The excellent news of our reaccreditation by SACSCOC went public on the 7th and you can read the article about it on our website. This daunting and all-consuming process only happens every ten years and I’m gratified by our outcome, as I know you are, too. I want to thank all of you once more for your contributions to this effort, with a special Sweet Briar “Holla, Holla!” to Dean Teresa Garrett and Kim Sinha for their leadership throughout this two-year endeavor.
Ten years can seem like a long time, yet it’s a short interval in the life of Guion Science Center, which was built in 1964. This year, Guion has benefitted from a series of “refreshes,” such as interior painting, new lighting, and refinished floors. Over Thanksgiving break, Guion’s exterior was washed, removing more than half a century’s worth of grime to reveal the stateliness of the building’s modernist design. The low-pressure wash, carried out by a contractor from Alabama who specializes in the correct cleaning of academic buildings, used a solution that is safe for the structure and for the plants. Five applications were required to get the surfaces clean, and while there is still more work to be done, Guion’s bricks, limestone caps, and much of its trim now glisten in the sun and look like new. Weather permitting, Guion’s cleaning will be completed over the semester break and the contractor will turn to Babcock and the Mills Chapel. I urge you to walk over to Guion and look at it with fresh eyes. I think you’ll agree that when given the proper care and attention, Sweet Briar’s modernist buildings – Guion and Babcock – can take their place alongside the Cram buildings as notable examples of American campus architecture.
Let me now share with you College updates for the month of November.
November is a period of high activity in the admissions cycle, as students apply to and visit colleges and begin to receive their financial aid awards.
As of December 6, our numbers for first-years are as follows: total applications 880 this year vs. 899 last year; submitted applications 677 vs. 726; admits 439 vs. 489. The deposits are up, at 69 vs 60. We believe the addition of an Early Action deadline of December 1, which we extended to December 5, has made an impact in narrowing the applications gap between this and last year. While we are ahead of last year in deposit numbers, it remains critical that we move students through the funnel.
As of December 6, we have sent out 174 financial aid awards compared to 143 at this time last year. The number of awards sent is a key yield indicator for the class.
To encourage deposits, we sent our active admits a message on December 5, offering a reduced admissions deposit fee of $150 if the student deposits by December 20. Our next Early Decision application deadline is January 3. These are attractive opportunities for students whose first choice is Sweet Briar.
As campus visits lead to higher likelihood of fall enrollment, we are increasing opportunities for campus visits by adding more Saturdays and Sundays to our schedule from December through May. On Saturday, November 6, we hosted our third Fall Open House with 38 students plus guests. Planning for upcoming winter admissions events is well underway, including a January 17 Winter Open House for high school seniors and juniors and Scholars Day events on January 22 and February 21 for admitted seniors who have been offered the Presidential and Dean’s merit awards, our most prestigious scholarships.
Academics, Student Life, Athletics
Students registered for their spring courses on November 9 and 10. The fall semester is coming to a successful close with the 12-week term ending on December 14, followed by a Reading Day and the start of final exams on the 16th.
Sweet Briar is now listed as a Future Transfer Partner on the Transfer Virginia website. Clicking on our icon brings the potential transfer to our profile page. Our presence on this site should spur interest from students in the Virginia community college system and facilitate the transfer process to Sweet Briar.
After bringing finalists to campus for the theatre professor search, we have hired Robert “Quill” Camp. Quill, who will start in January, comes to Sweet Briar from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He has an M.F.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Please join me in welcoming him to campus.
Studio Art Professor Shawn O’Connor and the students in his ceramics courses fired their pieces in the outdoor wood kiln over the weekend of November 5. Working in teams, they monitored and tended the kiln around the clock during the firing process. After it cooled, the kiln was unloaded and the finished ceramic artworks were revealed. The Fall Dance Concert took place on November 11 and 12, showcasing work by students and Dance professor Betty Skeen. The VCCA Salon on November 17 featured cartoonist, novelist, poet and essayist Alan Michael Parker and composer, pianist and video artist Brian Mark.
Faculty have been engaged in planning work on academic and co-curricular program priorities for the next five years. They and their families enjoyed a Pig Pickin’ outdoor picnic at Hubbard House, personally co-hosted by Claire and Luther Griffith, Mary Pope Hutson, and Jeff Key on Sunday the 14th.
The Campus Climate Assessment Working Group has completed the final preparations for the focus group sessions that will take place on January 24. Invitations were sent this week to prospective members of the focus groups. If invited, I hope you will participate – your input will help give shape to the future of Sweet Briar.
Alumnae Relations and Development, with the help of student committee members, coordinated Philanthropy Week (November 1- 8) to support the College community and our local neighbors. Over 215 students attended at least one of the week’s eleven events. These included: talks by alumnae speakers; writing thank you notes to alumnae supporters; creating Christmas ornaments for residents of Fairmont Crossing, a local retirement community; sewing items for families staying at Miriam’s House, a shelter and support organization for the homeless in Lynchburg; gathering and delivering donated food items to Lynchburg Daily Bread; a drive to sign up organ donors; and a cleanup of the Plantation Burial Grounds. Drew Wood ’24, a Philanthropy Week committee member, articulated the events’ spirit with her remark, “To me, philanthropy is not just about physical action or monetary donations but the sharing of values and ideas.”
