After February’s snow and ice storms, spring weather has arrived and I’m sure you welcome it as much as I do. I’ve noticed that as soon as the temperature gets above 50 degrees, many community members (especially the students), start wearing their shorts and sandals. The sunny days mean that students can comfortably eat and study outside on the lawns and the patios again, and I hear music (which I’ll admit I don’t often know) coming from the speakers of their laptops.
Let me share a story about the students that may make you smile. Hoping to encourage as many students as possible to come to a meet and greet with Kerry Greenstein, our new Dean of Student Life, we bribed them with the promise of delicious lemon cookies. However, Kerry tells me some students got their cookies without saying a word to him, sneaking by while he was meeting other students! So, that is “eat without greet.”
Here are February’s College updates.
Board of Directors
In late February, the Sweet Briar Board of Directors virtually held their committee meetings and the full board meeting. The board’s actions included unanimously approving the 2021/2022 tuition, room, and board fee schedule, and unanimously approving the resolution naming the Howell Lykes Colton Stables in perpetuity (the riding center itself remains the Harriet Howell Rogers Riding Center). Our newest board member, John L. Nau III, began his board membership on February 26. You can read about him here: https://sbc.edu/news/john-nau-joins-board-of-directors/.
Our outreach push during February to encourage applications from as many prospective students as possible was very successful. Admissions has now hit its original target goals for both submitted applications and admitted students and we’ve added stretch goals to continue the momentum.
Our digital advertising campaign is performing very well. Our display ads targeting first year students on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are generating click-through rates (CTRs) that are nearly five times the national average, driving visitor traffic to our Apply and Visit webpages. Similarly, our video ads (15 second pre-roll on YouTube) have engagement rates (where the viewer plays the entire video and doesn’t “skip” it) of more than 30 percent, which is three times what YouTube considers a good rate.
Admissions hosted a virtual Open House and an additional virtual Scholars Day event this month; each event had more than 30 attendees. Thank you to everyone who participated in them.
We are currently at 127 deposits, including 67 students in our two top academic categories (presidential scholars and dean’s scholars). We’ll be focusing on yield activities between now and May 1. March events will include an Admitted Students Day (which we’ll offer both as an in-person and as a virtual event) and a series of virtual activities for accepted students during Sweet Briar Spirit Week.
Academics, Student Life, Athletics
The Focused Report for our SACSCOC reaccreditation, along with our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) was sent out in February. Many thanks to Dean Teresa Garrett and her team, the QEP Committee, and to everyone else who helped with the preparation of these materials. The next step in the process will be the On-site Visit (which will be virtual) on April 6 and 7.
Our roster of Fall classes is set and we are ready for academic advising (from March 15-23), followed by registration, which starts on March 24th. Summer session courses are being finalized and will be ready for registration in mid-March; current students, incoming students, and alumnae will be able to take them.
The Dean’s Office and Student Life, working with Admissions and other stakeholders, have set up a good plan for onboarding incoming students. Communications is building a webpage to support it.
Student Life is busy planning the move out at the semester’s end for continuing students as well as planning dorm room selection for continuing students. The Governor of Virginia recently expanded the numbers of people allowed (up to 25) for outdoor social gatherings, which will give Student Life and the students more flexibility in planning and implementing outdoor, socially distanced events, from Step Singing to senior activities such as scroll games and job games. A growing number of seniors have begun to receive graduate school acceptances and job offers, so there is much to celebrate.
Athletics and Riding continue to make significant contributions to our recruiting efforts. Students with those interests make up 72 of the current deposits, or 57 percent. Our NCEA riding team is ranked #1 in the single discipline category, and our tennis team is ranked #2 in the preseason ODAC poll. Here are links to stories about each of these rankings:
We’re looking forward to a March and April that are jam-packed with contests across tennis, golf, riding, field hockey, cross-country, and lacrosse. Go Vixens!
Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries
Human Resources completed the PayCom Applicant Tracking System (ATS) training. The system is now live and used throughout the College to post jobs and track applicants; our first offer letter was just sent through it. HR is also diligently working on completing the 403(b) data request, so the audit stays on schedule.
Physical Plant and Grounds successfully removed the snow and ice that two storms deposited in our area in February; thank you for your hard work. We have now completed replacing the lower roofs on the Library, with restoration of the grass access points to follow shortly. On the project side, CHA was selected as the planning architect for our Athletics Turf Complex. We were sad to see Kevin Miller, Associate Director of Physical Plant, leave Sweet Briar College to become the Director of Physical Plant at Hampden-Sydney College. We wish Kevin all the best in his new role!
Trees removed as part of the historic preservation initiative were cut into immense, thick slabs. After they go through a drying process, the slabs will be turned into furniture to be used throughout the campus. Campus Safety continued its training efforts with CPR and Avoid/Deny/Defend training.
The Business Office started work on enrollment projections, budget modeling, and board preparations to go into the budgeting process. The finance team prepared and supported OCIO, Finance, and BG&T Board Committee meetings held in February. Final edits and documentation were prepared for the finance-related areas of the SACSCOC report. With others, preparatory work began for Fall 2021 S&P survey submission. This is the start of the S&P bond rating process.
Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications
The Alumnae Relations and Development team spent much of February planning the launch of the March Days of Giving, which has three goals: 1) on March 1: raise $500,000; 2) from March 2-10: raise another $500,000; 3) raise the alumnae participation rate to 20 percent, on the way to a 30 percent goal by the end of the fiscal year. We achieved the first goal and are making excellent progress on goals 2 and 3. We’ll give you the complete run down in the next month’s report.
In fundraising to date, we have reached our goal of $5 million in unrestricted gifts received and pledges, while the restricted giving exceeds $1.2 million. But we haven’t stopped yet. We continue to strive toward a stretch goal of $7.5 million in unrestricted funds to cover the financial impacts and lost revenue caused by COVID-19. Stewardship continues to all of our existing donors and we are reaching out to endowed fund donor families in our effort to provide more financial flexibility to the College.
The team has completed raising the dollars and future commitments for the $1.9 million needed for the Harriet Howell Rogers Riding Center and the Howell Lykes Colton Stables, as well as the $3.1 million required for the establishment of the agricultural enterprises. This $5 million sum was raised as part of our Priorities Campaign, which is already helping us engage current and future students.
AR & D continues to engage alumnae by expanding the leadership groups in cities and regions across the country. Over the next two months we will hold virtual gatherings with Club leaders in 22 cities and finalize our plans for reunion by the end of March or early April. We are also working with the Dean’s Office on the summer session courses and an Alumnae College. The Admissions Ambassadors continue to aid recruitment by reaching out to more than 1,000 prospective students.
Communications completed its biannual social media analytics report, which shows we are engaging prospectives and alumnae in all channels of the College. In February, highlights of the team’s work included publicizing student activities and events for Black History Month. In March, the focus will be on Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day, and gathering video testimonials from our students to showcase their leadership in action.
And that’s a wrap! Let me close by hoping you all can get outside and enjoy the delightful spring days. Thanks again for all you do for Sweet Briar!