Sweet Briar College president Meredith Woo announces leadership transition

 

SWEET BRIAR, VA (January 9, 2023) — Sweet Briar College’s 13th president, Meredith Jung-En Woo, announced today that she will step down at the conclusion of the 2023-2024 academic year after leading the College for seven years.

The College’s Board of Directors will work with the campus community over the next eighteen months to recruit its next president. The selection of a search firm is underway, and updates will be shared with the Sweet Briar community as they become available.

“Sweet Briar is an important institution with a distinctive mission. Deeply loved and supported by one of the strongest alumnae networks in the nation, it now has an unstoppable momentum,” President Woo said. “I look forward to passing the baton to a new leader who can take the College to a new height.”

President Woo intends to leave the College in the best possible shape for her successor and will focus her time on raising the resources to implement the College’s ambitious, five-year strategic plan.

“President Woo has inspired the Sweet Briar community of alumnae and change-makers,” said Mason B. Rummel, the Chair of Sweet Briar’s Board of Directors. “We were fortunate to recruit an educator of her intelligence and compassion to the College and are confident we will find the next great leader to continue Sweet Briar’s upward trajectory. We are grateful to Meredith Woo for her stalwart dedication to Sweet Briar’s mission and are glad she will continue to be involved in the years ahead.”

Under President Woo’s leadership, Sweet Briar College underwent comprehensive restructuring. Upon her arrival in 2017, she and her team overhauled the College’s curriculum to create an innovative Women’s Leadership Core to replace the traditional “general education” program and to emphasize hands-on, immersive learning. The tuition price of Sweet Briar was radically reset, the College was resized, and its budget was restructured to make it sustainable.

Sweet Briar’s landscape, one of the most beautiful among American colleges, also saw a profound transformation. President Woo encouraged the College to return to its roots in agriculture, adding a 26,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art greenhouse and 18 acres of vineyards. Other investments were made in athletics, through the addition of a water-based AstroTurf field, and renovations of its 130-acre equestrian facility for its equestrian program. During the pandemic, Sweet Briar completed a brand-new health center and renovated the common spaces of some residence halls, created an outdoor, multi-use student commons, and renovated 24/7 dining café areas.

In recognition of these efforts, Sweet Briar has won plaudits, for three out of the last four years, as one of the “Most Innovative Liberal Arts Colleges” from U.S. News & World Report. Sweet Briar’s accreditation was also reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a process that takes place every 10 years.

Fundraising remains robust. The alumnae and friends of Sweet Briar gave more than $25 million during the 2021-2022 academic year. S&P Global recently reaffirmed the College’s bond rating and raised its outlook to “positive,” a category that includes only 4 percent of S&P-rated colleges in the United States. Sweet Briar continues to operate a balanced budget, and financial audits have been clean without material weaknesses. Enrollment has steadily increased by 60 percent overall since 2017.