November 2022 Community Update

Posted on January 10, 2023 by Lathan Goumas

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you all had a happy and restful Thanksgiving. I know that like me, you are all extremely thankful that the campus water issues were successfully resolved and things are back to normal. I want to extend my gratitude once more to our community, who faced this challenge with grace and patience, and to all the employees who worked around the clock to rectify the problem and aid their fellow community members.

The fall semester is winding to its close. Classes for the 12-week term end on December 14, followed by a reading day and the final exam period. I know that you’re all looking forward to the winter break!

Let me share with you College updates for November.


As of December 5, 591 domestic first-year students have submitted applications and 445 of them have been admitted. We have 49 deposits (48 domestic and one international) from first-year students.

On November 9-11, we hosted 40 high school and independent counselors from across the nation for a series of events, meetings, and tours of campus. Feedback from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive and many counselors let us know that they have recommended Sweet Briar to their students and colleagues. Practically on the heels of the departing counselors, we held a fall Open House weekend for prospective students and their families on November 11-12.

We hosted a virtual “Coffee with Counselors” event on December 2 that featured our engineering faculty; over 40 high school counselors attended.

We have an Early Decision deadline on December 5 and an Early Action deadline on December 15. On December 10, we are hosting our first Scholars event for students who have been admitted as presidential or dean’s scholars.

December 15 is the upcoming deadline for two of our scholarship programs: the Wyllie engineering scholarship, which has received five applications to date; and the performing arts scholarship, which has received 16 applications so far.

We are off to an early start in inviting qualified students to join the Honors Program; 15 students have reserved their spot.

Academics, Student Life and Athletics

The students have registered for the spring semester and are now busy with their end-of-semester readings, presentations, and papers.

The Fall Dance Concert featured original choreographic works by students and faculty.

The ceramics studio held an Open House, with a percentage of the sales of work by students and faculty going to fund future visiting artists. Studio art professor Laura Pharis has a solo exhibition on view through March in the Lobby Gallery of Riverviews Artspace, Lynchburg.

Theater professor Quill Camp contributed a chapter, “Mapping Narrative in Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Pay Up and Franklin’s Secret City,” to Experiential Theatres (Routledge, 2022).

Education instructor Amelie Smucker co-authored the article, “Under the hood of growth assessments,” in VASCD Journal 19, 16-27, and presented, “Teacher Preparation Program Standards & Collaboration Between General and Special Educators,” at the TED Conference of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children in Richmond, Virginia.

History professor Lynn Laufenberg presented, “Bodies Commodified: Slavery in 14th- and 15-century Florence,” at the Southeastern Medieval Association meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.

Philosophy professor Chris Penfield was awarded a $1,000 implementation grant by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to support curricular initiatives in philosophy. The grant is funded by the Mellon Foundation through the CIC’s New Currents in Teaching Philosophy program.

November saw the launch of the co-curricular ROSE (Relationships, Opportunities, Service, Empowerment) Leadership Program. ROSE is Sweet Briar’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), an integral part of the College’s decennial reaccreditation with SACSCOC. It will give students hands-on, practical leadership training, both on and off campus, and is directed by Dean Kerry Greenstein. We have selected the 20 student participants for the first cohort beginning in January. They are an excellent group, interested in gaining confidence as leaders, improving their leadership capabilities, and giving back to the campus and community—they are the future stars and leaders of Sweet Briar.

The Inter-Club Council (ICC) held its annual Hazing Prevention Week, during which 127 students participated in educational and social activities centered around learning the signs of hazing, the effects of hazing on the individual and group, and community/team-building activities. Other events included signing the Anti-Hazing Pledge and a presentation on the history of Sweet Briar traditions between first years and upper class students using archival materials such as student handbooks and issues of the Briar Patch.

The “Groom with the Riding Council” event introduced non-equestrian students to the horses and to the basics of horse care. Engineering professor Bryan Kuhr held a C++ workshop with the new “Girls Who Code” club, then the members participated in a Hackathon. The Sweet Dancers hosted a letter writing event to veterans on Veterans Day. The Campus Events Organization (CEO) and the Black Student Alliance (BSA) partnered for an off-campus trip to see the premiere of the film Black Panther II: Wakanda Forever. In the spirit of the season, SGA sponsored a Day of Thanks, and the first-year class carried out the Sweet Briar tradition of decorating Mills Chapel for the holidays.

As part of our continuing Heritage Celebration Series, we held International Education Week to recognize how global education enriches and transforms our lives. Events during our Native American and Indigenous Heritage Weeks included the screening of the documentary Women of the White Buffalo, an off-campus visit to the Monacan Nation Ancestral Museum, a trip to hear anthropologist Dr. Jeffrey Hantman’s talk, “Monacan Millennium,” and more.

