October 2022 Community Update

Posted on November 22, 2022 by Lathan Goumas

Dear Colleagues,

We’re heading toward the home stretch of the fall semester. The nights are longer and cooler, and while many of the trees on campus have lost their leaves, others remain ablaze with autumn colors.

The Sweet Briar Board of Directors held their fall meeting on campus on October 28 - 29. They spent much of the meeting discussing proposed measures to revise board governance, streamline committee structures, and make meetings more efficient. On Saturday, they were joined by former members of the Board for updates on our five-year strategic plan and the capital campaign, which will have its public launch this spring. The weekend’s highlight was the ribbon cutting for Thayer and Meyer Fields, followed by a community lunch.

The events surrounding the dedication of the new fields were flawlessly executed, thanks to the genius of the AR & D team. Above all, it was extremely gratifying to bring the turf field project to completion. Kudos to Luther Griffith, John Thomas, Rich Meyer, and their teams for their work on it.

I appreciate that so many of you were able to be there for the dedication and to support the Vixen teams that played that day. Together, we are truly building momentum at Sweet Briar, and there is a palpable excitement in the air about our plans and the projects we’ve accomplished so far.

Let me share with you additional College updates for October.



Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) admissions help us generate applicants and convert them to deposits. ED is for students who have decided that Sweet Briar is their first choice; they make a binding commitment and we also offer them special incentives to make their decision. Our first ED deadline was November 1.

EA is for students who desire to know early if they have been admitted, but they don’t have to make an early commitment. Our first EA deadline is November 15.

Our third “Coffee with Counselors” virtual event held was on Friday, November 4, and featured Professor Lisa Powell and two students talking about sustainability and environmental science at Sweet Briar.

On November 9-11, we will host counselors and independent educational consultants for a Counselor Open House, courtesy of the fly-in program.  More than 40 counselors from across the country will attend.

Saturday, November 12, is our third fall Open House. To date, 29 students and their families have registered.

Our engineering faculty and current engineering students, joined by program alumnae, hosted a virtual event for prospective students. The application deadline for the Wyllie Engineering Scholarships is mid-December. Our goal is to receive 15 applications; we plan on marketing a late winter deadline, as well.

Our second deadline for applications for the Performing Arts (Dance, Music, Theater) scholarships is November 30.


Academics, Student Life and Athletics

Academic advising for the spring semester took place from October 19 – 25, followed by registration, which began on the 26th.

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, author of the 2022/2023 Common Read book, My Monticello, visited campus for an afternoon Q & A with students, followed by an evening talk and book signing in Mills Chapel for the Sweet Briar community and the general public.

The VCCA Salon featured Christina Kirchinger, a printmaker from Regensburg, Germany, and Pedro Ponce, a novelist who teaches creative writing and literary studies at St. Lawrence University. Kathryn Schulz and Casey Cep, staff writers at The New Yorker, visited campus as part of CORE 120: The Mindful Writer and presented an evening talk.

Lisa Powell, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Agriculture and Director of the Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability, and two students, Nikki Adams and Lily Terwilliger, were featured in a story about the Sweet Briar Greenhouse on the PBS Virginia Public Media television show, Virginia Home Grown.  The video is also available as a pop-up on our website’s homepage.

Professor John Morrisey (biology) and Dean Teresa Garrett (chemistry) hosted 20 young women, aged 8-18, from Lynchburg’s Young Women’s Empowerment Academy for sessions on sensory perception and chemical separations with chromatography.

The Gager Concert Series presented violinist and vocalist Sami Abu Shumays, accompanied by Dr. Anne Rasmussen (`ud) and Sweet Briar music professor Dr. Anne Elise Thomas (qanun), performing traditional music from Egypt and Syria.

We held a screening of the documentary, Monumental Crossroads: A Fight for Southern Heritage, followed by a Q & A with director and filmmaker Tim van den Hoff.

Our fall theater production of the classic Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods, was a rousing success.

English and creative writing professor John Gregory Brown’s digital print on paper, “Sweet Briar: Sein und Zeit,” was selected for inclusion in Riverviews Artspace’s 14th Annual Juried Art Show (November 4 - December 9), in Lynchburg, and he is a selected artist for Riverviews’ Big Ink Woodblock Print Workshop. His manipulated digital images, “Yellow Leaf 6” and “Lake Dock 2,” were published in the October 2022 issue of Abstract Magazine.

Studio art professor Shawn O’Connor received two awards: the Best in Show 1 st  Runner Up at the Academy Center for the Arts Clay Festival, Lynchburg, and the Best in Functional Work at the 2022 Southern Miss Ceramics National.

As part of our Sweet Talk series, Math professor Bob Hingtgen presented the talk, “Infinitea-time: Decimals, Length & Size,” to the community.

