Board Meeting: August 10-11, 2018
Election of Officers and At-Large Members of the Executive Committee: This was the board’s annual meeting. First, the board held officer elections for 2018-19. Succeeding Teresa Pike Tomlinson ’87, who served three outstanding years as chair of the board, is Georgene Vairo ’72, whom the board elected as chair. Andrew Benjamin was elected vice chair and Marianne C. (” Mimi “) Fahs ’71 was elected secretary. They will serve on the board’s Executive Committee. See sbc.edu/news/sweet-briar-college-board-of-directors-names-new-chair-officers/. The board also elected four at-large members of the Executive Committee: Kelley Fitzpatrick ’85, Karen Jackson, Gillian Munson and Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp ’68.
Election of New Board Members: The Board elected and welcomes three new board members: Edward J. “Ned” Kelley III; Olivia Myers ’17 and Holly Prothro Philbin ’95.
General Meeting: Presiding board chair Teresa Tomlinson welcomed the newest board members Keenan Kelsey ’66, Sally Mott Freeman ’76, Lynn Pasquerella and Fred “Buzzy” Griffin to their first board meeting. She then asked President Meredith Woo to present her update to the board.
New Athletics Director: President Woo introduced Jodi Canfield, our new athletics director. President Woo commented on the importance of athletics as part of student life and recruitment. Canfield described how the athletics program is being revamped with new soccer, cross-country and swimming coaches being hired to join our lacrosse, field hockey and tennis coaches. She emphasized her belief in the collaborative relationship of athletics with the entire campus, her commitment to the academic success of the student athletes, and understands that lessons learned on teams and fields are the lessons that cannot be replicated in the formal structure of the classroom.
SACSCOC Update: President Woo discussed the timeline for responding to the warning received in July. She indicated that in April 2019, the College would send a response to SACSCOC showing a positive audited statement for 2018 and a 2019 balanced budget showing the reduced burden on fundraising.
Communications and Enrollment Management
Melissa Richards provided an update on the implementation of Slate and highlighted the success of several communications initiatives, increased total applications, reduced tuition discount rate and successful efforts of alumnae volunteers. She stated that goals for 2019 include 50 percent in increased applications, a 25 percent increase in deposits and moving the tuition discount rate down to 34 percent. There was discussion of the importance of campus visits, our Explore programs and our donor-supported Travel Fund. Pending a census in September, current total enrollment stands at 323, with 111 first-years, 71 sophomores, 109 juniors and 32 seniors.
Alumnae Relations and Development
Mary Pope Hutson’s update included information on presidential travel, alumnae event participation and fundraising successes for FY18. Hutson shared that $200,000 had already been raised toward the FY19 $10 million goal, which is also 39 percent of the College’s FY 19 operating budget. She noted successful efforts with foundation and corporate grants by Lea Harvey and the upcoming launch of a broad corporate and foundation plan. Hutson highlighted plans to build auxiliary revenues and to review and plan for special initiative fundraising for capital needs.
Finance and Administration
Lori Husein, who joined us in April, noted that she was able to complete the FY19 budget by June 30. She highlighted several initiatives she has undertaken to date, including a sustainable artisanal farming study, assessment of Attorney General endowment assets, OCIO model RFP, and creation of a potential scholarship model to increase enrollment. In the coming year, her goals include efforts to develop strategic financial planning, auxiliary revenue enhancement, town-and-gown relationships and administrative infrastructure. Technology and connectivity upgrades were also shared.
Working Lunch with Guest Speakers
Lynn Rainville shared a presentation on the history of agriculture at Sweet Briar College. In particular, she explained how the majority of the Fletcher land was acquired, the farming methods attempted there and discussed some of the people who worked the lands.
McChesney “Ches” Goodall provided an overview of Sweet Briar lands, focusing in particular on the forest stewardship management plans he prepared and has implemented for the College. He explained that the management plan objectives include forest stand management, research and education, maintenance of a scenic forest, conservation of soil and water and protection of rare and unique natural areas.
Land Use and Physical Plant
President Woo prefaced Husein’s Artisanal Farm Study presentation by noting that this is the beginning of the conversation on opportunities. Husein began the discussion of opportunities for the College with educational artisanal farming. Research into other campus farms has shown that there is student interest in these types of programs. She reviewed agricultural sustainability guidelines and discussed opportunities, including educational opportunities surrounding the various programs under consideration. She noted Virginia’s support of agritourism and how the College can benefit from that. The apiary and wildflower fields work is already underway with Elysium Honey Company. In discussing farm operations with a system of greenhouses and lab space, the thought would be to supply produce for the campus. This would be a break-even initiative.
