Leadership Core

Sweet Briar has been educating women of consequence, confidence and grit for more than a century. Today, our commitment to leadership and the liberal arts go hand in hand. Effective leaders benefit from the foundation of a liberal arts education, which teaches them to be successful communicators, ethical decision-makers and empathetic problem-solvers.

The general education system common in higher education is one way to experience a wide variety of disciplines, but it isn’t the only way. Our core curriculum will give you the opportunity to get a broad, multifaceted education while also teaching you how the disciplines interact — and how they relate to your own specific interests. Life is interdisciplinary. No matter your professional path, you’ll need scientific, civic and business literacy to be successful in both your work and home life. Sweet Briar’s core curriculum will teach you those skills.

More than that, our core will encourage you to ask challenging questions about the nature of leadership. How does gender impact leadership? What differentiates women leaders? How does our culture impact women’s leadership? At Sweet Briar, we’re not afraid to ask these questions — and more — and we encourage you to reach your own conclusions about how you, as a 21st-century woman, can lead in your home, workplace and community. And we’ll give you plenty of opportunities to put those conclusions into practice through research with faculty, internships and leadership roles in student organizations.

Our core curriculum will teach you to harness your natural leadership abilities — whether your life path takes you to Wall Street or Main Street, to graduate study or to the workplace.

Throughout the core, you’ll develop communications skills, learn to sift through evidence and gain an understanding of diverse cultural and disciplinary perspectives. You’ll look squarely upon the problems our world faces and get empowered to craft solutions. And, because our core curriculum spans four years of study, you will have plenty of time to craft an academic program that lets you explore what truly excites you.

CORE 110 — Design Thinking

Prerequisite: Limited to and required for all incoming first-year and new transfer students.

A team of faculty members from varied disciplines will introduce students to the design-thinking process, and its application to a range of problems from local through global scale. Faculty will show how design thinking is expressed in different disciplines, and at the end of the course students will engage in the process for themselves in different disciplinary contexts, and engage in a multidisciplinary endeavor. This course introduces our leadership core, which will produce students who are inquisitive when approaching new challenges; empathetic, informed, and fearless when framing potential solutions to those challenges; flexible, organized, and collaborative when designing and implementing solutions; articulate and confident when communicating those solutions; focused upon the creation of well- executed products; and perceptively self-critical when reviewing the effectiveness of their own work.

CORE 120 — The Mindful Writer
A workshop-based writing course that helps students become confident and effective readers and writers. Using the New Yorker magazine as the primary text — each student will have an individual ten-week subscription — students will learn to read carefully, identify the style and structure of individual pieces, from profiles to reviews to political and cultural commentary, and write several pieces of their own, practicing a range of rhetorical methods while also conducting research, crafting persuasive arguments, and producing multiple drafts through careful and sustained revision.
CORE 130 — Women and Gender in the World
A multidisciplinary study of the social, cultural, and political issues that influence women in societies across the world. The course introduces theoretical perspectives and social contexts for the diverse challenges that confront contemporary women.
CORE 140 — Sustainable Systems
This class introduces the concept of sustainability by emphasizing the interconnectedness of different systems (e.g., environmental, cultural, economic). Case studies from around the world will demonstrate the importance of understanding both cultural and political contexts when developing innovative solutions to intractable environmental problems.
CORE 150 — Creative Thinking and Practice
Core 150 is satisfied by a variety of courses offered throughout the arts. These interdisciplinary courses help students understand and develop creative processes through the study and practice of the arts. Students will be exposed to works of art in two genres, and discover how those works came into being, as well as develop works of their own. In order to understand how a variety of artists think about art and culture, students in courses that count for Core 150 will be required to attend readings, lectures, exhibitions, and performances by visiting artists, including Babcock and Gager Concert Series events, open studios and salons with Fellows from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Common Read presentations, and gallery events and openings.
CORE 160 — STEM and Society
This course is designed to empower students to develop evidence-based opinions, and make informed decisions, about societal issues related to science and technology. After becoming familiar with the scientific method, the basic methodology common to all good scientific research, students will learn to distinguish between legitimate and bogus results by thinking clearly and critically about the claims of scientists and charlatans alike.
CORE 170 — Decisions in a Data-driven World
The volume of data available to help us make decisions is increasing at a staggering rate. How do we sort through data to find what is relevant and useful? How do we evaluate, organize and interpret information to make good decisions? This course will focus on data-rich topics drawn from disparate fields such as health, science and technology, and political science to develop the ability to reason and work with data, as well as understand and present arguments supported by quantitative evidence.
CORE 180 — Dollars and Sense
Women leading in all ways and all walks of life need a solid understanding of financial topics. Three major categories will be covered in this course to provide that: first, broad economic concepts, which will provide a foundational understanding; second, organizational financial mechanisms; and finally financial literacy for the individual (e.g., understanding credit and personal investing). Each category will include hands-on learning.
CORE 210 — Contemporary Ethical Questions
Global climate change, human migration, and technological manipulation of genes all present pressing ethical questions for which no clear-cut answers exist. This course helps students address such complex issues by introducing them to major branches of philosophical ethics and then helping them apply these diverse perspectives to propose solutions. All sections initially follow a common syllabus of theoretical readings; then each section concentrates on contemporary ethical dilemmas in particular spheres (e.g., medicine, business, law, etc.).
CORE 300 — The Consequential Citizen
A culminating core capstone about how power/influence operate within human social and political structures. Students will apply these insights to their own futures and reflect on how the core experience helped them develop the skills and frameworks they need to launch themselves into their post-collegiate roles as leader-citizens.