Sweet Briar leadership meets crucial milestones in first month

Sweet Briar's new senior leadership team met Aug. 3. Clockwise from left are Steven Nape, President Stone, Monica Dean, Kelly Kraft-Meyer, Nancyellen Keane, Tom Connors, Dave Shufflebarger and Pam DeWeese.
Sweet Briar’s new senior leadership team met Aug. 3. Clockwise from left are Steven Nape, President Stone, Monica Dean, Kelly Kraft-Meyer, Nancyellen Keane, Tom Connors, Dave Shufflebarger and Pam DeWeese.

On July 2, Sweet Briar College’s new leadership began the journey to keep Indiana Fletcher Williams’ vision alive, fulfilling the stipulation in her will that the College should exist “in perpetuity.”

Now, in just 30 days, the progress toward that goal has been remarkable. Thanks to the continued energy and passion of alumnae across the globe who joined forces in refusing to allow the College to close, a new high-profile president, and a new, fully engaged Board of Directors, the course is set for Sweet Briar to thrive into the next century as one of the country’s premier colleges for women.

In their first month at Sweet Briar, President Phil Stone and his leadership team have staffed all key administrative roles, brought home the College’s prestigious study abroad and riding programs, and worked to assure critical services such as dining and security are not only met, but improved.

The senior leadership team includes administrators who have returned to their former positions as well as faculty, staff and retirees who have been tapped for new leadership roles: Tom Connors is vice president for finance and treasurer; Monica Dean is director of media, marketing and communications; Pam DeWeese is dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs; Nancyellen Keane is vice president for administration and general counsel; Kelly Kraft-Meyer is dean of student life and academic support; Steven Nape is chief enrollment officer; and David Shufflebarger is overseeing alumnae relations and development.

Most of Sweet Briar’s faculty members also have returned to their former positions. Some who had accepted positions at other institutions have come home; others plan to be back for next semester or next fall.

Thanks to the dedication of these faculty, the College’s new leadership has been able to staff all programs of study — meaning that seniors can take the courses they need to graduate on time, while underclasswomen can continue in their majors uninterrupted.

In just 30 days, nearly 300 students have informed the College of their intent to attend in the fall.

One of the College’s earliest accomplishments in the first 30 days was the return of Sweet Briar’s signature Junior Year in France and Junior Year in Spain programs from Hollins University, which had agreed to host them for at least a year following the court settlement that kept the College open.

Sweet Briar’s renowned riding program has been preserved, and its Harriet Howell Rogers Riding Center will also become the new home of Lynchburg College’s equestrian program. This is a clear “win” for both programs.

In just 30 days, the Board of Directors, led by Columbus, Ga., Mayor Teresa Tomlinson ’87, has already met once on campus, meets weekly by phone, and has planned a three-day retreat on campus later in August. The board has pledged transparency in its decisions and posts regular summaries of its meetings on the College website.

Also in the first 30 days, the College has made key decisions that positively affect the campus environment.

The food service operation is back in-house with Parkhurst Dining providing management. All Sweet Briar Dining Services staff members will be employees of the College. Students will have more dining choices with higher-quality, locally grown, health-conscious items, along with traditional Sweet Briar favorites on the menus.

A newly appointed Sweet Briar director of hospitality will manage and market the College’s Florence Elston Inn & Conference Center, oversee summer programs and serve as liaison to Sweet Briar Dining Services. Campus security also has been brought back in-house, staffed entirely by Sweet Briar employees.

“We’ve moved at what seems to be a dizzying pace,” Stone said, reflecting on what has been accomplished in the past month. “We had extraordinary support from the faculty, staff and alumnae getting things done. All the pieces have come together, and we are excited for the opening of what will be a history-making year.”