The Sweet Briar College Board of Directors has extended President Jo Ellen Parker’s contract through June 30, 2019.
“The Board is delighted President Parker will continue to serve the Sweet Briar community and further advance the College’s programs and experiences for women,” said Paul Rice, chairman of the Board.
“Throughout her first term, Jo Ellen demonstrated insightful and highly effective leadership across a wide variety of initiatives for Sweet Briar. Her open and collaborative style, deep understanding of liberal arts education and commitment to forward-looking, innovative methods and practices will serve the College and its communities well. It is an important time for American colleges to have talented and bold leadership.”
Parker became Sweet Briar’s 10th president in July 2009. Under her leadership, the College developed “A Plan for Sustainable Excellence” and has made significant progress in key strategic initiatives since its adoption in 2011.
Approximately $4.5 million has already been raised in support of the strategic plan, according to Heidi Hansen McCrory, vice president for development. The funding has supported additional scholarships for students, the renovation of 15 classrooms, and the creation of the Fund for Educational Excellence and Innovation to enhance instruction and curriculum.
In addition, a multi-million dollar renovation of the Mary Helen Cochran Library is currently under way, with the first phase expected to be completed this fall. Among the highlights of the renovation are an additional high-tech classroom and an improved special collections display.
During Parker’s tenure, the campus also has seen growth in the diversity of its student body. For example, when she arrived in 2009, 11 percent of the first-year class identified themselves as members of underrepresented races or ethnicities. In 2012, the number was 29 percent. Numbers of first-generation college attenders and students eligible for Pell Grant support have grown similarly.
“I am delighted at the prospect of continuing to serve Sweet Briar for another term,” Parker said. “In the past four years, the faculty, staff, alumnae and Board have together established exciting momentum. Sweet Briar is taking great strides toward defining women’s education for today’s students; it’s wonderful to be part of that journey.”
Looking forward, Parker plans to further advance Sweet Briar’s strategic initiatives through campus-wide curriculum development. Exploring collaborative relationships with neighboring institutions is another priority. For example, a recently announced grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is supporting discussions with Hollins University.
“Sweet Briar offers outstanding opportunities for young women from all walks of life,” Parker said. “Our strategic plan emphasizes the currency and sophistication of education in the liberal arts. In coming years, the campus will become an even more dynamic and rewarding place to study and prepare for life after college.”
Prior to coming to Sweet Briar, Parker served as executive director of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education and as president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, organizations dedicated to encouraging collaborations between academic institutions.
She also has served as a faculty member and administrator at her alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, and taught in the English department of Swarthmore College.
Parker earned her A.B. in English from Bryn Mawr, her M.A. in English from the University of Kansas and her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania, writing her dissertation on George Eliot.
She is also certified as a brown belt and instructor in the Nia Technique and teaches classes on campus as part of Sweet Briar’s commitment to wellness and fitness.