May 2022 Community Update

Posted on June 13, 2022 by Meredith Woo

Dear Colleagues,

We’ve hosted several major occasions in the last few weeks. On the heels of our spring Board meeting, we held our 113th Commencement on May 14. As the weather was uncooperative, the ceremony took place in the Fitness and Athletic Center. This was the first time in more than 30 years that it was held indoors; nonetheless, it was a very gratifying day for the 83 graduates and their families.

Last weekend was an all-class Reunion for 350 alumnae and guests. It was a joy to welcome the alumnae back to campus and be in their company for a series of celebratory events that engaged, entertained, and enlightened them. It was humbling to see the alumnae solidly in support of the College’s direction. They spoke to me enthusiastically about our emphasis on women’s leadership and our efforts to sustainably steward and wisely use our historic lands and buildings. They are proud to be alumnae of Sweet Briar.

The campus is quiet now, until summer programs ranging from Explore Engineering to riding camps return to campus for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Before we know it, the students will be back for classes in August.

I want to thank everyone for their hard work in making these events and programs, which involve tremendous amounts of effort, cooperation and communication from individuals and departments across the campus, so successful. I’m grateful to you for ensuring that our visitors experience Sweet Briar at its best.

Let me share with you College updates from the month of May.


As of June 6, we have 186 deposits. We will be actively recruiting students until the start of the fall semester. We’re reaching out to pending admits, generating new applications, and collaborating with Student Life to identify students who may “melt” or defer.

Planning for the fall class of 2023 is well underway. We’re developing our working plans and solidifying our pipeline strategies. Summer recruitment events include two “Summer at Sweet Briar College” days, weekend tours, and Virginia Private College week in late July. Sixty advisors from the Virginia College Advising Corps Advisors (who serve underrepresented groups) will visit campus in July.

Academics, Student Life, Athletics

As the spring semester drew to its close, Reid Pit and the Multicultural Center were full with students coming in for advising, to donate items to Daisy’s Closet, or to relax in the comfortable (and cool!) space. In Mid-May, several of the multicultural student organization leaders hosted the Alumni Council for a tour of these spaces. To celebrate the end of the Muslim holiday, Ramadan, Student Life sponsored an Eid party. In early May, we wrapped up the YWCA Stand Against Racism Challenge by attending the Side by Side Walk in Lynchburg.

The seniors reveled in their Senior Week activities; staff and faculty participated in the senior kick ball game (with resultant soreness on the part of the more fully-formed adults!). The day before Commencement, we held the Awards Ceremony, the Baccalaureate, inducted new members into Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society and into Phi Beta Kappa, and continued the celebration at Commencement itself. Many thanks to Information Technology for live-streaming the ceremony.

The summer session, offering online courses for degree seeking and non-degree seeking students, started May 23 and runs through July 1. The Honors Summer Research Program as well as the Willits Food Systems Summer Fellows program are also underway. About 30 students are staying here for the summer, to participate in summer classes, do honors research, or because they have a job or internship on campus or in the area.

We are onboarding the incoming students. We completed the housing assignments for the incoming Early Decision students and the other students submitted their housing forms last week. We sent the first-year advising handbook to students electronically, with hard copies to follow. We assigned advisors to all new students, prepared faculty for summer academic advising, and held a virtual academic orientation. Information Technology is also helping us onboard new students and is preparing computer labs for the fall semester.

We’ve ensuring that our F-1 visa holders maintain their status and comply with visa regulations. We assisted our graduating international students with the Occupational Professional Training (OPT) application process and hosted a pre-travel workshop for the majority of our F-1 students who traveled home for the summer. We are issuing the nineteen Class of 2026 deposited international students their I-20s.

In athletics and riding, tennis ended the season in second place in the ODAC tournament, runner-up to Washington & Lee for the second consecutive year.  Ana Patino was named ODAC Rookie of the Year.  In addition, Patino, along with Allison Wandling and Alexia Alfaro, received All-ODAC First Team accolades for singles play, while the doubles team of Ruth de Souza and Allison Wandling also received All-ODAC First Team honors.  Ruth de Souza and Isabela Guilarte were both named to the All-ODAC Second Team for singles play.  Ruth de Souza was named to the CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-District Team.  This is a highly competitive award and she is only the second tennis player in Sweet Briar history to earn this achievement.

The IHSA equestrian team rode to third place, its best finish yet, at the National Championship held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Emmy Longest was Sweet Briar’s first ever individual national champion in the individual open flat competition.

