women’s leadership in the 21st century.

The Leadership Core

The first innovation is a revised core curriculum that takes the place of general education requirements. The leadership core is a set of required courses designed to prepare women to be effective leaders for today’s society. Courses from across the three centers of excellence develop the skills and habits of the mind that are the hallmarks of liberal arts excellence. Through them, Sweet Briar women learn to speak and write compellingly; to make ethical decisions; to be adept at logic and reason; and to be able to synthesize information, take action with confidence and manage projects and complex situations.

Components of the leadership core may include a first-year research experience, ethics of leadership, financial literacy, rhetoric and communication, and a capstone requirement.

Centers of Excellence

Beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year, three “centers of excellence” will take the place of our current academic programs and divisions. Majors will align within the centers, and study will be more intense, hands-on, collaborative and interdisciplinary — the building blocks of the career and life skills the liberal arts are known for: critical thinking, written and verbal communication; ethics and awareness; and adaptability. These centers are designed around Sweet Briar’s existing strengths, both its resources and programs of distinction.

  • Engineering, Science and Technology in Society: This center builds on being home to one of only two ABET-accredited engineering programs among women’s colleges in the U.S.
  • Human and Environmental Sustainability: This center capitalizes on one of our greatest assets — our campus and its vast nature preserves that serve as a laboratory.
  • Creativity, Design and the Arts: This center takes advantage of the natural synergy with the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, one of the nation’s largest artist colonies, located just across U.S. 29.

Academic Calendar

Sweet Briar is implementing a 3-12-12-3-week academic calendar that incorporates short terms dedicated to experiential learning opportunities such as research, internships and study abroad. Every undergraduate student will be eligible for up to $2,000 to fund these experiences. Summer courses will be added to allow students opportunities to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years. Additionally, the three-week short terms may be used for intensive courses taught by guest instructors who bring practical lessons from their everyday jobs. Such guests may be policy-makers and legislators, working artists from the VCCA, or accomplished alumnae. These are opportunities for lifelong connections and mentorships.