Presidential Prospectus

Aerial photo of campus Aerial photo of campus


Sweet Briar College challenges and inspires women, forging ethical leaders with the skill, compassion and vision to create a more just and sustainable world.



Sweet Briar’s academic programs, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, seek to cultivate an inclusive and vibrant community of learning among students, faculty, and staff that prizes ethical and innovative thinking. Our curriculum fosters personal and professional development through a liberal arts education. The faculty and staff guide students to understand how justice and sustainability are connected; promote inclusivity, diversity, equity and access; solve real-world problems across an array of disciplines confidently and creatively; and develop critical analytic and communication skills. Students pursue these goals in the classroom, across the campus community and around the world.


Students walking to class in Benedict Hall. Students walking to class in Benedict Hall.


Sweet Briar College was established in 1901 as a college for women and remains dedicated to providing an exceptional education for future generations of women. Since the first 51 students arrived in 1906, Sweet Briar has been empowering women to become strong leaders, professionals and citizens.

Today, faculty and staff focus on guiding students to become active learners in a customized educational program that emphasizes the liberal arts and sciences and prepares them for dynamic and creative lives of consequence. Sweet Briar’s academic programs seek to cultivate an inclusive and vibrant community of learning among students, faculty and staff that prizes ethical and innovative thinking.

Our curriculum focuses first on the core curriculum for women’s leadership through ten courses uniquely curated to build the whole person and also fosters personal and professional development through a broad liberal arts education. The faculty and staff guide students to solve real-world problems across an array of disciplines confidently and creatively; develop critical analytic and communication skills; understand how justice and sustainability are connected; and promote inclusivity, diversity, equity and access.

In 2017, the College launched a bold academic program that integrates the liberal arts with a women’s leadership core curriculum to prepare graduates as problem solvers for today’s world. The College also overhauled its cost structure and reset the tuition-pricing model to make the true cost transparent and predictable.

Sweet Briar College, recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Most Innovative Schools” in the nation three out of the last four years, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in Teaching.

  • Ranked in the U.S. News & World Report list of best colleges for:
    • #29 Most Innovative Liberal Arts Colleges
    • #151 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
    • #35 Top Performers on Social Mobility
  • Included in the Forbes list of Private Colleges and Liberal Arts Universities
  • Included in the Washington Monthly list of Liberal Arts Colleges


Sweet Briar has created a holistic student experience centered on its mission to create women leaders. By focusing on a solidly liberal arts experience, the women who graduate from Sweet Briar are prepared to lead impactful lives in whatever field they choose.

Our general education program, the Leadership Core, serves as the foundation. Ten courses teach students to think critically and creatively, write effectively and persuasively, work in teams and understand areas and fields where we know they will be asked to lead. Courses such as Decisions in a Data Driven World, Design Thinking, Women and Gender in the World, and Sustainable Systems prepare students to think across disciplines focusing on some of the most pressing problems facing our society. Contemporary Ethical Questions and The Consequential Citizen ask students to apply what they have learned to take action and be leaders. Faculty incorporate concepts from the Leadership Core throughout their teaching and integrate classroom teaching with the leadership opportunities students have through participation in athletics, clubs and organizations and residence life.

The College offers 17 majors, 21 minors, and four certificate programs as well as teacher licensure programs at the elementary and secondary levels. Eighty-eight percent of the full-time faculty hold terminal degrees. Across the disciplines of the arts, humanities and the sciences, Sweet Briar’s faculty distinguish themselves as notable researchers, published authors and engaging teachers whose classroom interactions with students prioritize engagement through discussion and hands-on learning opportunities.

Sweet Briar is one of only two women’s colleges to offer an ABET-accredited engineering sciences degree. The Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program has sent students off to successful careers at JPL, NAVAIR, Amtrak and NASA.

Students participate in over 35 clubs and organizations that provide opportunities for leadership roles and to put into practice what they’re learning in the classroom as part of the College’s leadership core curriculum. Multiple offices and programs provide entertainment, cultural and social events throughout the year to enhance the on-campus learning experience.

