The academic year is off to a fabulous start, and I want to thank all of you for making this happen!
During Orientation, we welcomed 173 students (152 domestic and international first-years and 22 transfers) and over 500 family members to campus to engage them in social and educational programming that highlighted our campus resources, traditions, academic culture and student life, which you can read more about below. I joined in these activities, gave a talk on women’s leadership and moved into Grammer so that I could better connect with the new students and learn what it’s like to live in one of our newly renovated residence halls. It was a great experience, giving me many insights into our students (though several nights later, it was nice to sleep in my own bed again).
After Opening Convocation on August 21, the three-week term started the next day. All the first-year students take Design Thinking, the first course in the Women’s Leadership Core, while returning students take their pick of fascinating classes, ranging this session from cultural heritage and stewardship to the economics of the wine industry to the relationships between food and the environment in the U.S. South, and more. The term wraps up September 9 and after a one-day break, the twelve-week term begins on September 13.
Let me share with you additional College updates for the month of August.
Our first Fall Open House is September 10. We are heavily marketing Early Decision and promoting its benefits to prospectives; the application deadlines are November 1 and January 15.
We launched our scholarship program for students interested in majoring in the performing arts (theatre, dance and music). To be considered for the renewable four-year scholarships, students must have applied and been accepted to the College and submit a sample of work, such as a video of their performance of an original dance. The application deadline is November 30.
We hosted our inaugural “Sip & Chat,” a monthly virtual session where high school guidance counselors from across the country join us for discussions highlighting different aspects of Sweet Briar. Professor John Morrissey, along with three Sweet Briar students, led a lively session about our biology, pre-med and pre-vet programs.
We are currently reviewing our plans for strategic travel by admissions counselors, basing our decisions on data indicating which areas will be most productive in terms of generating applications.
As of now, we have 7 deposits for the spring 2023 (mostly international students). We’ll continue to recruit additional students interested in spring enrollment.
Academics, Student Life and Athletics
We’ve been enjoying a number of marvelous intercultural experiences on campus. After a trip to Dankook University in South Korea this July to meet their music faculty and study traditional Korean instruments, Professor Josh Harris collaborated with his colleagues at Dankook University and the South Korean New Music Society to host a Symposium on Korean Music at Sweet Briar. Symposium activities included panel discussions, instrument demonstrations, and three concerts in Mills Chapel, two of which featured new works by Korean and American composers played on traditional Korean instruments. Compositions by Professor Harris and Sweet Briar students Cassie Munford and Kylee Jump were among the debuted works and Cassie also performed with the guest artists. This was an amazing opportunity!
Global percussionist Tom Teasley came to campus for a two-day residency during which he visited classes to interact with students and held a participatory performance/jam session with students and community members.
Student Life started the month by welcoming our student orientation leaders (OLs) and resident advisors (RAs) and conducting leadership and on-the-job training with them, which led right into the new student move-in, Orientation, and returning student move-in.
During Orientation we had educational sessions on community values, living our honor code, bystander intervention, academic success, time management, held a panel on the Common Read, My Monticello, did a library tour, and more. Social programs included the students’ first float at the boathouse, a dorm decor craft night, a community service social, and a competitive, interactive scavenger hunt around campus to learn important landmarks and traditions.
Thirteen of the incoming first-years were recruited for the Bridge Program, led by Tony Ryals and designed to promote student success during their transition to college. They and their families arrived several days prior to Orientation for special programs and bonding experiences. Our fifteen new international students from Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar, and Nepal were met at Dulles airport and brought to campus for special sessions that included getting them set up with cell phones, bank accounts and other necessities to begin life and school in the US and at Sweet Briar.
The Weeks of Welcome (WOW) included the Student Life Bagel Bash, Glow Vibe Mini Golf, and the launch of a new lunchtime workshop series with students called “Lunchtime Leadership”; Jess Austin kicked off the program with her presentation, “True Colors.” The Inter-club Council (ICC) hosted the annual Quad Rocks Student Involvement Fair, with tables from over 40 student clubs, organizations and departments.
In addition to welcoming the international students, Meghan Gladle is introducing all new students to the services and resources of the Multicultural Center through orientation sessions such as the multicultural night market and social activities. During WOW, the Multicultural Center held a Multicultural Communities Kick-Off and the Community Resource Fair, with many more programs to follow in the months ahead.
Athletics welcomed all first-year student athletes to campus, including the members of our brand-new softball team, who are looking strong. The new students bring a great deal of energy with them.
Fall athletes on the cross country, field hockey and soccer teams put in the work during preseason to be prepared for their seasons that opened on September 1. The field hockey team traveled to Virginia Beach for preseason training on water-based turf while they await the completion of our own turf field.
Cross country completed its first race of the season at the WildCat XC Relays hosted by Randolph College. Soccer came up short in its season opener against Trinity, losing 3-2 in a close match. Field hockey opened at home with a 4-0 win over Goucher College, and held Washington & Lee (the #10 team in the country) to only five goals in a 5-0 loss.