Eight members of Sweet Briar’s field hockey team were honored by the Colonial States Athletics Conference (CSAC). Brynna Hughes and Avery Jones were both named to the All-CSAC First team. Molly Booth, Jolin Daughety, Ingrid Kalwitz Blanco, Lara Jost, and Kaytee Reynolds were named Honorable Mention All-CSAC, and Abigail Lindsey was named to the All- Sportsmanship Team.

In a first in the history of soccer at Sweet Briar, two team members, Jillian Lewis and Renée Taylor, were named to the College Sports Communicators (CSC) Academic All-District team.

Sweet Briar’s Outdoor Program started the College’s first Climbing Team this semester. Team members Alexi Hunt, Liza Dareing, and Emily Allred participated in their first competition at Rise Up Climbing in Lynchburg in the Women’s Beginner category. They all did well, and continued to climb until the final buzzer of the two-hour climbing period (an accomplishment in itself!).

In its final show of the fall season, the IHSA riding team saw team member Sita Moses qualify for regionals, where she will join her teammate Sarah Southard. Earlier in the month, our No. 2-ranked NCEA riding team defeated No. 3-ranked Sewanee, in a convincing 7 – 1 victory.

We are delighted that Jason Vittone is on board as our new Athletic Director. He comes to us from William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, and brings more than 25 years of experience in higher education and intercollegiate athletics to this position. Please join me in welcoming Jason to our community!

Finance, Operations and Auxiliaries

The Book Shop has been busy with holiday shoppers; online orders have increased, and many students are shopping for gifts. Tree ornaments are popular items, especially the set of custom ornaments in 18K gold depicting five of Sweet Briar’s historic buildings.

Hospitality hosted multiple events, ranging from the Federal Career Expo organized by Barb Watts and members of area colleges, to the admissions visits by high school and independent counselors and by prospective students and their families. The Elston Inn also saw an increase in individuals visiting outside of group events.

Campus Safety successfully completed the second fire drill of the semester at all student residential living areas. Officers donated items to provide Thanksgiving dinner to a local family in need.

Finance/Business Office prepared for and participated in the annual S&P ratings surveillance meeting, worked on audit requests related to the Single Audit (federal funds), and created budget-to-date spreadsheets for each division to track the FY23 operating budget lines. In addition, we developed an award process for SCHEV ARPA (State Council of Higher Education for Virginia - American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) grant funds, and sent award notifications to 118 of our Virginia students with demonstrated need.

Information Technology tested Google group sync via Active Directory, applied June 2022 Oracle security and Banner Self-Services 9 to our Banner test environment, resolved an Axiom to Banner data transfer issue, worked on Argos reports for various offices, and created various accounts for new faculty and staff. To improve risk management, IT enhanced our cybersecurity posture by adding PishER services. They also created a virtual server to host the current SBC website once the new site is ready and are working with White Whale to integrate various systems with the new website.

Physical Plant, Projects & Agriculture found and repaired a major domestic water leak on campus. The search process also enabled other smaller repair opportunities. The boilers are once again online for winter.

To enhance access to parking, we added additional handicapped parking spaces at Meta Glass and created a new crosswalk between the upper and lower Meta Glass parking lot. We also added a new handicapped parking space at Wailes and moved the current one to a more accessible location.

At the greenhouse, we installed a channel washing building and are currently installing its electrical and plumbing systems.

The outing cabin repairs have been completed, finishing the boathouse and outing cabin project.

Alumnae Relations and Development and Communications

November may be the busiest time of the year for the Alumnae Relations and Development Office as we prepare and finalize plans for over 30 Sweet Briar Day events around the country taking place in December and January. These outreach and engagement events bring together alumnae, as well as current and prospective students and their parents.

We did a special outreach to over 900 older alumnae from the classes of 1960 and earlier, sending them a “Happy Thanksgiving” postcard. For several of our key solicitations, we have been reaching out to all alumnae, friends, and parents through the fall issue of Sweet Briar Magazine (which is just hitting mailboxes) and the Briar Wire newsletter.

As we cultivate gifts for the end of the calendar year, major gift officers continue to travel and initiate outreach to the alumnae and friends in their portfolios, and we will be sending a special email about required minimum distributions for IRAs.

The Giving Tuesday initiative (#SweetBriarGenerosity) was a tremendous success. Coordination with all class leaders, in-depth social media pushes, eblasts, and texting, resulted in 480 donors giving more than $168,000—more gifts than in other Giving Tuesday initiatives in FY17, FY19, and FY21. Many thanks to all of you who made gifts on that day!

Looking ahead to the March Days of Giving, we are working with alumnae class leaders to plan solicitation letters that will go out in February.

We received signed paperwork on a $500,000-$750,000 bequest for an endowed scholarship, as well as an additional $200,000 gift for a presidential scholarship. We also received a $100,000 grant for the preservation of Pannell from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation.

We continue to make requests for the campaign and recently held three campaign cultivation events.

In closing, let me thank you again for all your hard work and your many contributions to Sweet Briar. Best wishes for a joyous and peaceful holiday season and enjoy the break!

Meredith Woo