Board Meeting: October 19-21, 2017
After a day of board committee meetings on Thursday, October 19, 2017, the board and administration dined with faculty and their spouses/partners in the Josey Dining Room of Prothro Commons. Following dinner, the board, administration, faculty and students joined together for a community bonfire with hot cider and cookies.
The Sweet Briar College Board of Directors met October 20-21, with Chairwoman Teresa Pike Tomlinson presiding. She convened the meeting and welcomed a new board member, Gillian Munson.
President Meredith Woo highlighted events that have taken place on and oﬀ campus since the August board meeting. The president noted that on- and oﬀ-campus announcements regarding changes have received positive feedback, particularly from alumnae. Any stakeholder questions regarding changes are being responded to by executive staff.
Dean Rob Granger shared highlights of the curricular reset progress, noting that the faculty hope to have the core curriculum options selected within a few weeks and have a final class roster delivered to the registrar by December 15, 2017. He shared proposed curricular reset discussions, concerns and messaging.
Melissa Richards, VP for communications and enrollment management, reviewed the shared Enrollment Committee presentation, including current figures and targets. She highlighted a renewed focus on generating inquiries, noting that alumnae volunteers have attended 82 college fairs on behalf of the College. She further reported that she will have a comprehensive advertising plan to share with the board at the February meeting. She highlighted various recruitment activities, including a prospective student fly-in program, SBC attendance at the Girl Scouts National Convention, use of an athletic recruitment consultant, a guidance counselor wine-and-cheese event and airport advertising. Richards also noted that registration for the November Open House weekend continues to grow: At the time of the board meeting, we had 60 students and their families registered, which is an encouraging indicator of student interest. (As of Nov. 2, more than 100 students have signed up.)
Rocky Query, VP for finance and administration, presented the board with a finance update, beginning with a review of the revenue and expense report. He noted that auditors had been on campus for three weeks preparing the annual audit report, and that the process appeared to be going well. Query expects to have a preliminary report back from the auditors by early November, and a board call to endorse the final audit by the end of November.
There was a general discussion of operating costs for the College, both in regard to budget and fundraising opportunities. Upon recommendation by the Finance Committee, the board of directors approved the proposed FY18 budget.
Kelley Fitzpatrick introduced Cassandra Binnette, with Prime Buchholz, which manages the College’s endowment. Binnette provided an update on their services for Sweet Briar as independent consultants, as laid out in the shared presentation. She also highlighted current and historical endowment, investment and asset allocation data. Of note, Sweet Briar had a one-year 14.2 percent return on investments on June 30, 2017. The endowment level as of September 30, 2017, was reported at $73 million. She commented that given the College’s stability, it is now time for the College to consider and approve a new asset allocation policy.
Mary Pope Hutson, VP for alumnae relations and development, introduced Sandra Kidd, of Alexander Haas, for presentation on a long-term, normalized fundraising strategy for the College. Kidd commented that one of the best indicators for future success at Sweet Briar College is the $44 million that has been raised for the College in the last two years — an amount that far exceeds prior expectations of stakeholder capacity and giving priority. Kidd reviewed Sweet Briar’s historic fundraising numbers and discussed future strategies for continued success.
Marcia Thom-Kaley, interim dean of students, presented an update on student life, commenting on high participation in the recent Families Weekend. She shared with the board the parents’ update for Families Weekend, which included several initiatives underway in the student life oﬃce, such as the use of a student life consultant and the possibility of an Outdoor Program partnership with Lynchburg College. She also highlighted current committee efforts, including committees involved with retention and students in crisis, a minority student union initiative and others.
In other updates, the College continues to pursue alternative energy options and hopes to have additional proposals in the near future.
Board committee reports were given and a discussion was had about how the board meetings may be better structured going forward for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.