The turf field project is around 85 percent complete. The soccer field’s sod is down and growing into a beautiful green, and the field hockey artificial turf is being installed now, along with wrapping up some electrical work and final sodding and seeding. We can’t wait to cheer our teams on when they play on their new fields!
Finance, Operations and Auxiliaries
Traffic at the Book Shop traffic exploded in August with the arrival of the first-year students and their families—sales were over $43,000—a 27 percent increase over last year. We are building inventory for and adding exciting new products for our upcoming Families Weekend. The visiting musicians from South Korea took home lots of Sweet Briar College Farm honey!
Hospitality wrapped up the summer camps and began conversations with potential new groups for the 2023 season. With fall upon us, visitors are returning to hold events at the Wailes Conference Center and stay at the Elston Inn.
Campus Safety assisted with student move-in, conducted fire drills in the residence halls, trained new resident advisors in the use of fire extinguishers, and held a van driver certification class for employees. The College leadership participated in a tabletop emergency management exercise, part of our emergency preparedness plan. All officers received annual certification in first aid, CPR and AED.
Finance/Business Office continued to work on the close of FY22, the audit, and further assessment and discussion related to the FY23 operating budget. They provided financial guidance and assistance to new and returning students, adjusted billings, reminded students to complete their health insurance enrollments or waivers, and prepared reports on meal plan counts and accommodations to assist Meriwether Godsey with meal planning.
Information Technology refreshed student records and uploaded photos to the Omnigo database, instructed Admissions staff in the use of digital signage systems, created server email accounts for various student clubs, installed software in computer labs, provided new faculty and staff with computers, and trained new faculty to use Canvas, our course management system.
Physical Plant has been busy preparing campus for the return of the students. They worked with AR & D and our alumnae volunteers to complete another successful Sweet Work Weeks. They refreshed roadway line painting, crosswalks and stop bars, designated permanent parking spots at the Wailes Center and the Vixen Den for Sweet Briar’s fleet of four large (12 – 15 passenger) vans and one minivan, and created a mobile billboard. They completed all the information for insurance policies renewal with an effective date of October 1.
The remaining hardscape of the Class of 1972 Student Commons Courtyard has been completed. The continuing work on Reid Pit, Meta Glass, and Daisy’s Café is around 80 percent completed; these spaces should be back in use by September 30.
The chardonnay grape harvest started on August 29 and exceeded the expected yield by 50 percent. The Merlot harvest will begin next week, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to follow. This season’s second cutting of hay is in progress, and the pine timber harvesting is nearing completion. The foundation and drainage for the storage shed and wash station for the hydroponics channels near the greenhouse are complete; we’re waiting on delivery of the metal building kit and assembly.
Alumnae Relations and Development
Sweet Work Weeks brought to campus 77 volunteers who contributed 2,248.9 hours of their time to activities including landscaping, painting three residence halls and the ceramics studio, and helping with administrative projects. We are deeply grateful to our alumnae and friends for once again contributing their time and talent.During Orientation, eight members of the AR & D team gave presentations to the students on the history of Sweet Briar and discussed plans for Philanthropy Week (October 19-23). We also held the first celebration of our seniors, gathering with them for afternoon refreshments on the patio behind the Sweet Briar Museum; Jackie Vari ’22, a member of the Alumnae Alliance Council’s Young Alumnae Support Working Group, joined us.
The AR & D team is focusing on preparations for the campaign, Sweet Briar: Where Women Lead, including finalizing the reference guide, training staff and volunteers, and developing the collateral materials essential for a successful launch. Claire Griffith and Margaret Driscoll attended a two-day workshop in Chicago on campaign readiness to ensure that our team has all the essential foundational elements covered.
The Sweet Briar Fund launched on September 7 with the goal of raising $5,250,000 in unrestricted funds from the College’s alumnae and friends. AR & D has been training and mentoring the newly elected leaders of Reunion classes to prepare them for outreach and engagement with their classes. Shortly, all class leaders will be reaching out to their classmates on the importance of supporting Sweet Briar each year. As the campaign will officially launch in April 2023, we are encouraging alumnae to secure the Sweet Briar Fund goal earlier this year.
I realize that everyone has their own philanthropic priorities, but I hope that you will consider making a gift to the Sweet Briar Fund this year. If you’ve already made a gift, I thank you.
Communications began the creation of content for the new website. In addition to writing for the core part of the website, Amy Ostroth led a storytelling workshop for faculty and staff, the first step in preparing community members to contribute to the website. Additional training sessions will take place throughout the fall semester.
Several admissions pieces went to press in August, including the viewbook and a fun piece that will encourage admitted students to announce their intention to become Sweet Briar students on social media. We launched several digital advertising campaigns—on Google, Amazon and at StudyInternational.com. These campaigns should ultimately lead to 15 million impressions of Sweet Briar content.
The wayfinding project is making good progress. The new campus map was finalized. Our campus parking signs have been designed and the need inventoried (more than 100 signs in total) and our partner, 1717 Design, is working on getting vendor proposals to produce the signs.
In closing, let me thank you again for everything you do on behalf of Sweet Briar. Enjoy the approach of fall!