Sometimes organizations that get to the brink of failure rise and recreate themselves to greater levels than they had been at before. This is Sweet Briar College’s story. In March, 2015, the President and Board of Trustees voted to disband the college, founded in 1901, primarily due to financial considerations. In the subsequent four months, the college’s alumnae came together in a display of strength and defiance, raising more than thirty million dollars to keep the college open.
During that time, many students and faculty made other plans and moved to other colleges. But the 250 young women who did return are among the most poised, confident and supportive college students I have seen. Under new leadership and a new Board of Trustees, Sweet Briar intends to return to its capacity of 800 students within just a few years.
The 2015 upheaval also brought a tremendous opportunity for new students to play an important role in Sweet Briar’s rebirth. For the next few years, Sweet Briar’s young women have the unique opportunity to re-define this institution with over a hundred years of history. This excitement is palpable among students, faculty and administrators alike.
Academically, Sweet Briar is one of just two women’s colleges with an accredited engineering program, and other STEM disciplines are strong here. Sweet Briar also offers traditional liberal arts majors as well as an array of interesting minors (such as Medieval/Renaissance Studies, Musical Theatre, New Media/Communications and more), as well as an internationally known equestrian program.
Sweet Briar’s campus encompasses 3,250-acre campus in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is definitely rural and definitely not the right experience for every young college-bound woman. But for those who would embrace the challenge and excitement of becoming part of this close-knit family, Sweet Briar offers independent women an excellent college experience.
Evelyn visited Sweet Briar in November, 2015. You can see all of her photos here.