I know you’re all busy preparing for the arrival our new and returning students and the start of the fall semester, but I also hope that you are enjoying mid-summer, which is a glorious time to be at Sweet Briar. The weather is good, the grounds are beautiful, and our visitors are enjoying their time on campus. We’ve had visitors aplenty. We’re holding a series of “Summer at Sweet Briar College” admissions events, and for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, we are hosting a variety of summer programs, including riding camps; athletic camps such as Van Der Meer Tennis, Expectations Volleyball, and Top Flight Soccer; Explore Engineering Camp; and the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshops. It’s a pleasure to welcome these groups back.
Let me share with you the College updates for the month of June.
As of July 11, we have 181 deposits, down by five from the last month’s report due to cancellations or deferrals. We will continue to recruit domestic first-year and transfer students until the start of the fall semester. Transfer applicants remain the most responsive as this student market is active over the summer. We are refreshing our messaging to the domestic first-year funnel as some students may be having second thoughts about their original college choice and looking elsewhere; we also pushed out additional messaging to local students (prospects and admits).
We are working closely with student life and academic affairs to follow-up with deposited students who are potential cancels.
Application generation for the fall 2023 class has launched with a summer initiative that includes summer recruiting events and a variety of messages.
Academics, Student Life, Athletics
Our summer session ended on July 1. Honors Summer Research just wrapped up; in addition to conducting research, participating faculty and students have presented weekly talks about their projects. The Willits Food Systems summer fellows continue their hands-on experiences in campus agricultural operations; fellows spend between 10 to 13 weeks in the program.
On June 24, the Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability hosted around 40 second- through fifth-grade students, along with their teachers, who were participants in the Nelson County Public Schools Excel Academy summer enrichment program, Kids Grow Green camp. The Willits fellows presented hands-on educational sessions for the students and teachers in the greenhouse and in the wildflower meadow, alongside professors Lisa Powell and Linda Fink. The group enjoyed lunch in Prothro, and the admissions staff led them on a campus tour, working on recruiting the classes of 2033 and beyond.
Our students are making tremendous contributions to campus agriculture. During the spring 2022 semester (January through mid-May), the agriculture and greenhouse student assistants grew and harvested 1,500 lbs. of produce for campus dining! This is especially impressive considering much of what they harvest can have a large volume with little weight (like lettuce, basil, and other leafy greens). In June, the Willits fellows helped with the harvest of 420 lbs. of honey from the apiary.
Our Campus Entertainment Organization (CEO) sponsored a number of programs for the students on campus this summer. Activities included paint night and board game night, as well as off-campus events like blueberry picking and attending the Virginia Summer Solstice Festival.
The engineering program submitted its self-study to ABET. The next step in the re-accreditation process will be an on-site visit. Many thanks to professors Michelle Gervasio, Bryan Kuhr, and TC Scott for their hard work.
We bid a fond farewell to Betty Evans, who just retired after 35 years of working in the library. She started as a library assistant and became the cataloging supervisor. She is looking forward to having time to read, play with her grandkids, and put together Legos!
We continue to onboard the class of 2026 and encourage them to complete their paperwork. Faculty did individual advising sessions with incoming students, who have also received their housing assignments. Summer virtual events for new students included exploring Sweet Briar’s different majors, meeting classmates, and preparing for community living in a residence hall.
Student Life is preparing for orientation and the Weeks of Welcome to aid in the transition and retention of our new students. Meghan Gladle is working closely with the incoming international students to ensure they all received visa appointments so they’ll be able to join us in the fall, and we’ve hosted two pre-orientation sessions for international students. The Multicultural Student Center (MSC) and Student Engagement are planning and preparing their programs for the year.
We are reviewing and updating the Student Handbook and other policies and procedures for Residence Life and for Daisy’s Closet. The staff are doing training and professional development through webinars, meetings with local colleagues and other networking events.
June was a quiet month for athletics and riding. For the fifth straight semester, the swim team was named a Scholar All-America team
by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
Notable progress on the turf field continues, including work on the gravel base, the curbing of the turf side and the installation of the lights. You can watch a video of the lights installation
; it’s dramatic to see the crane lifting the towering light post.
