President Meredith Woo has spearheaded Sweet Briar College’s triumphant revival over the past several years, and now she is making way for the institution’s next leader.
Woo, Sweet Briar’s 13th president, announced this week that she will resign at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year after leading the rural Virginia women’s college for seven years. Woo, a former University of Virginia dean, took over in 2017 shortly after alumnae, students, faculty and others successfully fought attempts by the board of trustees to shut the college down.
“Sweet Briar is an important institution with a distinctive mission,” Woo said in a statement. “Deeply loved and supported by one of the strongest alumnae networks in the nation, it now has an unstoppable momentum.”
During the remainder of her tenure, she says she will focus on raising resources to advance the five-year strategic plan Sweet Briar implemented this year. The initiative prioritizes women’s leadership, sustainability, engineering and equestrian programs. She also hopes to leverage Sweet Briar’s scenic campus to make the college a destination for creative and performing arts, similar to New York’s Chautauqua Institution.
Sweet Briar College has already been comprehensively restructured under Woo’s leadership. Upon her arrival, she and her team immediately began overhauling the college’s curriculum, replacing the traditional “general education” program with a Women’s Leadership Core that emphasizes hands-on, immersive learning, the college said.
Woo also cut tuition by about 30%, which led to an enrollment surge of more than 200 students in 2021-22. She also prioritized the college’s agricultural roots by spearheading the construction of a 26,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art greenhouse and 18 acres of vineyards. During the pandemic, Sweet Briar opened a new health center and an AstroTurf field, renovated its 130-acre equestrian facility, and refurbished 24/7 dining areas and residence hall common spaces.
The college is also touting its designation as one of the nation’s “Most Innovative Liberal Arts Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report in three out of the last four years. Alumnae and other donors gave more than $25 million to the college during the 2021-2022 academic year and S&P Global recently raised the college financial’s outlook to “positive.”