Sweet Briar is NCAA Division III and a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) with eight varsity sports teams: cross-country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, track and field, swimming and tennis. The College has a long legacy as a world class equestrian program. The program focuses on the hunter/jumper discipline and is open for recreational and competitive riders at any level. In 2017, it was the first Division III school to join the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA), where they competed against Division I, II & III schools. The Sweet Briar NCEA team won the 2021 NCEA Single Discipline National Championships. It also maintains an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) team, which is a champion for its regional zone for the fifth year and was the third-place team in the Nation in 2022.

Class of 2025

  • Average high school GPA, Presidential Scholars = 4.15
  • Average high school GPA = 3.65
  • Average reported SAT combined, Presidential Scholars= 1264
  • Average reported SAT combined=1129


Sweet Briar College is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, within easy driving distance of national forests, historic sites, Washington, D.C., Richmond and Charlottesville. The College is right outside of Amherst, a small town of 2,300 people and is only 13 miles away from Lynchburg, which has a population of nearly 80,000 people, making it a location that has the charm of a small town with the advantages of a small city. Lynchburg itself is a growing college town: it is home to Randolph College, University of Lynchburg, Liberty University, Central Virginia Community College and the Virginia University of Lynchburg. It boasts a thriving downtown, museums, shopping, restaurants and a vibrant visual and performing arts scene. The surrounding airports in Charlottesville, Roanoke and Richmond are easily accessible.

The Sweet Briar 2,840-acre campus is a spectacular expanse of forests and fields, with twenty-miles of trails and over twenty-one buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the most significant legacies of the great American architect Ralph Adams Cram.

Recognizing the opportunity presented by its abundant land, the College is partnering with government agencies, both state and national, and outside experts to design agricultural enterprises that will be regenerative and scientific, as they are financially and ecologically sustainable.

  • A large apiary has been installed adjacent to a new wildflower meadow.
  • In 2019, the College planted over eighteen acres of vineyards in order to cultivate wine grapes for Virginia’s fast-growing wine economy.
  • A 26,000 square-foot greenhouse provides produce both for use in our farm-to-table dining on campus and to sell to other nearby institutions and restaurants. We currently have a student-run CSA (community supported agriculture) program, a weekly farmer’s market and also donate to local community food banks.

The farm and its surroundings of more than 1,500 acres of hardwood forests, pine plantations, lakes and streams provide a distinctive landscape for learning.

Bee Tending at Sweet Briar Bee Tending at Sweet Briar



Founded in 1901, Sweet Briar College is the legacy of Indiana Fletcher Williams, who left her entire estate to found a women’s college in memory of her only daughter, Daisy Williams, who died at the age of 16 in 1884. At the time of Mrs. Williams’ death in 1900, her estate consisted of more than a million dollars and over 8,000 acres of land, including the Sweet Briar Plantation. Indiana’s father, Elijah Fletcher, purchased the property, originally called Locust Ridge, in 1830 and later renamed it for her mother’s favorite flower, a small pink rose ( Rosa eglanteria ) that bloomed there in abundance. An early image of the Sweet Briar College campus circa 1900. An early image of the Sweet Briar College campus circa 1900.

Sweet Briar opened in September 1906 with 51 students, including 15 day students. Its A.B. degree, granted for the first time in 1910, was immediately recognized by graduate programs at leading universities. Three of Sweet Briar’s first five graduates went on to pursue advanced degrees.

By 1921, Sweet Briar held membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the American Association of University Women and the American Council on Education, and was approved by the Association of American Universities. Its chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the Theta of Virginia, was authorized in 1950 and remains one of fewer than 300 chapters nationwide. In 1952, Sweet Briar became a charter member of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).