Finance, Operations and Auxiliaries
Hospitality’s Elston Inn and Conference team welcomed many alumnae back to campus for Reunion 2022. Our returning alumnae also spurred sales at the book shop, which topped $26,613.00, with over 1,300 items sold – a 162% increase over sales last June. If you’re looking for a unique gift, the shop’s new merchandise includes beautiful jigsaw puzzles depicting four different scenes from the Sweet Briar campus.
Campus Safety helped ensure that Reunion was safe and successful. They are rolling out a new online vehicle registration system to streamline how community members obtain permits. They hosted a student intern from Longwood University. Brian Marker attended the Annual Campus Safety Conference in Norfolk and brought back some additional ideas and safety perspectives to share with his colleagues.
Finance / Business Office began assessing fall semester bills (issued in the first week of July) and reconciling them with the census onboarding and housing reports. They placed “holds” on past due accounts (which prohibits registration and housing), and notified all students who were delinquent on summer housing and tuition. They also started the preliminary audit, completed the planning and preparation for fiscal year end and are working on the myriad tasks necessary to close the books. This process will run through July and August, in preparation for the auditors, BDO, to perform the FY22 financial audit during September.
Information Technology enhanced the capabilities and functionalities of various Zoom rooms on campus, restored several servers and services after the recent storm, added several wireless access points in classrooms and replaced network switches in Guion, ordered new computers for faculty and staff, and refreshed computers in the Benedict, Piano, Engineering, Smith, and Environmental Science labs. IT is onboarding new faculty, staff, and students. They are exploring costs and technology issues for a viable VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solution for the entire campus.
Physical Plant began the next phase of the Class of 1972 Student Commons Courtyard by connecting the gutter downspouts from Dew to the new storm drain and adding trench drains near the Prothro Atrium entrance – this will correct the long-standing issue of pooling rain and snow melt at the highest traffic location on campus. They started the implementation phase of additional student commons space to refresh Daisy’s cafe, Reid Pit, and Meta Glass lounge (the former location of Outdoor Programs, which has relocated to the FAC).
The repair to the in-water foundation of the boat storage building at the boathouse will begin on July 11 and continue for approximately ten days to two weeks.
The greenhouse’s hydroponic operation is in full production, with just one-half a bay to be built for Dutch buckets. The grape volume in our vineyards is looking excellent and the expected harvest could begin as early as mid-August.
We are conducting a pine harvest on the very northern edge of our property. Most of the area is being thinned to remove deceased or wind-damaged trees; clear-cut areas will be replanted with loblolly pine, similar to what was done four years ago at the entrance to Kentucky Ridge.
Alumnae Relations, Development and Communications
The final month of the fiscal year produced extraordinary results, both in giving and in meeting our goal of 30 percent participation among degreed alumnae, which is well above the national average of 22.3 percent. This year saw unprecedented levels of reunion class giving
, with some reunion leaders giving generously to the first year of their campaign gift in addition to making an annual fund gift.
The successful close to the fiscal year was due in large part to all members of the team pulling on the oars. Through an integrated strategy involving a special edition of the Briar Wire, letters, calls, social media outreach, class challenges and other communications, the total giving for FY 22 is over $25 million. These gifts include: unrestricted contributions for the Sweet Briar Fund, restricted endowment gifts, bequests, and campaign dollars primarily in support of projects for the student spaces, the new Thayer turf field, Guion and Babcock.
Reunion was a huge success by all accounts with logistics, engagement, entertainment and giving at all-time highs. In other alumnae engagement, the San Francisco club held a summer celebration and we’ve finalized the plans for Sweet Work Weeks on campus from July 22-August 8.
All AR&D staff are working on the public rollout of the priorities campaign, planning events on campus and around the country and determining the necessary internal volunteer and staff structure. Collateral materials are being developed to coincide with the launch of the Sweet Briar Fund in September.
We held a joint retreat with colleagues from the University of Virginia in alumnae relations, annual giving, travel program and stewardship, focused on trends in giving and engagement. We also hosted colleagues from thirteen Virginia independent colleges to discuss trends, challenges and opportunities in fundraising and alumnae engagement.
In closing, as ever, many thanks for all that you do for Sweet Briar.