Led by SGA, the students held a Day of Thanks for Sweet Briar’s hourly staff. There were small gift bags for everyone along with a meal ticket for the Thanksgiving lunch served in Prothro.
Each class year hosted its own town hall to plan for events, fundraising and to address class concerns. Anti-Hazing Week featured guest speakers, trivia, a bystander presentation, and an anti-hazing pledge. Dean Greenstein, Jess Austin of Student Life, Luther Griffith and Brian Marker met with commuter students to hear about the issues that concern them and make sure their needs are addressed.
We hired Meghan Gladle as the Multicultural Student Services Manager. Meghan comes to Sweet Briar from the University of Delaware, where she served as coordinator of the World Scholars Program, and earned a B.A. in Spanish and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language. Please join me in welcoming her to Sweet Briar.
Our Athletics and Riding teams have been having notable fall seasons. Field hockey finished a wonderful season at 13-9 and advanced to the CSAC tournament where they lost to the #1 seed Wilson College 1-0. They then earned a bid to the ECAC tournament where they lost to the #1 seed Ramapo. We look forward to the continued success of the field hockey team in 2022 on their new turf field!
The NCEA Riding Team had wins over University of Lynchburg, Sacred Heart, and South Dakota State and continues to be ranked #1 in the NCEA single discipline category. The IHSA Riding Team ended the fall season as the first place team in the region. They had multiple events in November resulting in numerous riders qualifying for regionals.
Swimming had a victory over Randolph College, marked by a school record-breaking performance by Acadia ElzHowe in the 800-meter freestyle.
Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries
The Book Shop had over $31,000 in sales in November. Online orders have increased with the holiday season. The Inn welcomed numerous guests during the Thanksgiving break. Its updated website is working well; guests are booking more rooms online. We hosted the fall Girls on the Run 5K with approximately 200 runners, volunteers, and family visiting the campus.
The Campus Safety team gathered food donations and a turkey to provide a Thanksgiving Dinner for a local family in need. Officers have ensured the deer hunt is conducted safely and legally.
Finance/Business Office worked with students who had accounts receivable (A/R) holds before the deadline for spring term registration. This aids retention and resulted in a 42 percent reduction in student A/R balances over the prior month. We completed searches for the senior accountant and staff accountant, with two new staff members scheduled to start in December.
Human Resources successfully completed the 2022 benefits open enrollment process for all employees. Given the challenge of recruiting employees, we set up new recruiting systems to target passive candidates.
Information Technology installed four new point-of-sale (POS) systems with new Card readers in Daisy’s Café, the Bistro, and the main dining area. The upgrades will improve dining flow and enable the 24/7 micro-market in Daisy’s café, with its new smart fridge. Other endeavors include implementing Stellic, the degree management software; testing a student bills process; working with the Registrar on the e-transcript project; and creating email accounts for Fall 2022 deposited incoming students.
Physical Plant worked on housing assignments for new faculty and staff who wanted to live on campus, resulting in the rental of all available housing. The Reid Pit refresh of offices for Student Life and student organizations involved painting and reorganizing spaces with the help of Sweet Work Week volunteers, professional contractors, and Student Life.
Projects/Agriculture assisted Catherine Peek ‘01, designer and architect, in refurbishing her site-specific artwork “Uplift” (by the library) and in planting the ground space between the work’s ridgelines with sedum, a ground cover. At the greenhouse, the build out of hydroponic growing systems is underway. The majority of additional hydroponic equipment is on-site, and fabrication has begun. November is “leaf” month, involving a significant effort to gather up and remove leaves from campus lawn and garden areas.
Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications
Appropriately, AR & D kicked off the month of November, a time we associate with giving thanks, with Philanthropy Week. Mid-month, they sent alumnae a special invitation to join the Indiana Fletcher Williams Associates, supporters who have included the College in their estate plans. The invitation arrived in homes the week of November 15. They completed the month of philanthropy with #GivingTuesday on November 30. Class officers, who had been preparing for six weeks, reached out to their classmates to encourage their participation and increase the number of individual contributors. As of this writing, we do not have final numbers on #GivingTuesday but the College received gifts from over 504 supporters in all states and territories of the United States.
Alumnae engagement in November included presidential events in New York and Washington, with over 100 alumnae in attendance. The alumnae relations team also coordinated the plans for thirty Sweet Briar Day events to be held in December and January around the country as well as three virtual Sweet Briar Day events in January.
Other efforts included developing a state and federal legislative agenda for 2022 for the College focused on agriculture and sustainability, higher education policy, and arts and humanities, as well as conversations with local partners and consultations with advisors to inform our cultural corridor planning.
The communications team has produced another edition of Sweet Briar Magazine and is now planning the spring issue. They selected the firm White Whale to conduct an audit of the College’s website as the first phase in a redesign. They continue to partner with Admissions to coordinate – and in many cases, produce – the print and digital media, marketing, and publications that promote Sweet Briar nationwide and globally and drive visits, applications, and deposits from prospective students. The team also produced several videos in November, including one featuring the campus in fall, one on what Sweet Briar students are thankful for, and one with my own message of gratitude.
Finally, in closing, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are looking forward to the upcoming holidays. May they be joyous, peaceful, and safe. To jump start your holiday cheer, please join me at Sweet Briar House on Thursday, December 9, from 3 to 5 for the Holiday Open House.
As ever, thank you for all you do on behalf of the College.