Sweet Briar’s Mission
Sweet Briar College prepares women (and at the graduate level, men as well) to be productive, responsible members of a world community. It focuses on personal and professional achievement through a customized educational program that combines the liberal arts, preparation for careers, and individual development. The faculty and staff guide students to become active learners, to reason clearly, to speak and write persuasively, and to lead with integrity. They do so by creating an educational environment that is both intense and supportive and where learning occurs in many different venues, including the classroom, the community, and the world.
Approved by the Board of Directors, May 2004
Statement of Purpose in Support of the Mission
Sweet Briar’s curriculum is organized on the premise that a foundation in the liberal arts enhances the development of critical and creative abilities, develops the ability to synthesize disparate information, equips the student for graduate and professional education, and encourages the individual to continue to learn long after leaving Sweet Briar.
A broadly based academic program teaches her to view her experience within wide contexts, to appreciate the achievements of the past, to understand the methods and major theories of science, to gain an appreciation of the arts, and to communicate with precision and cogency. At Sweet Briar this study takes place within a residential environment that encourages physical well-being, ethical awareness, sensitivity to others, responsibility for one’s actions, personal initiative, and the assumption of leadership.
A highly qualified faculty, committed to the highest standards of teaching, engages individuals on a human scale. In small classes, students receive the attention that encourages self-confidence and the improvement of skills for life and livelihood.
Sweet Briar continues its commitment as an independent undergraduate women’s college in order to devote its resources to the education of women in the full range of the liberal arts, including those subjects that have been traditionally considered as male domains. It welcomes men as well as women in selected graduate programs. The College continues to seek a diverse student body, which is drawn from a national and international pool of applicants.
Sweet Briar College grants the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Education. The College offers more than 35 programs of study as well as self-designed and interdisciplinary majors. Students create and learn with an exceptional faculty, almost all of whom hold the doctorate or the appropriate terminal degree. An 8:1 student/faculty ratio insures that classes are small and each student’s educational program is customized. Each academic year consists of two semesters. Students are guided in the pursuit of special interests, not only in academic coursework, but also through internships, research opportunities, summer fellowships, service experiences, and independent study. The College strongly encourages study abroad, at one of Sweet Briar’s distinguished programs or through another approved international program.
Sweet Briar is a residential community. Sweet Briar women have enough ideas and enthusiasm to support nearly 50 student-led and student-managed organizations—everything from art and musical groups to student publications and cultural awareness organizations. A strong leadership program helps students develop leadership skills. Many students take part in volunteer service projects during school terms and vacations, putting these skills to work.
Nearly 30 percent of Sweet Briar students play sports at the varsity level. The College is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and competes in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). The College’s Riding Program is recognized as one of the best collegiate programs in the nation.
Sweet Briar College offers cultural events including plays, concerts, theater, dance, and other presentations throughout the year, by students, faculty, and visiting artists, performers, and lecturers. These as well as sports events are open to the general public and, with rare exceptions, free of charge. The College’s art galleries and museum serve both as resources for the surrounding community and as laboratories for students in arts management and related fields. For information on current events go to our Web site www.calendar.sbc.edu.
Sweet Briar’s intellectually and socially vibrant campus is a true community, home not only to students but also to approximately half of our faculty as well as many staff members. It is a living laboratory, which provides hands-on opportunities for exploration and discovery in nearly every discipline from the classics and anthropology to the sciences and engineering. History and archaeology students have a particularly rich setting in which to do research inasmuch as the campus was a working plantation in the 18th and 19th centuries. The main campus buildings are nestled at the center of 3,250 acres of rolling hills and meadows in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The broad landscape includes two lakes, six nature sanctuaries, and an extensive network of walking, horseback riding, and hiking trails.
The campus, designed in the early part of the 20th century, is dominated by the architecture of Ralph Adams Cram, whose work is also seen at MIT, Princeton, Wellesley, Rice, and West Point. Twenty-one of Sweet Briar’s 30 campus buildings have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Within these historic buildings are housed impressive academic facilities. Our science laboratories contain some of the best instrumentation in the nation for liberal arts colleges.
