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It’s Heartbreaking That Sweet Briar College Will Close

The college "made me not only the leader, but the woman I am today," one alumna writes.
Sweet Briar College's campus in an early-20th-century postcard. Image via the Boston Public Library's Flickr.

Sweet Briar College announced Tuesday that the school will close its doors for good this August. The Sweet Briar community is devastated, heartbroken, and at a loss for words. Why weren’t the alumnae and student body notified about this potential closure? How did the institution let the financial problems get so bad that they are closing the college? Why didn’t they use all their resources? What’s going to happen to the students and faculty? What’s going to happen to us? All of these thoughts ran through my head when I found out yesterday afternoon.

It’s a complete shame that this is happening to our beloved Sweet Briar. Sweet Briar made me not only the leader, but the woman I am today.

I’m disappointed with the way this decision was made. Sweet Briar polled members of the alumnae network but many have told me they were never told the school might close. And the board of directors decided to close the school without first reaching out to alumnae to ask for financial support. We didn’t know the school was in trouble until we received an email Tuesday announcing their decision. Worse, during a conference call with parents and graduates yesterday, Sweet Briar administrators avoided hard-hitting questions about finances and why the school didn’t contact us until it was too late.

Everyone has their own how-I-ended-up-at-Sweet-Briar story, and here’s mine: Heading into my senior year of high school, my mother suggested I look into an all-women’s college. Of course, I shot down the idea. A few weeks later my mom had scheduled some college tours and we happened to be near Sweet Briar, so we stopped in for a visit. I fell in love; I felt at home the second I stepped on campus. The campus (all 3,250 acres of it) was absolutely stunning. I wanted to study business. The business department and professors I met with were great. The students were welcoming and I felt like I belonged. I have never felt more confident, driven, and ready to conquer anything in my entire life, and I owe it to Sweet Briar College. It is heartbreaking to learn that future women will not get the same opportunities and experiences that I have, that we all have.

Now there will be one less women’s college available to create powerful leaders and one less place for women to find their voices and earn the confidence they deserve.

If I had not enrolled seven years ago, my life would have been completely different. I am beyond blessed for the wonderful lifelong friends I have made, the many memories that I have, the outstanding education I received, and all the opportunities Sweet Briar has given me. Sweet Briar will forever be my home, and all of our homes. Thank you for everything.

Kristen Anderson is an account manager at Washingtonian. A group of alumnae have organized a campaign to raise money to keep the college open.

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