Our Sustainable Future: Women’s Leadership

Fostering leadership in women is an important mission of the College. This mission is integrated into our general education program, known as the Women’s Leadership Core (henceforth, “the core.”) Concisely comprised of ten courses, the core provides an interdisciplinary approach anchored in the liberal arts, promoting skills and habits of effective communication, problem-solving and decision-making. The leadership that Sweet Briar emphasizes is horizontal and not hierarchical; it is democratic, collaborative and humanistic—as women often tended to practice in the past and as the world will need in the coming years.

Over the next five years, we will deepen and strengthen the core by accomplishing the following:

(a) Implementing Sweet Briar’s Plan for Building out Leadership Capacity

The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is a major element in the College’s decennial reaccreditation with SACSCOC. Given the centrality of leadership in our curriculum and our mission, the faculty developed the QEP on “Building Leadership” through integrated academic and co-curricular programming. The main elements are as follows.

  • Refinement of a “leadership scaffold,” consisting of four core courses with enhanced leadership content that will also connect seamlessly with sequential courses.
  • Creation of professional and academic development workshops that will assist the faculty in infusing design thinking, globalism, ethics and leadership development throughout the entire core.
  • Creation and launch of the co-curricular ROSE (Relationships, Opportunities, Service, Empowerment) leadership program, designed to give students hands-on, practical leadership training on and off campus. It encourages students to meet with faculty mentors, develop leadership competencies in the first year and practice them in subsequent years. Each year, the ROSE program will culminate in a student-run campus-wide leadership event, such as a conference or debates on issues of global importance.

(b) Administering and Developing the Leadership Core

We will appoint a core director from the rank of the faculty, responsible for implementing the QEP plans as described above. The director will further assist the vice president for academic affairs in infusing the ethos of leadership throughout the curriculum, assessing student learning outcomes and ensuring smooth operations of the core with respect to staffing and curriculum.

(c) The Core as an Iterative Process

The core will continue to evolve in content and methods. We will adopt new pedagogical approaches to help students internalize the habits of leadership. Faculty will be encouraged to develop project- and community-based assignments—for example, helping students participate in efforts to promote leadership of women in agriculture in the Commonwealth, partnering with area food banks and economic development agencies to reduce food insecurity and actively involving students with the work of the College in the next five years of implementing the plan. Faculty will also explore the use of an online portfolio for students to demonstrate their leadership development over the course of their time at Sweet Briar by uploading examples of their activities and accomplishments, in written, pictorial or video formats.

The coaches in the athletic and riding programs will facilitate the spread of leadership ethics, and all of this starts on the first day on campus, with orientation for new students.

(d) Renovations to Benedict.

Many of the core courses are taught in Benedict. A graceful Georgian Revival brick structure designed by Ralph Adams Cram, it is one of the 21 buildings comprising the Sweet Briar College Historic District. Its condition, along with that of the district’s other buildings, was recently surveyed as part of the Historic Structures Assessment and Stewardship Plan produced by Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker

Architects (MCWB) in 2020. (The entire plan is available on our website: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q3wfjamf7ufdvnw/AACCaCA4UH_Ml15veXDeP9yna?dl=0 .)

Benedict has always been used for classrooms and faculty offices; it is currently the home base for faculty of the humanities and social sciences division. Plans for the building include renovating the lobby and Tyson Auditorium (a classroom with theatre-style seating) and updating other classrooms with the technology and furnishings needed to facilitate collaboration and engaged learning. Infrastructure needs include updated HVAC and electrical systems, and improved ADA accessibility.