Admissions Blog: Meet your Sweet Briar admissions counselors

Admissions counselor Jessi Pugh
Sweet Briar College admissions counselor Jessi Pugh at Get Downtown in Lynchburg

It’s college fair season, and chances are there’s a college fair near you. Where there’s a college fair, there’s probably a Sweet Briar booth with a fierce Sweet Briar admissions counselor ready to tell you more about the prettiest 3,250 acres on Earth. (Well, we think so, anyway!) We’ll also be quick to let you know that Sweet Briar is one of just two women’s colleges in the country with an ABET-accredited engineering program and that we’re pretty innovative. In fact, U.S. News & World Report listed us among the Most Innovative Schools in 2018, thanks in part to our leadership core curriculum, which launched last fall. And, yes: We have a riding program, too, with teams that compete in the NCEA, IHSA and ODAC.

We thought you might like to know a little bit about the admissions counselors that travel around the country telling prospective students and their families all about Sweet Briar!

Savannah Oxner ’05, senior admissions counselor

Savannah Oxner
Savannah Oxner

Savannah graduated from Sweet Briar in 2005 with a double major in anthropology and English and creative writing, and a Master of Arts in Teaching in 2006. She fell in love with the College on her first visit. “The campus was beautiful, the community embracing and the educational opportunities exactly what I was looking for,” she says.

As a student, Savannah practically lived in the library. She had a special hiding place where she spent hours reading and writing for class. She also worked in several different positions on campus, including in the café, backstage at the theater and as a tour guide. Savannah was able to thrive because of Sweet Briar. “The rigors of my courses challenged me to reach new standards for my own work and the community supported me from every angle,” she says.

Savannah enjoys her job in admissions because she loves helping young women with their college search — especially those who find their place at Sweet Briar. “We truly provide an opportunity for fierce young women to thrive and for those who need to, we help them find their fierce,” she says. “I also enjoy being able to serve so many incredible alumnae representatives who volunteer to represent Sweet Briar. They prove what an amazing community Sweet Briar is.”


Alex Goldman, admissions counselor

Alex Goldman
Alex Goldman

Alex grew up in the town of Amherst and took part in community events at Sweet Briar as a girl. When the time came to find a school, she felt Sweet Briar was an incredible opportunity, but it was too close to home. The desire to experience something new led her to the University of Rochester, where she graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s in psychology.

After graduation, Alex returned home, where she explored several career opportunities before rediscovering her passion for higher education. “Sweet Briar’s commitment to developing strong female leaders and global citizens is remarkable, and I am honored to be a part of the recruiting process,” she says.

Alex enjoys working in the admissions office and loves seeing Sweet Briar’s community changing the lives of its students, alumnae and community members every day. “This is a beautiful place with a long history of powerful women making a difference,” she says. “I’m lucky to be a member of such a supportive and diverse community!”


Jessi Pugh
Jessi Pugh

Jessi Pugh, senior admissions counselor

Jessi works with students in Central Virginia and Richmond. She grew up in Chesapeake and graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College (now Virginia Wesleyan University) in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Jessi has been in admissions since 2016, when she started working at her alma mater. There, she oversaw student ambassadors and planned open house events. In 2019, she joined the Sweet Briar family. She works with our student ambassadors and plans open houses and other admissions events for the office. Jessi loves working with students and helping them find the right fit for college. In her spare time, she likes to run, read and visit Disney parks.


Ailish Rhoades ’19, admissions counselor

Ailish Rhoades
Ailish Rhoades

Ailish works with students living on the West Coast and in the Midwest, in addition to students in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She grew up in Connecticut and moved down to Virginia in July after graduating from Sweet Briar with a degree in English and Creative Writing.

Along with being an admissions counselor, Ailish is also Sweet Briar’s equestrian liaison and helps athletes explore the many options available to them through the program. Ailish was ecstatic to be able to return to Sweet Briar post-graduation and loves helping other women find their place at her alma mater. In her free time, she enjoys yoga and spending time with her dogs and horses.


Mandi Dean, admissions counselor

Mandi Dean
Mandi Dean

Mandi works with students in Northern Virginia, Tidewater Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. She is an Amherst native and even lived on Sweet Briar’s campus when both parents worked at Sweet Briar. She also graduated from Sweet Briar in 2005 with a degree in anthropology, archaeology and arts management.

Mandi has worked with students through museum studies since 2005, working in archival and historic interpretation sectors for several nonprofit organizations in Central Virginia. She returned to her Sweet Briar roots in July 2019 and hopes to help students find their voice and build their confidence the way Sweet Briar did for her. In her spare time, Mandi enjoys being outdoors with her husband, Paul, and daughter, Emma. They love the beach, camping and kayaking.

We can’t wait to meet you at our next college fair! And if you don’t meet an admissions counselor, you’ll probably meet one of our pretty amazing alumnae admissions ambassadors — there are more than 100 of them!


Catch a Sweet Briar admissions counselor or alumnae admissions ambassador at these college fairs.

Ready to see our stunning campus — and meet all of our great faculty and students — in person? Attend our Fall Open House on Nov. 9 or schedule a personal visit. P.S.: Ask about our fly-in program!