February 2022 Community Update

Dear Colleagues,

The College seems quiet this week, other than the sounds of various construction projects. Most of the students are away on spring break and some of you are taking time off, too. Although the last few days have been cool and rainy, spring has nonetheless come early to central Virginia; the crocuses and daffodils are blooming and I hope you can get outside to see them.

The Sweet Briar Board of Directors met on February 25, and I want to let you know about some of the business that was accomplished. The Board passed the following revised Mission Statement for the College: Sweet Briar College challenges and inspires women, forging ethical leaders with the skill, compassion, and vision to create a more just and sustainable world. The faculty are currently working on a statement in support of the Mission, which will be shared with the community soon. The Board also passed a comprehensive 2.4 percent increase in tuition, fees, and room and board for the 2022/2023 academic year. And they passed the promotions to tenure for Dr. Lisa Powell and for Dr. Dwana Waugh, effective July 1, 2022. Please join me in congratulating Lisa and Dwana!

Let me share with you other College updates for the month of February.

Admissions

As of March 7, we continue to track ahead of last year in terms of total deposits (138 vs. 131), and in yield (16.6 percent vs 14.6 percent), even as we remain behind in total admits (831 vs. 895).

Application generation remains a priority, as does moving students from admits to deposits. Upcoming yield events include a virtual Scholars event on March 12 (for students admitted as presidential or dean’s scholars), an Admitted Students Open House on March 19, and virtual panels with faculty, alumnae and current students for top interest academic programs on March 28. Our Admissions Ambassador volunteers are holding yield events in targeted areas, and we are reaching out via text, phone calls and emails to pipeline admits. We are sending out financial aid awards to students who have filed the FAFSA and to non-filers, as well as revised awards.

We held the Winter Open House on February 5. During the Scholars Days events on the 19th and 21st, we hosted 101 students. We also held virtual events. Kerry Greenstein and Teresa Garrett hosted “Meet the Deans” on the 12th for deposited, admitted, and prospective students. Deposited students joined us for a “Sweet Briar Social Hour” on the 15th. We mailed deposited students a Valentine’s Day gift box containing a variety of Sweet Briar goodies. On the 26th we hosted an engineering panel with Professor Gervasio, and Karlynn McCarthy ’20 and Shaunessy Grant, who both work for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Academics, Student Life, Athletics

We have faculty searches underway. Four of our top choices in economics, English and creative writing, political science, and psychology have accepted our offers thus far.

The February calendar included many arts events. Senior dance majors Reeza Artz, Meenakshi Verma and Kaylin Patterson presented their respective senior dance concerts. Guest artist Emily Chua held a piano recital. We hosted artist Uzo Njoku on campus for an artist’s talk, a reception, and curricular engagement. Her painting exhibition, “Animals Make Us Human,” is on display in the Pannell Gallery through June. We presented the spring theatre production, “The Wolves” by Sarah DeLappe.

On February 24 we celebrated National Engineers Week with our annual engineering banquet. Its featured speaker was Tara Vatcher, vice president of software development and architecture for Stellantis, a leading global automaker and provider of mobility solutions.

Kerry Greenstein, along with the Families Council co-chairs and with help from Heather Ewing of AR&D and admissions, hosted a Zoom call with families. Barb Watts, Director of Career Services, gave a presentation during the call. We completed selecting Resident Advisors (RAs) for next year and launched the “Dine with Dean Kerry” lunch series.

The Student Government Association (SGA) organized the Spring Blood Drive. The winter formal, the “Midwinter Gala” with an enchanted forest theme, was held at the Wailes Center with 295 students and their guests; all had a marvelous time. For Black History Month, many of our student clubs and organizations, along with several departments, joined together to offer a full range of events. Among the most popular programs were the talk by Black History Month keynote speaker Dr. Stacey Pearson-Wharton, Open Mic Night, Rep Your Flag, Kinks and Curls, and the fashion show. The posts throughout the month highlighting Sweet Briar’s Black faculty and staff members were a wonderful addition to the month’s celebrations.

Our seniors are learning the outcomes of their job and graduate school applications. Engineering majors Elizabeth Martin and Rose Murphy are going to Whirlpool in Michigan. Rachel Davis is taking a position at Mount Vernon and Sydney Bradford will do an internship at the Biltmore House. Jacquelyn Vari, who graduated in December, is working in admissions. Katherine Mayer, another December graduate, is working at Pollard Environmental as a field technician. Erica Jennings will earn a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Maine and Hannah Epstein will head to the University of South Florida for a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. Seniors are receiving news each week; there will be additional outcomes to share with you next month.