Biology professor Megan Kobiela co-authored an article in The American Naturalist200(5), E207-E220; an abstract is available here. Education instructor Amelie Smucker published an article in Educational Planning 29(3), 7-22

The Multicultural Center and Career Services co-hosted a series of workshops to help our international students map out a four-year plan to prepare for living and working in the U.S. after graduation. As part of our Heritage Celebration Series, the Multicultural Center joined with GLOW, LatinX, Delight, AR & D, the Mary Cochran Library, and the theater program to sponsor and host nine events to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month.  International pronouns day and the Sex in Translation event, sponsored by the Debby Willis ’11 Fund, were also part of the month’s activities.

The SGA Fall Blood Drive was awarded Virginia Blood Drive of the Week by the American Red Cross.

During Families Weekend, over 275 guests joined us to visit their students. The weekend’s programming included a welcome reception, greenhouse tours, a legacy breakfast, a movie night, a cooking demonstration, a trivia night, a performing arts showcase, athletic games, and more. That same weekend, we held our fourth annual Campus Events Organization (CEO) Oktoberfest, featuring live music and fall crafts.

Annual fall traditions included trick or treating for the families of faculty and staff, which saw its best attendance in recent years; the Chung Mung Ghost Stories bonfire; the fifth annual Student Life Spooktacular, with hayrides, fall-themed crafts, and autumn treats. Other Halloween activities included a Halloween-themed murder mystery party in Reid Parlor hosted by CEO, and two off-campus events: the All “Hallo-Queens” Drag Brunch at the Academy Center of the Arts sponsored by GLOW, and a trip to the Creepy Hollow Scream Haunted Trail in Richmond sponsored by CEO.

Thayer Field had its official opening game, followed by the grand ribbon cutting for both it and Meyer Field. The celebration was one of community, gratitude, progress and appreciation for the value of athletics at the College. Bee Thayer and her family joined in the celebration; Margot and Bob Meyer couldn’t be here in person, but were present via the live stream. The new facilities bring our team field sports home to campus. The water-based turf of Thayer Field will give our hockey and lacrosse teams the best surface in the world to play on, the Bermuda grass of Meyer field will give our soccer team the same advantage, and the lights on both fields will allow all athletes to practice during normal practice times.

For its second and final year as a member of the Colonial States Athletic Conference, the field hockey team earned a spot in the semi-finals of the tournament.

Amani Narang was named the ODAC golfer of the week after winning The Knights Women Fall Invitational. Narang birdied on the par-5 475-yard 18th hole at the Lexington Country Club on October 10 to earn the tiebreaker over Bridgewater. Her victory marks her second collegiate win and her first collegiate 36-hole win.

Tennis ended its season with a powerhouse 26-1 performance at the Goucher Invitational on October 8. In doubles, Sofia Andrade/Ana Patino went 3-0 and Isabela Guilarte/Lucia Bovard went 2-0. In singles play, Ruth de Souza, Allison Wandling, Nikhita Simhambhatla, Kate Kotany, Maria Caro, and Alex Guilarte all went undefeated at 3-0.

Madison MacPherson has stepped into the role of interim cross country coach and led the team to break records at the JWU Wildcat XC Classic in Charlotte, NC, in a performance that earned Angel Wiggins recognition as the ODAC cross country runner of the week.

Swimming dominated in its first home meet of the season on October 29, defeating Guilford College 143-32 and Hollins 140-32.

In Riding, the NCEA team saw two wins this month over Dartmouth and Sacred Heart. Isabelle Mesiarik and Kacie Freeburg were named Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) equestrian riders of the month for October. Mesiarik was undefeated in fences competition, going 3-0; Freeburg was undefeated in flat, also going 3-0.

Finance, Operations and Auxiliaries

Hospitality had a busy month, as the Elson Inn hosted guests for the Families Weekend, the fall open house, the board meeting, and the ribbon cutting for the new athletic fields. The visitors also made many purchases at the Book Shop, boosting October sales to $46,000. The Book Shop has introduced more products showcasing our new Sweet Briar College Farm logo and the new Toile design logo products, graciously shared by the Class of 1972.

Campus Safety Officer Tyree completed a five-day mental health intervention course offered to first responders. All Campus Safety Officers II have completed the course and are using these skills to help our community. Additionally, three officers attended a DCJS class on responding to stalking.

Finance/Business Office completed the FY22 financial audit with no findings, weaknesses, or recommendations with an unmodified opinion – a “clean audit” for the third year, which is noteworthy achievement. Congratulations to the team! They developed an updated policy for the administration of purchasing cards on campus. They also worked on outreach and assistance to 53 students to successfully remove holds on their accounts. This enabled these students to register for the spring semester and brought outstanding student account receivables down by 35 percent. Jenni Sauer attended the EACUBO Annual Meeting to gain insights into the current landscape for college and university finances.