The next step is to put together a small committee of board members, faculty and staff who will work together to review the various initiatives. Some projects could be started soon with very little expenditure. The group would like to move forward fairly quickly. There was discussion of the need to ensure academics are central to the plans and there is a discussion of educational opportunities.
On one final note, Hutson noted that the National Audubon Society has selected Sweet Briar to be one of the first 20 in the nation to have an Audubon society chapter on campus for students.
Lynn Rainville shared with the board a list of the current undergraduate majors and/or minors, centered around the three centers. There are approximately 17 faculty members in each of the three centers. This will bring the College to a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio; by next fall that should be close to 10:1, putting us on the path to a sustainable future. Center directors have been reaching out to partners. The Leadership Core includes 10 classes. Design Thinking will be one of the first three-week core classes, required of all incoming students. Interestingly, 61 returning students have also signed up for the class, being taught by four faculty members from engineering, philosophy, psychology and music. This will be bringing together the best of arts, engineering and STEM fields and exposing students to the different disciplines.
A list of certificate programs, teacher licensure, pre-professional programs and graduate programs was also shared.
President Woo noted that over time, she would like to see further consolidation of majors, appropriate for the size and quality of the student body and faculty, around the three distinct core advantages Sweet Briar has. She hopes that within four years, the College will get to 600-650 students.
SACSCOC Reaffirmation Timeline
Lynn Rainville noted that Kim Sinha, our new director of institutional effectiveness, is assisting with the process of reviewing our regular SACSCOC assessment processes and collecting the information needed to prepare for review.
Marcia Thom-Kaley updated the board on student life efforts, including relationship building with other colleges and universities, medical and mental health care and support. She shared that retention efforts resulted in 85 percent retention of first-year students from fall 2017 to spring 2018. She noted that student life’s partnering with the academic dean’s office resulted in no attrition due to the curriculum reset.
Board Committee Reports
Finance Committee: Board Finance Committee Chair Kelley Fitzpatrick shared information on moving to a proposed OCIO model, noting that a committee has been put together to guide us through this selection process. The board approved the Committee’s recommendation to the board that RFPs be sent out with the goal of securing an OCIO.
Buildings, Grounds and Technology Committee: Georgene Vairo informed the board of various technology improvements being made and plans for further upgrades. Upon recommendation of the Buildings, Grounds and Technology Committee, the board adopted a three-year Capital Budget Plan designed to upgrade our HVAC and other needs. The board also approved engaging Langseth Engineering to prepare a study to determine whether a biomass Sustainable Heating System would be appropriate for the College.
Advancement Committee: Mason Rummel asked board members to participate in alumnae and other College events, to let alumnae relations and development know about contacts with foundations and corporations. She reminded the board of our commitment to 100 percent participation in support of the College.
Claire Griffith of AR&D pointed out the value of alumnae connections to the College via events and volunteerism, noting that 64 percent of people who attended events made gifts. Further, 76 percent of Sweet Work Weeks volunteers make gifts as do 80 percent of Reunion attendees.
Alumnae Committee: Alice Dixon reported on several alumnae activities, including Reunion with nearly 400 attendees and 33 classes represented. Back-to-school events were taking place in August. Surveys to determine alumnae interests went out to all alumnae on Aug. 1 and are available online.
She shared information on the Sweet Works Weeks program, including that this year more than 100 alumnae participated, coming from 38 classes.
Enrollment Management Committee: Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp reported the College is exceeding admissions goals and not sacrificing quality for quantity. The average incoming student GPA is 3.51. Yeargin-Allsopp highlighted targeted recruitment strategies and the plan to include board members in those targeted segment activities. She touched on the College’s financial aid strategy and optimization program as well the effectiveness of the Explore programs as a recruitment tool.
Student Life Committee: Caville Stanbury-Woolery reported that the campus emergency management plan was updated in February and that drills, such as active shooter and weather drills, take place periodically. The new LiveSafe program was briefly discussed. She shared with the board results from a survey regarding student medical coverage. This led to the reaffirmation that Centra Medical Group – Amherst, Blue Ridge Medical Center and Horizon Mental Health services will be used for medical and mental health care.
Portrait Committee: Georgene Vairo informed the board that there would be a portrait hanging ceremony for President Phil Stone at the board’s meeting in November.
Chair Teresa Tomlinson announced that Allie Simon’s last day on her second tour of duty on the board of directors would be Aug. 22. The board gave its gratitude and applause for Allie’s support and service.
President Woo, in turn, presented outgoing board chair Teresa Tomlinson with a token of appreciation for her three-year service as chair.