Sweet Briar College celebrated its centennial in 2001 and moved vigorously into its second century, in both facilities and educational programs. In 2002, the College completed the Student Commons Courtyard, which links residence halls with student services, dining facilities, a bookshop and cafe and student organizations. In 2006, a new studio arts facility was opened, followed in 2009 by a 53,000-square-foot fitness and athletics facility and the Green Village apartment-style housing for up to 60 students. In November 2014, the College dedicated a state-of-the-art 16,000-square-foot addition to the Mary Helen Cochran Library, along with a rehabilitation to the historic 1929 building. These new facilities exemplify Sweet Briar’s commitment to an educational environment that is integrated, intentional and rooted.

The Sweet Briar community honors the College history through campus traditions, such as the Daisy Ceremony to welcome first-year students to campus and Founders’ Day activities to honor both the founders of the College and the former enslaved plantation workers who contributed to the development of Sweet Briar Plantation. Other more recent traditions provide for community building and celebration, like singing the “Holla, Holla!” song when a person or group on campus has done something noteworthy.

Alumnae Save Their Alma Mater

In 2015, when its board of trustees attempted to close Sweet Briar, our alumnae took charge. They fought back in the courts and on social media. In keeping with Sweet Briar’s tradition of educating women to get things done, they delivered.

Today, the Alumnae Relations and Development Office advances Sweet Briar College’s mission and its institutional priorities through striving for increased engagement with alumnae, leading to strong philanthropic support.


Sweet Briar College supports its operations with normal annual distributions from its $69.2 million endowment (March 31, 2023 valuation). With more than 200 endowed scholarships supplemented by other restricted giving, 40% of the College’s financial aid budget is funded. Through cooperation with the attorney general and courts, the College achieved significant financial flexibility with the endowment for the future, if needed.

Sweet Briar has an endowment of $69.2 million as of March 31, 2023.


The annual audits of the College’s financials continue to be “clean” with no weaknesses or findings. Primary revenue sources are tuition, auxiliaries and contributions. For fiscal year 2021-2022, total giving was over $25 million, with over $7 million for the unrestricted annual fund. Through April 2023, contributions are over $15 million, with $5 million for unrestricted annual giving, $1 million for restricted giving and the remainder for campaign giving. There is an intentional reduction of reliance on unrestricted annual giving as the net student revenue (tuition, room and board) grows.

Since the attempted closure in 2015, Sweet Briar’s enrollment has grown to 451 (fall 2022 census). The College has a goal of 650 enrolled students, achievable with no new buildings. Sweet Briar is competitive with selective public universities for Virginia residents with tuition at $23,730. The College is fully residential with over 95% of students residing in residence halls and campus apartments.

In December 2022, S&P Global Ratings reaffirmed the College’s long term rating of BB and raised the outlook from Stable to Positive—less than 4% of S&P ratings are positive. S&P based their action on growth in enrollment and a generally healthy balance sheet with low debt and more than adequate liquidity.

During 2021, the College received a glowing accreditation report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) with no significant findings or recommendations. This represents the truly hard work over the previous five years to bring financial stability to the College.

Commencement 2023. Commencement 2023.


Sweet Briar’s 14th President will assume leadership at a critical juncture for the 122-year-old institution. Eight years after an attempted closure and the subsequent success of the alumnae-led Saving Sweet Briar movement, the College has reinvented itself, resetting its academic, financial and administrative practices. Sweet Briar now seeks visionary leadership to champion what is exceptional about Sweet Briar as an innovative residential liberal arts college for women.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the President will serve as the chief executive officer of the College, responsible for all aspects of its administration. The President is an ex officio member of the board and acts as liaison between the College community and the Board of Directors. Leading the strategic direction and planning for the future of the College, the President oversees its operation to ensure its viability and success and is responsible for the development and implementation of key institutional policies, procedures and initiatives.

The President reports to the Board of Directors and provides overall leadership and direction for the College, overseeing and collaborating with an excellent faculty, a talented senior leadership team and a highly engaged student, alumnae and parent community.

