Letter to the Community: Dean and Associate Dean of the College

Posted on July 17, 2018 by Meredith Woo

July 13, 2018

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students of Sweet Briar,

In order to ensure stability and maximum success in our academic realignment in the new academic year and beyond, I have decided to appoint Lynn Rainville as the next Dean of the College. Rainville, as most of you know, has served as acting dean of the College. In her capacity as acting dean, she has helped implement a vast realignment of the curriculum, stemming from the introduction of the new “leadership core,” and other program reorganization. Through it all, her concern has remained our students, making sure that no student is short changed in the restructuring. She has also championed scholarly excellence, and in her short tenure in Fletcher, made a number of excellent faculty hires. I can’t think of a more qualified and prepared person for stewarding the College at this point in its history.

The transition should be seamless. She has been exercising financial and administrative oversight of the library, sponsored research, institutional effectiveness, the honors program, study abroad — and more recently, the complex work of curricular realignment. She has been actively involved in faculty recruitment and promoting excellence in research and teaching. As a historian, archaeologist and anthropologist, she will continue to champion the centrality of the humanities and social sciences in the liberal arts education at Sweet Briar. This mission builds on her decade of public outreach as the director of the Tusculum Institute, dedicated to local history and historic preservation.

Rainville has been a member of the SBC community since 2001. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Near Eastern archaeology and spending over a decade directing projects in Turkey and Syria, she has spent the past 17 years uncovering Virginia’s forgotten histories, including research into African-American cemeteries, enslaved communities, segregated schools, town poor farms, and the role that Virginians played in World War I. This grant-funded work has appeared in four books and over two dozen articles. She is committed to sharing this scholarly research with our students, as well as a large public audience, through regular public lectures, online databases, and social media. It is rare to find a scholar who can bridge this gap between the academy and the public. Her research demonstrates the importance of the humanities in designing research to connect our shared history to our common future.

Supporting Rainville in his new capacity as associate dean is Professor Hank Yochum. Prof. Yochum has been a member of the Sweet Briar community since 2002. He has taught courses in engineering and physics and has led our engineering program since 2007. Prof. Yochum’s research is in photonics and nano-engineering, most recently focusing on developing new processes to fabricate polymer based optical devices.

As director of the engineering program, he led the first accreditation review, which resulted in Sweet Briar becoming one of two women’s colleges with an ABET accredited engineering degree program. Part of his work included developing assessments of learning outcomes so that faculty members can ensure students gain the skills and knowledge to be successful and identify areas for improvement. Together with program faculty, he founded the Explore Engineering program that has brought over 450 high school women to campus to interact with our students while creating compelling, hands-on engineering projects. Outside of engineering, he has served as the chair of the faculty senate and the personnel committee. An advocate for undergraduate research, he served as the director of the Summer Honors Research Program and was an elected councilor for the physics and astronomy division of the Council of Undergraduate Research (CUR).

As associate dean, Prof. Yochum’s duties include being the point person for the Honors Program and institutional assessment. He will also collaborate with Kim Sinha on projects related to SACS accreditation, as well as take on other responsibilities as needed. While Hank will remain highly involved with the engineering program, Bethany Brinkman will take over as director.

Please welcome this dynamic duo in their important positions.

With best wishes for a restful summer, what remains of it,

Meredith Woo