This August was particularly rewarding. We welcomed 205 new students to Sweet Briar and more than 250 continuing students returned. The new students moved in on August 13 and 14 and participated in five days of fun and informative orientation events. Then the entire campus came together for Opening Convocation on Aug. 18, and classes began the next day with the start of the three-week term.
I know that preparing for the arrival of the students and the start of the academic year requires a great deal of teamwork and effort from everyone. I’m very proud of our community for a flawless launch of the fall semester. Thank you!
Let me share with you some additional updates for August.
The new admissions cycle for the class entering in the fall of 2022 is underway. We have initiated our application generation communications campaign, and applications, admits, and deposits are all higher than they were at this time last year.
As part of our pipeline strategy to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones, we are scheduling virtual presentations with independent counselors (who help students and their families chose a college) in major metropolitan areas around the country. Ten are booked so far.
Academics, Student Life, Athletics
In addition to welcoming and holding orientation for new students, we welcomed our new faculty members and had an Orientation program for them on Aug. 17. The week before, on Aug. 12, we held a professional development day for faculty and academic and Student Life staff. They received updates on the academic program and participated in a half-day workshop led by Dean Greenstein on the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a tool Student Life will be using to help students learn about their own emotional, cognitive, and social skills, and educate them about both personal and team leadership.
As final step in our SACSCOC re-affirmation process, we submitted the response report that addressed the last two outstanding standards with which we needed to be in compliance, regarding library staffing and assessment of our general education program, the Leadership Core.
We are wrapping up the three-week term, which ends on Sept. 9, and anticipate the beginning of the twelve-week term on the 13th. All students are registered for it and ready to go!
Not only is academic life off to a good start – student life is hopping! On Aug. 20, the students held the annual Quad Rocks involvement fair, where each club and organization sets up a table filled with information about what they do and how to get involved, and answers any questions their fellow students may have. This year we had over 40 tables and a fantastic turnout. The Weeks of Welcome are also going on, with multiple activities to welcome new and continuing students, such as a workshop on preparing resumes and cover letters; wellness sessions on Alcohol, Prescription Drugs, and Mental Health, and Gettin’ those A’s and those Zzzzz’s: Sleep Well in College; Back to School Bingo; and a Bagel Bash hosted by Student Life.
Our campus cultural life is starting up, too. The theatre department held auditions for the fall production, Red Noses, and the Sweet Tones, the College’s a capella group, also held auditions.
Athletics is ready for the new academic year. A significant portion of our students are members of our Vixen teams, with some students participating in more than one varsity sport. One hundred twenty NCAA student-athletes (first years through seniors) have been cleared for participation. The IHSA and NCEA teams had tryouts this week.
Seasonal competitions were set to open on Sept. 1, but we had to reschedule several events due to Hurricane Ida. The cross country team has posted the first event on Sept. 3, bettering the College’s times from last year by a significant amount. Field hockey played its first two games, blowing past Centenary 9-1 in their home opener but dropping a close match to Wilson College 2-3.
The Outdoor Program has organized day hikes, night hikes, a star-gazing event, camping, and a canoe certification.
Planning and fundraising continue for the new state-of-the-art turf field, which will cost approximately $2.6 million. We have already raised $1.7 million in gifts and pledges from donors and the College has committed $600,000; leaving $300,000 to raise to complete the project’s funding.
Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries
The Book Shop had many customers, especially first years and their families. August sales are up 79% over this time last year. Hospitality welcomed the new students with a check-in at Wailes. The Inn’s rooms in the Main and Courtyard wings are now brighter, thanks to LED lighting and new lamps, and we enhanced the electrical capabilities of the Forest wing. The Elston Inn and Conference Center’s new website has launched.
Campus Safety helped with first-year student check-ins, provided safety presentations for students and families, and processed requests for IDs and parking passes. They worked with Information Technology on the installation of additional outside cameras in the Post Office and Sales building parking lots. IT created accounts for incoming students, new faculty and staff; refreshed the computer labs; provided new faculty and staff with computers; worked on multi-factor authentication for Banner, the portal, and other critical systems; and collaborated with the Registrar’s office on deployment of dynamic forms for campus-wide use.
Finance/Business Office has been preparing for the FY 21 audit, submitting materials to the external auditors and drafting financial statements. They helped onboard new students and participated in move-in days for new and returning students. They processed the first round of HEERF III grants to students, with $6,800 disbursed in emergency student aid. Human Resources completed a staffing transition with a seasoned interim director. They are preparing for the health benefits Open Enrollment later this fall and considering improvements to Paycom.
Physical Plant readied the campus for the return of students and fulfilled many work orders. They completed the refresh of Guion’s public spaces, including a new media/tv message center in the main entrance; and installed a new heat pump, fourteen windows and three matching French doors at the Boathouse.
We initiated re-certifications of our two on-campus dams with the State Department of Recreation and Conservation. Construction of the Riding Center courtyard continues. We finished the first version of the updated SBC trail map using GIS tracking. Our agricultural enterprises are thriving. At the greenhouse, we had our first commercial bulk sale of hydroponic lettuce with four deliveries totaling over 300 lbs., and regular harvests coming every week. At the apiary, we extracted over 400 lbs. of honey with 150 lbs. jarred and available for sale in the Book Shop and online (we sold out of nearly half the inventory in less than a month!); the balance will be jarred in September. The merlot and chardonnay grapes have been harvested with the cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc scheduled in September.
Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications
AR & D is completing its annual work plan for FY 22. The Sweet Briar Fund launched on Sept. 8. We have 160 newly elected class giving leaders. Later this month we’ll be holding training sessions and other outreach activities for both new and continuing class leaders, which is essential to the success of the Sweet Briar Fund. We welcomed two new major gift officers to the team: Keeley Jurgovan ’92, based in Dallas, and Caroline Hazarian ’06, based in New Jersey. In addition to fundraising experience, Keeley and Caroline bring leadership skills in areas of alumnae engagement, mentoring and club revitalization.
Other initiatives for the fall include Priorities Campaign outreach events, alumnae events, a mini-campaign focused on planned giving, the engagement of former board members, the drive to complete funding for the turf field (with the field hockey team participating in a phone-a-thon later this month), and working with the Friends of Art to support a catalogue of the College’s fine art collection. We’re also busy planning for two major events this month: Founder’s Weekend on the 17th and 18th, and a Recognition Weekend on the 22nd – 25th that will honor donors who have made significant gifts to Sweet Briar. We’re working with communications on upcoming fall publications such as the Sweet Briar Magazine and the Briar Wire newsletter.
Communications continues to collaborate closely with admissions on the 2022 recruiting cycle, developing a marketing plan and producing materials for it. This work makes up a significant part of the overall FY 2022 communications plan, which will also support priorities such as women’s leadership, sustainability, engineering, the arts, the equestrian program, and more. Press releases, videos and photographs play an important role in positioning the College for editorials and news stories. Communications is also working on wayfinding and signage for the campus and is beginning the process for a full-scale redesign of the College’s website.
Finally, in closing, let me thank you again for all that you do for Sweet Briar. Stay well and safe, remember to wear your mask in public spaces, and get outside and enjoy the beautiful late summer weather whenever you can.