January Community Update

Posted on February 09, 2021 by Meredith Woo

Dear Colleagues,

Winter is finally here! We received the year’s first major snowfall and perhaps our students enjoyed it the most. They went sledding in the Dell (joined by Dean Garrett!), and those without sleds checked out trays from Prothro to “trayboggan” down the slopes. I want to give a special thank you to those of you classified as “essential” employees, for coming to campus in the midst of the snow to look after the students (and the horses) and to clear away snow and ice to prepare the grounds for classes the next day.

Let me share with you College updates for the month of January.


The number of submitted applications passed the 1,000 mark and we now have more than 100 deposits. Admissions is currently working with the Admissions Ambassadors (largely alumnae volunteers but also including some parents), coaches, faculty, staff and current students for a special application generation outreach push to roughly 3,000 inquiries. We are contacting these prospects by phone, email, text, postcards and digital ads, with the Admissions Ambassadors doing the heaviest lifting by reaching out to over 1,000 of them.

Through our partnership with Underscore, the Financial Aid Office launched a new Financial Aid portal to make it easier for students to view their award packages, receive reminders, and submit missing documents. Admitted students access this user-friendly site while logged to the Admissions portal, which also features links to helpful information resources.

Admissions, supported by many areas of campus, hosted a virtual Scholars Day event on Saturday, January 30, with 107 scholars and their families in attendance. The event was a huge success, and the students loved the Sweet Briar Experience Box (filled with branded swag, a copy of the literary magazine created by students in the “Mindful Writer” Core course, and a Vixen cookie) shipped to them prior to the 30th. We are currently planning for another virtual Scholars Day event on February 20, and will host a virtual Open House the same day.

Academics, Athletics, Student Life

We have hired Dr. Kerry Greenstein as our new Dean of Student Life. Kerry holds a B.A. in communications and American studies from Ryder University in New Jersey, as well as a M.Ed. in student affairs practice in higher education and an Ed.D. in educational leadership from Georgia Southern University. He brings to Sweet Briar many years of student affairs experience, most recently serving as dean of student affairs at Beacon College in Florida. He will lead our student life team, advocating on behalf of the students and helping us strengthen our diversity and inclusion efforts across campus. He official starts on February 15, but is already participating in virtual meetings and calls. Please join me in welcoming him to Sweet Briar!

February is Black History month, and our programming is in full swing with more than a dozen events planned by the Black Student Alliance. You can learn more about the events here. In addition, the Mary Cochran Library has prepared a resource page on Black history, along with a book display on the library’s first floor by the circulation desk.

Dean Teresa Garrett and her team are putting the final touches on the College’s Focused Report for our SACSCOC reaccreditation. The report will be submitted before the end of this month, as will our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which focuses on building students’ leadership capacity through integrated academic and co-curricular programming.

Athletics and Riding continue to play a major role in our admissions efforts, with 64 deposits from students with these interests – comprising 58 percent of the total deposits. A critical factor in our recruiting success is that our teams are competing in person.  The swim team had its first event in January, hosting Southern Virginia on the 30th.  It was a safe and successful outing. Also on January 30, Riding hosted a show for the Sweet Briar riding program that was run by students in the Equine Management class.  The first home lacrosse game is Saturday, February 6, and our first NCEA team event is on the road, February 19, at Georgia.

Be assured that we are taking every precaution on behalf of our student athletes. We are testing them prior to every away contest, and we are doing random testing for lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer at a rate of 25 percent of the team every week.

Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries

The first month of the new calendar year is a busy time for this part of the College. Human Resources got the PayCom Applicant Tracking System (ATS) up and running, and will be holding training sessions for supervisors and managers that request new positions on February 10 and 11. HR launched a new wellness portal, WebMD, and will shortly send out word to employees on how to follow the instructions provided on the WebMD Link. W-2 forms and ACA Form 1095 were verified and issued on schedule.

Physical Plant and construction activities continued apace. We started to replace both of the lower roofs on the Library. At the Riding Center, the closed out construction phase of the Stables and Bailey Room projects entered into warranty stage. We completed the Request For Proposals (RFP) process to select an architect for the planning stage of a Turf Complex. With help from Human Resources and the Business Office, we completed the information needed for the Cincinnati Insurance WC and GL audits. And we moved all of the Ralph Adams Cram drawings of the College’s historic structures into a safe, secure and temperature-controlled room in the lower level of Fletcher. This was a big but highly worthwhile effort!

Grounds has been hard at work, too. At the greenhouse, the first half bay of hydroponic equipment was installed and is functional; there are two more half bays to go. We started the preliminary composting of leaves and greenhouse debris at the stump dump. We continued our progress on removing vegetation and trees that endanger the historic structures – actions recommended by our Historic Structures Assessment and Stewardship Plan. The large culvert installation was completed at the Dairy Lane connector.  And our snow removal efforts after last weekend’s snowfall were successful; there were no slips, no falls, and no vehicles off the roads.

The Business Office also accomplished many goals in January. They got out the annual tax forms (W2s to employees, 1099s to vendors, and 1098Ts to students) well in advance of the deadline, and wrapped up the audit steps for the CARES Act HEERF money and finalized required compliance reporting on those funds.  We are working on materials in preparation for the Board meeting – budget, analysis, and forecasts.

Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications

January is always a critical month for ARD & C, as it launches the second wave of giving for the fiscal year, along with alumnae engagement programs and communications to see us through the year. Alumnae Relations wrapped up the virtual Sweet Briar Days (6 in December and 5 in January) that connected 209 alumnae with our academic and athletic programs (our oldest participant was a member of the class of 1946!). We held two Zoom calls with international alumnae (on January 21 and 28) and helped plan and coordinate the Admissions events, such as the January 30 Scholars Day. We are working with the Dean’s Office to plan an Alumnae College for the summer, continuing to partner with the Alumnae Alliance, and building for the future by reaching out to the younger alumnae.

We have raised $4,583,378 to date toward our goal of $5 million in unrestricted gifts and current pledges; we remain committed to stretching to raise at least another $2.5 million in unrestricted funds to cover all of the College’s COVID costs. Restricted gifts and pledges currently stand at $1,236,814, surpassing our goal of $500,000. Our next focus is the March Days of Giving during the first ten days of that month and then the May/June drive for a successful close to the fiscal year. In addition to securing gifts and pledge payments from alumnae for Reunion challenges and class challenges, we are making plans for a significant giving participation drive, as current participation is at 8.6 percent, tracking a little behind last year at this time. Meanwhile, work on the Priorities Campaign is constant as we continue to steward and cultivate donors.

At this time of the year, Communications is busy helping Admissions convert admitted students into deposited students; other tasks include working on the spring issue of the Sweet Briar Magazine, developing podcasts for the Equestrian program, outreach to our staff on accreditation and creating videos and other marketing for the College.

That’s the wrap for January. Let me close by hoping you stay warm, safe and healthy. Thanks again for all you do for Sweet Briar!

Meredith Woo