Human Resources organized a flu shot clinic and held a Benefits Fair to help employees get ready for the benefits open enrollment for 2023; the sign-up period is from October 31 - November 14. HR has been holding sessions in the Smith Computer Lab of the Cochran Library for employees who would like support with the sign-up process; the remaining sessions are from 11:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, and Monday, Nov. 14.

Information Technology provided new computers to faculty and staff, created accounts for new faculty, staff, and students, and developed an onboarding sheet for the Spring term. They worked on creating a virtual server to host the current Sweet Briar website and coordinated with website consultants White Whale on the interaction of various existing systems with the new website. IT installed new Meraki beta access points and cameras, set up new computer lab furniture in Guion, and updated Banner/Stellic file formats.

Physical plant met with Cincinnati Insurance, Human Resources, and Riding Center staff to review facility and risk issues. They partnered with Amherst County to support the Amherst County Fair held on the College’s “fairgrounds” property across 29 Business and provided support and staffing for a successful Families Weekend. They have completed the removal of old diesel and gas tanks at the physical plant facility and replaced them with new “right-sized” tanks based on our needs.

The Student Commons project, consisting of renovations and upgrades to Daisy’s Cafe, Reid Pit, and the Meta Glass Common Room, has been completed. The spaces are officially open for use and look beautiful! The log repair on the outing cabin and railing repair on the Boat House have been completed. We installed a new 20’ x 30’ building at the greenhouse to accommodate the hydroponic tube cleaning process and storage.

Projects/Agriculture supported the dedication of the new turf field complex, including the first use of our new restroom trailer. They worked with physical plant, grounds, and Sweet Work Weeks volunteers for a weekend of projects focused on exterior upgrades: Elijah Road parking spots tree and shrub pruning, Sweet Briar House boxwood maintenance, and the former Campus School clean-up initiative.

The switchgrass has all been cut and is currently being bailed. The timber harvest along the east side of State Route 663 has been completed (37 acres).

Alumnae Relations and Development and Communications

October had a full calendar of alumnae engagement activities. Twelve alumnae and friends joined us for the fall Sweet Work Weekend, the Friends of Art met in Richmond, North Carolina alumnae held an event in Charlotte with artist Jill Steenhuis ’80, and North Texas alumnae enjoyed a book review and lunch. The Alumnae Alliance Council hosted an update for all alumnae with a presentation by Mary Pope Hutson on preservation activities at Sweet Briar. The largest event of the month, the pièce de résistance, was the dedication of the Thayer and Meyer fields, featuring a field hockey game, the ribbon cutting ceremony, and the community picnic. The field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse teams, and over 100 guests gathered on site, with more people joining on the livestream to watch the festivities.

Emily Dodson Sadler ’18 led Philanthropy Week for the third year, working with students to coordinate a series of events over five days that highlighted the importance of giving and the impact of philanthropy on our campus and the regional community.  Approximately 125 students participated in activities, including collecting school supplies for Amherst County Schools, writing letters of encouragement to breast cancer patients at a Pink Tea Party, spreading awareness about organ donation through the Meredith Haga Foundation, volunteering at the Amherst Humane Society, coordinating a GLOW Color Run and Walk, and working in the Community Garden.

Fall fundraising was boosted by a $5 million gift for the renovation of Guion, as well as the announcement that giving by the Board has reached 100 percent participation. To date, we have raised $1.2 million in gifts and pledges toward the $5.25 million goal for the Sweet Briar Fund. A number of strategies are underway for November and December to reach $2.5 million by the end of the calendar year; these include: reunion giving earlier in the year, gifts from IRAs that satisfy required minimum distributions, #GivingTuesday promoting #SweetBriarGenerosity, the constant drumbeat from class leaders for alumnae giving, and the call for all to lead by example.

AR & D’s ongoing work over the last two years with the finance team to review the College’s endowed funds for additional flexibility finally came to completion, with the Attorney General’s Office and Judge James Updike approving the requested changes.

Fall campaign travel included trips to Charlotte, Nashville, Washington DC, and Philadelphia to see lead donors and host small luncheons with them. We included vineyard donors in special Zoom update with our vineyard manager, Carl Tinder, on the state of the vineyards and the recent harvest of 49 tons of grapes. The campaign case for support is completed and was presented to the Board and former Board members. We continue to work on additional campaign print materials, creating donor recognition materials for upcoming dedication events, and preparing for the public launch of the campaign this spring. Our work with the architectural consultants and the arts division faculty and staff on the proposed renovations to Babcock culminated in a major ask for the project.

Development communications, led by Clélie Steckel, is working on the production of the fall alumnae magazine, the December issue of the Briar Wire, class leader letters, the #GivingTuesday social media communications rollout, a special piece for older alumnae, and the production of notecards featuring some of the Cram drawings for our Williams Associates. Development communications are also supporting the website redesign process and assisting with admissions publications.

In closing, thanks again for all you do for the College. Stay healthy, enjoy the fall, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Meredith Woo