Leadership Core

Sweet Briar has been educating women of consequence, confidence and grit for more than a century. Today, our commitment to leadership and the liberal arts go hand in hand. Effective leaders benefit from the foundation of a liberal arts education, which teaches them to be successful communicators, ethical decision-makers and empathetic problem-solvers.

The general education system common in higher education is one way to experience a wide variety of disciplines, but it isn’t the only way. Our core curriculum will give you the opportunity to get a broad, multifaceted education while also teaching you how the disciplines interact — and how they relate to your own specific interests. Life is interdisciplinary. No matter your professional path, you’ll need scientific, civic and business literacy to be successful in both your work and home life. Sweet Briar’s core curriculum will teach you those skills.

More than that, our core will encourage you to ask challenging questions about the nature of leadership. How does gender impact leadership? What differentiates women leaders? How does our culture impact women’s leadership? At Sweet Briar, we’re not afraid to ask these questions — and more — and we encourage you to reach your own conclusions about how you, as a 21st-century woman, can lead in your home, workplace and community. And we’ll give you plenty of opportunities to put those conclusions into practice through research with faculty, internships and leadership roles in student organizations.

Our core curriculum will teach you to harness your natural leadership abilities — whether your life path takes you to Wall Street or Main Street, to graduate study or to the workplace.

Throughout the core, you’ll develop communications skills, learn to sift through evidence and gain an understanding of diverse cultural and disciplinary perspectives. You’ll look squarely upon the problems our world faces and get empowered to craft solutions. And, because our core curriculum spans four years of study, you will have plenty of time to craft an academic program that lets you explore what truly excites you.


CORE 110 — Design Thinking (3)

Prerequisite: Limited to and required for all incoming first-year and new transfer students.

A team of faculty members from varied disciplines will introduce students to the design-thinking process and its application to a range of problems from local through global scale. Faculty will show how design thinking is expressed in different disciplines, and at the end of the course, students will engage in the process for themselves in different disciplinary contexts and engage in a multidisciplinary endeavor. This course introduces our leadership core, which will produce students who are inquisitive when approaching new challenges; empathetic, informed and fearless when framing potential solutions to those challenges; flexible, organized and collaborative when designing and implementing solutions; articulate and confident when communicating those solutions; focused upon the creation of well-executed products; and perceptively self-critical when reviewing the effectiveness of their own work.

CORE 120 — The Mindful Writer (3)

Prerequisite: Required of all first-year students.

A workshop-based writing course that helps students become confident and effective readers and writers. Using the New Yorker magazine as the primary text — each student will have an individual ten-week subscription — students will learn to read carefully; identify the style and structure of individual pieces, from profiles to review to political and cultural commentary; and write several pieces of their own, practicing a range of rhetorical methods while also conducting research, crafting persuasive arguments and producing multiple drafts through careful and sustained revision.

CORE 130 — Women in the World (3)

A multidisciplinary study of the social, cultural and political issues that influence women in societies across the world. The course introduces theoretical perspectives and social contexts for the diverse challenges that confront contemporary women.

CORE 140 — Sustainable Systems (3)

Prerequisite: CORE 110.

This class introduces the concept of sustainability by emphasizing the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic systems. Case studies from around the world will demonstrate the importance of understanding both cultural and political contexts when developing innovative solutions to intractable environmental problems. Translating knowledge into actions, students will participate in projects related to local and campus sustainability.

CORE 150 — Expression and the Arts (3)

Prerequisite: CORE 110.

An interdisciplinary course that helps students develop creative and critical capacities through the study and practice of the arts. Students will learn the techniques of making art in one discipline while folding in perspectives from a variety of artists and artworks. In addition to making and presenting art, students will study methods of art theory and criticism, focusing on how art communicates diverse values. Students will also meet with fellows from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts to understand how a variety of artists think about art and culture. The overarching theme for CORE 150 will change from year to year; each section’s content will be determined by the instructor(s).

CORE 160 — STEM in Society (3)

Prerequisite: CORE 110.

Students will conduct open-ended investigations on a scientific or technological topic relevant to society. Each section will have a specific focus; all sections are designed to empower students to develop evidence-based opinions and make informed decisions about societal issues related to science and technology.

CORE 170 — Decisions in a Data-driven World (3)

Prerequisite: CORE 110.

The volume of data available to help us make decisions is increasing at a staggering rate. How do we sort through data to find what is relevant and useful? How do we evaluate, organize and interpret the information to make good decisions? This course will focus on data-rich topics drawn from the fields of economics, personal finance, science and technology, health and political science to develop the ability to reason and work with data, as well as understand and present arguments supported by quantitative evidence.

CORE 210 — Contemporary Ethical Questions (3)

Prerequisites: CORE 120, CORE 130 and sophomore standing.

Global climate change, human migration and technological manipulation of genes all present pressing ethical questions for which no clear-cut answers exist. This course helps students address such complex issues by introducing them to major branches of philosophical ethics and then helping them apply these diverse perspectives to propose solutions. All sections initially follow a common syllabus of theoretical readings; then each section concentrates on contemporary ethical dilemmas in particular sphere (e.g., medicine, business, law, etc.).

CORE 220 — Leadership Realized I (3)

Prerequisites: Two of the following: CORE 140, CORE 150, or CORE 160.

This course guides teams of students in using leadership tools to address a problem of their own choosing. Students will be given support to design and propose their projects; develop the skills integral to effective project management and the financial literacy required for project budgeting; and practice the effective communication of a proposal through both public speaking and the use of new media.

CORE 310 — Leadership Realized II (3)

Prerequisites: CORE 210 and CORE 220.

Students employ the skills and expertise they have acquired at Sweet Briar to carry out a collaborative project that addresses a substantial problem faced in the real world. The project combines individual contributions in small-group collaborations to develop and implement solutions. Teams organize around “big problems” and ask individual team members to navigate the questions: What can you solve with your skills?