Princeton Rankings Natural Reflection of Learning Landscape

| September 6, 2011

Sweet Briar’s annual appearance among the country’s most beautiful campuses according to the Princeton Review is, of course, a source of pride for the College. Sweet Briar is ranked No. 6 in the category in the 2012 edition, “376 Best Colleges.”

The pride lies, however, in the understanding that its beauty is more than skin deep. Surrounding the classic Georgian architecture, modern facilities and well-tended quads is a big, diverse landscape that provides students and faculty endless opportunities to literally take learning outside the classroom. Examples of how the land and buildings are used abound.

Last fall, “nests” sculpted by Tracy Hamilton’s art history students appeared all over campus, inspired both by Sweet Briar’s built and natural features and by their “study of how cultures throughout history have responded to the land.”

A nearly invisible “deer exclosure” in the woods at the bottom of Monument Hill was erected to study the effects of over-foraging on native plants. The beehive-looking dome on the ridge behind the art barns is a water tank prototype constructed by engineering students preparing to install a clean water system at a remote Guatemalan school.

From restoring natural wetlands to surveying a cemetery with unmarked graves to exploring a vast legacy of writings, furniture, artifacts and buildings left by the school’s founding family, learning on the land at Sweet Briar cuts across disciplines.

Running deeper still are the people who bring the landscape to life. Because of them, students consistently rank Sweet Briar in the top 20 in the Princeton Review categories that reflect the College’s core mission.

In this year’s edition, Sweet Briar is ranked No. 7 for “Most Accessible Professors,” No. 8 for “Best Classroom Experience,” No. 11 for “Class Discussions Encouraged” and No. 14 for “Professors Get High Marks.” The College made one more top-20 list in the 2012 guidebook, coming in at No. 13 for “Dorms Like Palaces.”

The rankings are based on students’ responses to the Princeton Review’s survey asking about academics, administration, campus life, student body and themselves. The new rankings and profiles of the 376 schools are posted on the Princeton Review website. To see the rankings, visit

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