Empowering the next generation of women to shatter gender stereotypes is happening on campuses across the country. At Sweet Briar College, a private women’s college in Sweet Briar, Virginia, the learning experience reflects just that.
“We offer a unique education for women who want to be leaders and are leaning into the fact that we teach leadership for women. It’s baked into our four-year curriculum,” said Meredith Woo, president of Sweet Briar College. “Not only do we provide a broad, multifaceted education, our curriculum, more importantly, teaches our students how the various disciplines interact. Why? Because life is interdisciplinary. No matter one’s path in life, you will need scientific, civic and business literacy to be successful at both work and home.”
On a daily basis, Sweet Briar students learn how gender and culture impact leadership, as well as what differentiates women leaders. Woo said the four-year curriculum includes 10 required core classes, taken in sequential order, that focus on skills essential for today’s leaders. Among them: Sustainable Systems, Creative Thinking and Practice, STEM and Society, Contemporary Ethical Questions, and the Consequential Citizen.
Instead of the typical 15-week semester, Sweet Briar offers 12-week classes with alternating three-week sessions — each providing intense, experiential hands-on learning. Students can enroll in apprenticeships, study-abroad programs, collaborations with area environmental art specialists and much, much more. With an average class size of eight students, it’s easy to get involved, ask questions and connect with faculty one-on-one, Woo said.
The stunningly gorgeous campus, located on 3,000 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is made up of farmlands, vineyards, forests, wetlands and a 20-acre wildflower meadow. The college’s relationships with state and federal partners create additional opportunities to help students become leaders in the future of agriculture and sustainability.
Undergrads can choose from 26 majors and minors; certificate programs that include Arts Management, Equine Studies and Leadership in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems; 10 teacher licensures; pre-professional programs in law, medicine, veterinary and foreign languages; as well as a graduate program in teaching. The college also offers three centers of excellence that highlight hands-on, collaborative and interdisciplinary learning: Human Environment Sustainability; Creativity, Design and the Arts; and Engineering, Science and Technology.
And speaking of sustainability, Woo said in 2017 the college further invested in its agricultural heritage by investing in two vineyards, a 20-hive apiary and a 26,000-square-foot greenhouse. In 2021, students sold their first crop of grapes to regional wineries. The apiary is managed through a partnership between Sweet Briar and the Charlottesville-based Elysium Honey Company. The student-led beekeepers club organizes events and helps maintain the hives.
“It’s a way for us to play an instrumental part in the world’s newfound culture of sustainability, something Sweet Briar has been involved with for more than a century. It’s how we capitalize on Sweet Briar’s best asset — our land,” Woo said.
For sports enthusiasts, the college offers a nationally ranked and recognized equestrian program and facilities, as well as competitive field hockey, soccer and golf teams.
Sweet Briar provides prospective students and a guest a one-time free visit to the college that includes transportation costs, lodging and on-campus dining.
For more information, visit sbc.edu.