Over 200 people attended the Athletics and Riding Banquet, held in person for the first time since 2019.  Student athletes and faculty were presented with awards; Annika Kuleba received the prestigious Crysler Award. You can watch a video of the event through the Vixen Sports Network:

Finance, Operations & Auxiliaries

Thanks to Commencement, the Book Shop saw its sales in May double and it expects great results in June due to Reunion. Hospitality was busy this month, too, hosting Sweet Briar as well as non-Sweet Briar events, with over 350 room nights sold at the Elston Inn.

Campus Safety managed parking and pedestrian safety during Commencement events. Training opportunities for officers included critical incident training specializing in mental health, and campus crime prevention. Our Virginia weather required activating our emergency management plan for tornado warnings.

Finance/Business Office started the FY22 preliminary audit. They worked with students and families to clear student account balances, billed summer session tuition (which generated $55K in revenue), processed housing fines following Student Life’s room inspections after student move out, and generated refunds for all graduated and withdrawn students with credit balances on their student account. Looking ahead to next year, they developed the 2022-2023 Nelnet tuition payment plan process.

Physical Plant did a marvelous job preparing the residence halls for our Reunion guests. They completed phase I of the Student Commons project ahead of schedule and started working on the last drainage component by Prothro and Dew this week. The Reid Parlor refresh is almost completed: the new floor is installed, stained and finished and new area rugs and decorative accessories are in place with reupholstered furniture on the way.

In May, the College entered into a new 50-year water and sewer agreement with the town of Amherst; the partnership emphasizes conservation and cost sharing, and removes a CPI (Consumer Price Index) pricing increase every year.

Progress continues on the turf field with the grading of the surface and the placement of the light post foundations. Supply chain issues are having some, but not a material, impact on the schedule.

Bid requests are out for the repair work of the boathouse foundation.  The Emergency Preparedness and Response plans for the upper and lower dams have been approved by the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, to be followed by receiving estimates for necessary repairs to the upper and lower lake dam water release valve systems.

Projects/Agriculture completed the in-house portion of the Lower Quad plantings. The 40-acre field behind the Art Barn that was taken out of switchgrass cultivation and planted with horse-suitable hay is ready for cutting. The first cutting should yield 1,500 square bales, which will offset the Riding Center’s outside purchases. The apiary’s first honey extraction should take place in June. Grape harvests in the vineyard will begin in mid-August and continue through early October. The entire greenhouse roof was replaced by the vendor and no longer leaks. The Dutch Bucket hydroponics system is fully populated with 280 tomato, cucumber and pepper plants.

Our Grounds crew continues to upgrade trees and shrubbery throughout campus. Sod from the new turf field construction site was repurposed and established at Guion and Grammer.  Our mowing crew has taken on the vineyards, increasing total campus acres mowed from 45 to 65.

Alumnae Relations, Development & Communications

Reunion 2022, June 3-5, was the big story.  The alumnae office spent months organizing it, and worked with all Reunion classes to encourage attendance and giving participation from every class member. The results are phenomenal, thanks to record Reunion giving. Four classes gave over $1 million dollars and the numbers are still climbing. Final Reunion statistics will be reported soon, but we know that the participation and giving levels sparked by the event have created enormous momentum as we approach the fiscal year’s close.

The alumnae office celebrated the Class of 2022 with the annual Fancy Hat Brunch, robing, and other events to welcome seniors into the alumnae ranks. While the Board was on campus, we held a recognition event for Kelley and C.T. Fitzpatrick by naming the Center for Creativity, Design, and the Arts in their honor. We held four Alumnae Club events in Cincinnati, New York, San Francisco and San Diego, as well as happy hours in San Francisco and San Diego.  We have also started planning Sweet Work Weeks, to take place July 22-August 7.

We reviewed the College’s gift acceptance policies and campaign counting guidelines, which were approved by the Board. These guidelines are critical for the campaign’s implementation. The Alumnae Alliance held joint meetings with the AR&D staff to recap progress and plan future projects, and presented their annual report to the Board.

Besides working with the Reunion classes for attendance, giving and participation, the fundraising team was preparing the social media campaigns for Reunion and for the last month of the fiscal year. The fundraising overall continues with major donor outreach and all classes striving to help reach alumnae participation goals of 30%. We submitted grant proposals on topics ranging from historic preservation, to the second phase of the Riding Center’s renovations, to the renewal of the Willits Fellows for 2023-24, to faculty award nominations.

The communications work in May has focused on current Admissions marketing and on producing materials, such as the viewbook, for the next recruiting cycle. Communications continues to work on the website redesign and the wayfinding project, which has developed a prototype for a new campus map. Communications also produced videos for the graduating Class of 2022, for the Reunion Class of 1972, and of Commencement highlights. You can watch them here:

In closing, let me thank you again for everything you do for the College. If you’re taking any vacation this month, please enjoy your time off. I wish you all a happy summer!

Meredith Woo