Last week, Sweet Briar welcomed 205 new students, the College’s largest incoming class since 2013. With the addition of these first-year and transfer students, the total enrollment for 2021-2022 is about 475. The official census takes place in September, when the exact number of students is calculated.
These women have joined the Sweet Briar family from across the country and world. They hail from 41 states, with the largest number of students coming from Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, and 17 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Bahamas, Botswana, Belize, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Nepal, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone and Venezuela.
The numbers of students interested in athletics and in Sweet Briar’s renowned hunter/jumper equestrian programs are also growing, driven by the Vixens’ recent successes. During the 2020-21 academic year, the NCEA riding team became the Single Discipline National Champions; a tennis doubles team qualified for and played at the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Doubles Championship; and five athletes were named Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars. This summer, Sweet Briar announced that softball would be added to the athletics roster.
Sweet Briar’s continued growth can be attributed to a bold rethinking of the liberal arts model under President Meredith Woo’s leadership. The College’s innovative women’s leadership core gives students a foundation in the values, skills, knowledge and perspectives essential for twenty-first century leadership and its 3-12-12-3-week academic calendar increases opportunities for intensive, immersive learning. The campus itself took center stage as sustainability and agricultural initiatives, incorporated into academic and co-curricular life, became a cornerstone of the College’s strategy. The ABET-accredited engineering program is hard-wired to immerse students in project-based, hands-on learning right from the start, and is one of only two degree-granting engineering programs at a women’s college in the U.S. Sweet Briar also reset its business model, lowering its tuition by 32%, making it a competitive alternative to flagship public universities and ensuring its affordability and accessibility.
President Woo’s vision for Sweet Briar and the liberal arts clearly has resonated with young women and their families. Students cite the women’s leadership core curriculum, the wealth of academic and co-curricular opportunities, the close-knit community and the sheer beauty of the campus as their reasons for becoming a Sweet Briar woman. “Around the world, we’re seeing a new interest in and an increasing demand for women’s equality; a real hunger for women’s leadership,” said President Woo. “Sweet Briar is ready to meet this need. It’s becoming the destination college for women who want to learn how to lead the world into a more just, inclusive and sustainable future.”