February was a busy month in riding for our IHSA and NCEA teams. IHSA clinched its fourth straight Region 4 Championship.  The team qualified five riders for the Zone IV Finals, scheduled for April 9.  Seniors Chloe Kerschl (Lexington, Va.), Anne Rucker (Midlothian, Va.) and Madeline Rucker (Midlothian, Va.), junior Sita Moses (Dublin, N.H.), and sophomore Emmy Longest (Hanover, Va.) qualified for zones after respectively finishing first in open fences, second in intro flat, first in intro flat, first in novice flat, and second in open flat.

The NCEA team played host to Georgia, Sewanee and SUNY New Paltz. They garnered program wins over Sewanee (score, 7-1) and SUNY New Paltz (score, 5-3) while falling (score 3-7) in their contest with the reigning dual-discipline champions, Georgia.

Tennis started its season 2-0 with dominating wins over Ferrum College and Meredith College, sweeping both teams 9–0.

Please look at vixenathletics.com to catch golf, tennis, lacrosse, and riding events on campus or near your community!

Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries

The month’s events brought hundreds of visitors to Sweet Briar. Campus Safety smoothly checked them in, Hospitality welcomed many of them to the Inn, and the influx of people helped spur Book Shop sales, which increased 84 percent over last February.

Finance/Business Office prepared for two finance committee meetings and a board update, filed 1098T’s with the IRS, and worked with admissions and financial aid to reach out to students with past due balances ahead of registration for fall. We are also planning for the next round of awards to students from our HEERF III grants.

Information Technology tested Sysco client on Windows and Mac to prevent cyber-attacks, tested the automatic upload of Banner dates to Stellic, and tested the Wealth Engine Banner data feed for AR&D. They completed the migration process for the new ID card server and client PC, assisted with multimedia needs for the Babcock lobby refresh, created additional Argos reports for various offices, worked on the e-transcript project; and ordered additional computers for faculty and staff for next year.

Physical Plant, with contractor Jamerson-Lewis, began construction on the Student Commons Lower Quad project, courtesy of Reunion gifts from the Class of 1972; we expect substantial completion in May. The Babcock Lobby refresh continues with painting the ceiling and prepping the walls for sound panel installation (using a sustainable product made from sugar cane stalks); work should wrap up in April. We are installing and testing new breakers in the Prothro kitchen to enable generator service in power outages. For further flexibility, we will also add more outlets to the serving area. The scoping studies for the rehabilitation of Gray and Pannell have begun with the on-site work of imaging the buildings inside (via scanning) and out (via drone). We are also preparing rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimates for additional campus projects, and we received final bids for the turf field.

Projects/Agriculture completed a Boathouse structural engineering assessment and are now awaiting a report of findings and recommendations. They removed downed trees and tree limbs from the campus trails, many of which now have new trail markers. They installed new lighting at the Inn’s entrance and repaired railing posts across the upper walkway between the Inn and Wailes. Looking ahead to the return of varsity softball, they assisted with refurbishing the softball field, including moving the outfield fence to regulation distance, removing the old batting cage structure, and re-establishing the bullpens.

The first pass of vine pruning and cordon re-tying in the vineyards is completed. The final pass will occur once the threat of frost is behind us (we had a Mother’s Day frost a few years ago). We have planted tomato and cucumber starts in the greenhouse’s hydroponic Dutch buckets. Our contracted beekeeper reported that our hives survived the winter in great shape, setting us up for another banner year of honey production.

Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications

On February 1, the alumnae office launched the registration webpage for the June 3-5 Reunion, which will highlight the 2’s and 7’s classes, and added a landing page about virtual alumnae events to its website. February alumnae events included a talk during Black History Month by Valerie Winborne ’86, who was also a guest artist in the dance department, and a virtual lecture by former president Phil Stone on Abraham Lincoln. The alumnae office has planned events for most of the athletic teams in the cities where they will train during spring break.

Everyone in AR& D was occupied with plans for the March Days of Giving in order to leverage as many dollars as possible during March 1-10. The fundraising for February is ahead of budget. Thanks to the launch of Sweet Briar Week on February 14, increased social media engagement, and months of working with class leaders and fund agents, we ended the month at $4.3 million toward a $5 million goal in unrestricted funds.

We are fine-tuning our work on the Priorities Campaign as we receive feedback on the strategic plan, and will be interviewing several firms to help us update the campaign case statement and incorporate it into the website. Cultivation of lead donors has continued through February and will be ongoing though August.

The communications team continues to work with admissions on marketing materials. They are collaborating with our consultants White Whale on the website redesign. The social media analytics continue to show increased engagement with the College. The content for the spring alumnae magazine is undergoing final review and will go to the printer in March.

In closing, thank you again for your many contributions to the College. Enjoy the approach of spring!

Sincerely,
Meredith Woo