July has been a busy month. We hosted a flawless Reunion for nearly 300 alumnae from the anniversary classes of 1s and 6s and 0s and 5s (the latter were unable to have their on-campus Reunion last year due to the pandemic). Some of those alumnae stayed on through the following week, and were joined by other alumnae and friends for Sweet Work Week, in which our alumnae volunteers help us spruce up the buildings and grounds for the start of the academic year. Across the campus, departments are making ready for the students’ arrival. Orientation leaders and resident assistants are already here, with new students arriving on August 14, closely followed by the returning students, and then the start of classes on August 19.
Here are the operational updates for the month of July.
Admissions has continued to recruit new deposits to replace those who changed their minds about coming (who “melted” – in recruiting lingo), keeping the deposit number steady at 215.
Admissions and Financial Aid completed the annual on-site visit with our consultants Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) to update our models. RNL gave us a list of recommendations for 2022 that we are implementing. The new admissions cycle for the class entering in the fall of 2022 opened June 1 and we have launched the senior search campaign. As of July 26, we had 24 admits, and 5 deposits.
We are hosting strategic visits from local area partners this summer, including Piedmont Virginia Community College, Virginia Western Community College, the Virginia Episcopal School, and other local high schools. During Virginia Private College Week (July 26-31) we hosted in-person tours as well as one virtual session.
The Enrollment Task Force represents a College-wide effort to move the needle on admissions. It was formed two years ago to bring all available resources to recruiting students. It continues its work this year to identify partnership and pipeline opportunities, including strategies for high school counselors, international students, equestrians, two-year partnerships with community colleges, and athletics. Over 30 participants meet weekly in working groups to push these initiatives forward.
Academics, Student Life, Athletics
Our summer academic programs have wrapped. The seven online summer session courses ended on July 2. Later in the month the ten students who conducted Honors Summer Research completed their research and presented their findings to the community. Our six inaugural Willits Food Systems Fellows have finished their summer of work in the apiary, community garden, and greenhouse, which included harvesting and preparing food for sale to our wholesale partner, to our Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) subscription program, and at our farm stand market for residents of the campus and surrounding community.
Nearly all students are registered for the fall, which is no small feat with about 200 new students arriving at the end of this week! Preparations for their arrival continues apace. Resident advisors have had rigorous training with Student Life staff and they will be well prepared to welcome and support all of our students. Orientation leaders are also getting ready for our five-day orientation program. It will include programming for parents and orientation for students for all aspects of the college – academics, student, and residential life.
As part of our preparation for the start of classes, the refresh and beautification of the public spaces in Guion (repainted walls and doors, brighter lighting, stripped and waxed floors, and new signage) is nearly finished. This is so important because many of the new students are interested in STEM fields, ranging from psychology, engineering, math, and chemistry to biology, pre-med, pre-vet, and sustainability/environmental science. We want our science building to be welcoming.
We are onboarding the new faculty members and we have just hired Jessica Wise as our Technical Services Librarian, who will join us on August 30. Deans Garrett and Greenstein participated in Virginia Private College Week events.
Athletics is also gearing up for the new academic year. Pre-season practices start August 16, with the first competitions beginning on September 1. Meanwhile, our Vixen equestrians and athletes continue to receive academic accolades for their accomplishments in 2020/2021.
Sydney Campbell, Theresa Carriveau, and Jenna Steinle were named to the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) All Academic Honor Roll. To be eligible for this honor, student-athletes must be a junior, senior, or graduate student and have earned a cumulative academic GPA of 3.50 or greater.
The Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) announced its 2020-21 All-Academic Team on August 4, comprised of 57 Sweet Briar student-athletes. This marks the greatest number of Vixens to make the ODAC All-Academic Team in school history, and the greatest number since the 2014-15 season.
Rising-senior Annika Kuleba has been named an All-American Scholar by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) for the third-straight season. The WGCA All-American Scholar Golf Team is composed of players who have accumulated a GPA of 3.50 or higher for the entirety of their collegiate career.
Please join me in congratulating all our scholar-athletes!
Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries
The Book Shop’s Sweet Briar merchandise, as well as the skin care products made with our own honey, were a big hit with the alumnae. Reunion weekend sales totaled $29,700. The Elston Inn was full of reunion guests and the Wailes Conference Center hosted six outside businesses/groups for meetings/retreats. Hospitality hosted the last two summer program camps, Top Flight Soccer and SBC’s own Explore Engineering Design.
Campus Safety continues to maintain a single campus access point and visitor sign-in. They are helping onboard new students with preparation of ID cards and parking permits. Information Technology is also busy with preparations for the new academic year, creating accounts for new students, faculty, and staff, testing an e-transcript system, and working on setup and deployment of multi-factor authentication for Banner, the portal, and other critical systems.
The Finance/Business Office is deep in the post FY 21 closing process and will continue the audit process for the next three months. The FY 22 budgets were finalized at the July board meeting. Student bills went out in early July and efforts are in place to ensure collection and payments plans are ready when school starts. Human Resources recruited a new Payroll Coordinator.
Physical Plant and Grounds supported the Reunion activities and wrapped up many projects. In addition to the Guion refresh, work included cleaning and painting homes and apartments for new employees coming on campus, installing a heating and air conditioning split system at Watts House, completing the work in the Prothro kitchen, painting the exterior of the Chapel and washing its windows, and, thanks to a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, replacing the sidewalk by Dew to improve ADA access. The refurbishment to the Boathouse is almost done; all that remains is to replace the windows and doors. We have installed hydroponic equipment in Bay 8B of the greenhouse. With the installation of new audio visual equipment in the Bailey Room and the landscaping of the courtyard, the first phase of the Riding Center’s renovations are almost completed. We have also started the re-certification of SBC’s dams at the upper and lower lakes.
Finally, we bid a fond farewell to Jimmy Rose, who just retired from the Post Office after 37 years with the College. Best wishes, Jimmy!
Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications
After spending the beginning of the month tallying the total dollars raised by June 30 and analyzing those figures, AR & D pivoted to preparing its annual work plan for FY 22 and carrying out the final preparations for the Reunion weekend and the following Sweet Work Week.
We were delighted to welcome 300 alumnae back to campus for a full slate of Reunion events and festivities, including some new activities, such as greenhouse tours and a discussion and winetasting in the vineyards. Immediately following the Reunion, 65 alumnae (with some friends, spouses, partners, children, and retirees helping, too) joined us for Sweet Work Week. These amazing volunteers worked on tasks ranging from painting to weeding to power washing, helping us get ready for the new academic year. We so appreciate their enthusiastic support and dedication to the College!
Planning is underway for the September 22-25 Recognition Weekend and Ribbon Cutting to honor donors who have made significant gifts to the Riding Center and other College priorities. Fundraising for the $2.6 million turf field project is well underway, with more than $2.2 million raised and $344,000 remaining.
Communications continues to finalize its FY 2022 Communications Plan, prepare Admissions and marketing materials for the 2022 recruiting cycle, and evaluate the data analytics from editorial social media, the digital marketing campaign, and the website. This fall, they will be working on plans for wayfinding and signage, as we update how we and our visitors navigate the campus.
Finally, in closing, let me thank you again for your hard work and many contributions to Sweet Briar. I hope you enjoy the remainder of the summer and that you’re as excited about the start of the new school year as I am!