In a letter to the community on Friday, Sweet Briar president Meredith Woo announced that the new dean of the College would be a familiar face: acting dean Lynn Rainville.
“In her capacity as acting dean, [Rainville] has helped implement a vast realignment of the curriculum, stemming from the introduction of the new leadership core, and other program reorganization,” Woo wrote. “Through it all, her concern has remained our students, making sure that no student is shortchanged in the restructuring. She has also championed scholarly excellence and in her short tenure in Fletcher, made a number of excellent faculty hires. I can’t think of a more qualified and prepared person for stewarding the College at this point in its history.”
Since taking over as acting dean in March, Rainville has been exercising financial and administrative oversight of the library, sponsored research, institutional effectiveness, the Honors Program and study abroad. More recently, Rainville also steered the “complex work of curricular realignment,” Woo added. “She has been actively involved in faculty recruitment and promoting excellence in research and teaching. As historian, archaeologist and anthropologist, she will continue to champion the centrality of the humanities and social sciences in the liberal arts education at Sweet Briar. This mission builds on her decade of public outreach as the director of the Tusculum Institute, dedicated to local history and historic preservation.”
Rainville has been a member of the Sweet Briar community since 2001. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Near Eastern archaeology and spending more than a decade directing projects in Turkey and Syria, she has spent the past 17 years uncovering Virginia’s forgotten histories, including research into African-American cemeteries, enslaved communities, segregated schools, town poor farms and the role Virginians played in World War I. Her grant-funded work has appeared in four books and more than two dozen articles. Rainville frequently shares her research through lectures, online databases and social media.
“It is rare to find a scholar who can bridge this gap between the academy and the public,” Woo wrote in her letter. “Her research demonstrates the importance of the humanities in designing research to connect our shared history to our common future.”
Engineering professor Hank Yochum will support Rainville in his new capacity as associate dean. Yochum has been a member of the Sweet Briar community since 2002. He has taught courses in engineering and physics and has led the Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program since 2007. Yochum earned his Ph.D. in physics at Wake Forest University and his B.S. at the College of Charleston. His research is in photonics and nano-engineering, most recently focusing on developing new processes to fabricate polymer-based optical devices.
As director of the engineering program, Yochum led the first accreditation review, which resulted in Sweet Briar becoming one of two women’s colleges in the country with an ABET-accredited engineering program. Part of his work included developing assessments of learning outcomes so that faculty members can ensure students gain the skills and knowledge to be successful and identify areas for improvement. Together with program faculty, he founded Explore Engineering, a series of spring, fall and summer courses that has brought more than 450 high school women to campus to create compelling, hands-on engineering projects.
Yochum has served as chair of the faculty senate and the Personnel Committee. An advocate for undergraduate research, he served as the director of the Honors Summer Research Program and was an elected councilor for the physics and astronomy division of the Council of Undergraduate Research (CUR). As associate dean, Yochum’s duties include being the point person for the Honors Program and institutional assessment. While he will remain involved with the engineering program, Bethany Brinkman will take over as director.
Yochum will also collaborate with Kim Sinha, Sweet Briar’s new director of institutional effectiveness, on projects related to SACS accreditation. Sinha, like Rainville a member of the president’s cabinet, comes to Sweet Briar from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, where she worked as a senior statistician. Her 30-year career also includes extensive stints in higher education, among them Carnegie Mellon University, San Diego State University and Central Virginia Community College. Sinha holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Bowling Green State University and a B.A. in social sciences from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
In the registrar’s office, Kimberly Wood has taken on her new role as assistant registrar. Wood previously worked in the College’s JYF program and from 2010 to 2017 in Liberty University Online’s Office of Transfer Evaluations. She holds an M.S. in counselor education: student affairs administration from Radford University and a B.S. in psychology/sociology from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.