Sweet Briar named 2016 BRAID Affiliate

Sweet Briar is one of two women's colleges in the country to offer an ABET-accredited degree in engineering.
Sweet Briar is one of two women’s colleges in the country to offer an ABET-accredited degree in engineering.

Sweet Briar College announced today that it has been named a 2016 affiliate school of the Building, Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity initiative, known as BRAID.

BRAID — led by Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, and Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College — aims to increase the percentage of women and other minorities among undergraduate majors in computer science departments at colleges and universities across the country.

“It’s never been more important to support young women and people of color as they pursue careers in computer science and engineering programs, and ABI’s BRAID initiative is proud to partner with some of the nation’s top universities in this effort,” said Whitney. “We’re thrilled to welcome Sweet Briar College as a 2016 BRAID Affiliate School.”

Sweet Briar, which boasts one of only two engineering programs in the country at women’s colleges to offer an ABET-accredited degree, has a long history of encouraging women to enter fields in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“As we renew and position Sweet Briar College for its next 114 years, a strong emphasis on engineering, computer science and other science programs will be critical to our commitment to prepare new generations of women for leadership in all fields,” said Sweet Briar president Phillip C. Stone. “We must do it now, and we must do it well. This is a major step in enhancing that commitment.”

The BRAID initiative, funded by Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, CRA and the National Science Foundation, launched in September 2014 in partnership with 15 universities across the nation. Each university committed to a set of approaches to increase diversity within their computer science departments — modeled on the precedents of several “Beacon Institutions,” including Harvey Mudd, which have already succeeded in doing so. Each department also committed to providing data for a research study that will document the progress made over the course of three years.

BRAID School Affiliates, like Sweet Briar College, have made the same commitments as BRAID Institutions, but are not currently receiving funding for these programs. They include Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rice University, Simon Fraser and Texas A&M.

As a BRAID Affiliate, Sweet Briar will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from the cohort of BRAID schools by participating in the 2016 BRAID Summit next summer.

“As a college committed to increasing the number of women in STEM fields, we look forward to learning more about the successful initiatives from the BRAID schools,” said Sweet Briar engineering program director Hank Yochum, who will represent the College at the summit. “Our participation will both strengthen the College’s current STEM offerings and support our efforts as we work to enhance our computer science offerings.”

Sweet Briar graduates have already made their mark in the tech world. One such alumna is Leah Busque, an entrepreneur and founder of the successful Internet startup TaskRabbit. She graduated from Sweet Briar in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science.

“Attending a women’s college built a strong foundation, gave me the confidence to explore my passions, and never second guess my ability to step forward as a leader in the space,” Busque said. “Computer science is an exciting and dynamic career, and I am so thrilled to see Sweet Briar College supporting diversity in the field by participating in BRAID and preparing the next generation of female technology entrepreneurs and leaders.”

Sweet Briar is known for encouraging students to work with faculty on research and design projects using state-of-the-art equipment — such as the College’s Land-Atmosphere Research Station, a high-tech facility for studying biosphere-atmosphere interactions — and most pursue internships and other experiential learning opportunities throughout their undergraduate careers.

Read more about BRAID.