The Mary Helen Cochran Library is the cornerstone of the College’s library services. The Junius P. Fishburn Music library, located in the Mary Reynolds Babcock Fine Arts building houses music materials. The Martin C. Shallenberger library in the Anne Gary Pannell building holds the Fanny B. Fletcher College Archives, the Fergus Reid Rare Book collections and the College’s book arts collection. Older journals, microform resources, and government resources are housed in the Wick Closed Stack facility. Together with Cochran, these resources provide students with one of the finest private college libraries in Virginia. The collections include over 250,000 volumes, 400,000 microforms; subscriptions to more than 1,000 current periodical titles; and 8,000 audio-visual materials. The library system also provides the College community with access to an enormous range of electronic databases and full text resources through the library Web page <www.library.sbc.edu>.
The 700-seat Murchison Lane Auditorium, located in the Babcock Fine Arts Center, is host to cultural and intellectual events from student dance and theatre productions to world-renowned speakers and the Babcock Season, which brings visiting performing artists, theatre troops, and music ensembles to campus.
Rotating art exhibitions are research-, studio-, and community-based and are presented in one of three galleries: Babcock, Benedict, and Pannell; the latter houses the Sweet Briar Collection and larger touring exhibitions.
Located in the Boxwood Alumnae House, the Sweet Briar Museum contains an excellent teaching collection of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th- century American decorative arts, including artifacts of the College’s founders and memorabilia from throughout the College’s history.
The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), the only artists’ retreat in the nation with direct ties to a college or university, is located adjacent to the Sweet Briar campus. Writers, visual artists, and composers working at the VCCA come to the College to teach in its interdisciplinary Bachelor of Fine Arts program, and to take part in campus life.
The Florence Elston Inn and Conference Center complex, located on campus, provides a 10,000 square foot state-of-the-art conference facility and an inn featuring 38 comfortable rooms.
The College is centrally located within the state of Virginia, 50 miles south of Charlottesville and 165 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., on U.S. 29.
A Brief History of Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar College was founded in 1901, the legacy of Indiana Fletcher Williams, who left her entire estate to found an institution in memory of her only daughter, Daisy, 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. The first Board of Directors determined that the College should be free from denominational control and that it should maintain the highest academic standards. Sweet Briar would unite classical and modern ideals of education and, in the words of its founder, prepare young women “to be useful members of society.”
Sweet Briar College opened formally 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 approvedby the Association of American Universities.Its chapter of Phi Beta Kappa authorized in 1950, the Theta of Virginia, is one of fewer than 250 chapters nationwide. In 1952, Sweet Briar became a charter member of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).
An early leader in international study, Sweet Briar established an exchange program with the
University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1932. In 1948 it began its renowned Junior Year in France Program, to be followed in 1984 by a Junior Year in Spain Program in Seville.
In 1978, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts opened to Fellows. The center is affiliated with Sweet Briar and located at Mount San Angelo, a nearby estate belonging to the College. Today, the VCCA is one of the foremost working retreats for artists in the world, and the only one with direct ties to a college or university.
In 1995, 21 of the College’s buildings were listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic District.
Sweet Briar College celebrated its centennial in 2001, and moved vigorously into its second century both in terms of its physical facilities and educational programs. In 2002, the College completed a new quad around a Student Commons, a village green that links residence halls with student services, dining facilities, a bookshop and cafe, post office, and student organizations. In 2006, a new studio arts facility was opened. These new facilities exemplify Sweet Briar’s commitment to an educational environment that is integrated, intentional, and rooted.
Sweet Briar’s leadership in student engagement is reflected in a new mission statement, adopted in 2004, refocusing the College on its first principles, but recognizing that in the 21st century, students who will become “useful members of society” must, as liberally educated women, be well equipped to move into professional life. The College inaugurated its first graduate programs, a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Education, in 2004, and also that year, became only the second women’s college in the nation to offer a program in engineering.
Sweet Briar College 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, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Education. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Sweet Briar College.
It is a member of the College Entrance Examination Board and a contributing member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.