The president’s cabinet consists of the following officers:

  • Senior Vice President for Alumnae Relations, Development and Admissions
  • Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
  • Vice President for Finance, Operations and Auxiliary Enterprises
  • Dean of Student Life
  • Human Resources Director
  • Athletic Director
  • Director of Digital Marketing and Communications
  • Grants Officer


Our Sustainable Future: A Five-Year Strategic Plan for Sweet Briar’s College Future , which was launched in 2022 and is targeted for completion in 2027, identifies five key areas for growth: women’s leadership, sustainability, the equestrian program, engineering and the campus. For more details, please see:

The President will have the opportunity to build on the plan’s momentum and provide strategic direction on its continued implementation. In addition to the day-to-day responsibilities of managing the College, the President will have the opportunity to focus on the following:

Foster community and distinctiveness

  • Preserve Sweet Briar’s commitment to educating women;
  • Uphold the tradition of academic excellence;
  • Nurture the continued development of the innovative curriculum;
  • Recruit, develop and retain talented faculty and staff;
  • Reaffirm the commitment to distinctive extracurricular offerings;
  • Leverage the exceptional beauty of the campus and the area;
  • Enhance the student experience and improve retention and graduation rates;
  • Promote a sense of belonging within the Sweet Briar campus community;
  • Play a visible role in the daily lives of students, faculty, and staff;
  • Build meaningful relationships with students, faculty, staff and alumnae;
  • Understand the College’s history and the commitment of its alumnae to its future; and
  • Demonstrate a commitment to protecting and promoting freedom of speech and freedom of expression by all on campus.

Raise visibility and resources

  • Articulate Sweet Briar’s comparative advantages, promote the College to a wider national and international audience and enhance its recognition among top liberal arts colleges;
  • Shape enrollment and retention strategies during a time of demographic shifts;
  • Strengthen relationships with alumnae, foundations, corporations and other grant-making entities to support the College’s mission;
  • Secure Sweet Briar’s long-term financial sustainability through ambitious fundraising efforts, including those aimed at growing the endowment, such as the $130 million Where Women Lead campaign;
  • Through fundraising, improve facilities and tackle deferred maintenance issues;
  • Look for new ways to enhance operational efficiencies and revenue streams; and
  • Nourish mutually beneficial relationships, especially in the town of Amherst, the County of Amherst and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Provide visionary and strategic leadership

  • Demonstrate a commitment to the principles of a liberal arts education;
  • Manage a complex organization with wide-ranging stakeholder opinions and provide team leadership to make and execute effective decisions;
  • Cultivate a positive working and learning environment for all;
  • Communicate with authenticity, passion, thoughtfulness and clarity;
  • Serve as a motivational role model and mentor to the community;
  • Maintain the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior; and
  • Foster a culture of trust, transparency and collaboration.


Because the President must embody the values of Sweet Briar College and a commitment to its academic excellence, candidates are expected to demonstrate strong academic credentials, including either a terminal degree and faculty experience or other evidence of a deep understanding and appreciation for the professional work of higher education. Highly qualified candidates for the Sweet Briar presidency would also demonstrate most of the following:

  • Persuasiveness in articulating the value of a women’s liberal arts college;
  • A nuanced understanding of admissions, enrollment and retention issues;
  • Superb communication skills, including public speaking, writing and active listening;
  • Managerial acumen, including financial, campus planning, entrepreneurial, budgeting skills and Cabinet leadership;
  • Consultative, innovative and confident style of decision making;
  • High emotional intelligence, including empathy and the ability to connect with all constituents;
  • Fundraising track record or personality traits suggesting high potential for success in this area;
  • A commitment to servant leadership and fostering unity;
  • Strong moral compass and impeccable integrity built on authenticity and transparency;
  • Experience as a strategic leader of complex organizations; and
  • An appreciation of Sweet Briar’s history and an understanding of regional sensibilities.



Nominations, inquiries, and expressions of interest should be sent to

Sweet Briar College is committed to enhancing our community and encourages applications from qualified individuals with varied backgrounds, experiences and ideas who would increase the diversity of the College.