June 2021 Campus Community Update

Posted on July 19, 2021 by Meredith Woo

Dear Colleagues,

As those of us who work in academia know, June marks the beginning of summer but the end of the fiscal year. We are closing the books on FY 2020-2021, which turned out to be a good year all around. We successfully returned to on-campus, in-person living and learning, hosted a full calendar of educational and cultural events, and saw our athletic teams triumph – all in the midst of the pandemic.

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


Admissions has secured additional net deposits, passing 217. Because the pandemic delayed final college decisions for many, we are still receiving applications for the incoming fall 2021 class. We continue to reach out to prospective students, converting them from “fence sitters” to deposits.

A campus visit can “seal the deal.” The Fly-In program has played a key role in our recruiting efforts – more than one third of the current deposits originated from it. We are currently revising it to be more of a “by invitation” program and we are reaching out to high school counselors for their “fly-in” recommendations.

The 2022 application is open and nearly 100 students have already started an application. Our first student deposited for next fall (2022) on June 30th.

Academics, Student Life, Athletics

More than 180 of our incoming students have pre-registered for classes. New students will receive their schedules in late July. Thanks to a new grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, we will be piloting a bridge program later this summer for new students who are low income, of color and/or first generation, to aid their transition to college and prepare them for success.

Our seven online summer session courses wrapped up on July 2 and the Alumnae College classes offered by faculty, which are free this year to the alumnae, started on July 7.

Eight new full-time faculty members and the new Director of the Museum and Galleries will be joining us in August. Dean Garrett sent out a message last week to introduce them. Suffice it to say that this moment marks one of the greatest generational changes in Sweet Briar’s history. Coming on the heels of five faculty retirements in the last year and a half, and with two more scheduled, these eight new faculty members are arriving at the rank of assistant professor. Just like the senior faculty who have served the College with great distinction and made a difference to the lives of our students, I hope these young faculty members, too, will stay as long their predecessors have and retire after many decades of service. Please reach out to our new faculty and welcome them to our community

Student Life has finalized plans for the new student orientation in August. It will be a five-day program involving all aspects of campus life. In addition, we will be having “weeks of welcome” – ongoing activities to engage new students as well as re-engaging continuing students in campus life – that will continue through September. Housing assignments have been made. Student Life, through the National Association of Student Activities, is training students and staff in best practices in managing traditions, student government, and supporting diversity and inclusivity.

Our Vixens continue to be model scholar-athletes recognized for their academic and athletic achievements. Six students were named to the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) Academic All-State team for 2020-2021. All six of the honorees have a cumulative GPA above 3.75 with four above 3.9. They are: 2021 graduates Sydney Campbell (Amherst, VA; lacrosse, mathematics major) and Lily Peterson (Ashland, VA, NCEA equestrian, studio art major), along with rising juniors Elizabeth Sanford (Charlotte, NC, swimming, history major), Ruth de Souza (Marilia, Brazil; tennis, engineering major), Kate Kotany (Erd, Hungary; tennis, environmental science major) and Allison Wandling (Mechanicsville, VA; tennis, engineering major). Rising senior Annika Kuleba was named for the third time as an All-American Scholar by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA). The selection criteria for this honor are some of the most stringent in all of college athletics, with a minimum GPA of 3.50.

Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries

Auxiliary enterprises are finally returning to normalcy. The Book Shop finished June with a 35% increase in sales over last year. They have new Sweet Briar merchandise in stock for Reunion. Hospitality successfully hosted the Van Der Meer Tennis and Expectations Volleyball summer camps with two sessions from each group, as well as the first “no COVID restrictions” conference with 90 guests. Our Elston Inn highway signs resulted in welcoming an “off the street” couple to stay.

The Business Office is working on closing the books for FY21. They have updated the FY22 operating budget, capital Budget, and cash flows in preparation for the July board meeting, and they are ready for the fall semester’s tuition and housing billings. Campus Safety’s roster is now complete. They continue to work on security assessments and the team received training in implicit bias and other safety topics. Human Resources is busy processing the new hires and the college-wide compensation increases. Information Technology successfully updated Banner and is helping onboard the new students

Our honey harvest has been sent to Elysium for jarring and to Greenwich Bay for the honey body products. Physical Plant completed the work to make Dew’s first floor bathroom ADA accessible and started a long-needed plumbing project in Prothro to replace the old, corroded cast iron waste line. We have selected the contractors for the Guion refresh project, which will entail common area painting, new water fillers, new signage, and lighting repairs, all to be completed by the start of classes in August. All residential faculty and staff housing is full. We have finished the main phase of the Boathouse stabilization project and have started the Riding Center courtyard project.

The U.S. Small Business Administration notified us in June that our $2.5 million loan from the Payroll Protection Program had been forgiven, and we received our third grant from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which will bring us $395,718 for student aid and $395,717 for institutional aid

Alumnae Relations, Development and Communications

Fundraising for 2020/2021 exceeded nearly every goal. The $12,920,395 total is comprised of $7,735,695 in unrestricted annual fund gifts, with the remaining $5,184,700 coming from the annually occurring Carrington Trust disbursement, restricted gifts and grants including the government COVID-relief, and the current use portion of the Priorities Campaign. This means that we surpassed the annual fund goal of $5,000,000 by a very wide margin of 54 percent, and the total goal of $7,882,000 by another very wide margin of 64 percent.

After spending a nano-second in celebration, the AR & D team is back at work, starting all over again for FY 2022

We hosted the long-awaited Class of 2020 celebration on campus with fifty 2020s returning for a weekend of Senior Week activities that had been postponed last year due to COVID. We are finalizing the on-campus Reunion from July 22 – 25. For those who cannot attend in person, we have planned a July Jubilee of virtual Reunion activities. Sweet Work Week will take place during the last week of July (you’ll see me in my overalls, paintbrush in hand!). We are working with our alumnae clubs across the country on ideas to welcome the incoming students.

The Communications team is finalizing its FY 2022 Communications Plan. They are focused on preparing Admissions materials and marketing for the 2022 recruiting cycle. They are evaluating the data analytics from editorial social media, the digital marketing campaign, and the website and will be presenting the results to me, the ACAC Committee and the full Board in August.

Finally, in closing, let me thank you for again for your hard work and your many contributions to Sweet Briar. The successes of the past year would not have been possible without you.

Meredith Woo