I think I can safely say that everyone who works at Sweet Briar loves what I call “welcome week.” I know I do.
This week was one welcome event after another. Student leaders arrived for training, preparation, and teambuilding, bringing their wonderful energy and stories about their summer adventures with them. (They positively glow when talking about their internships.) There were a few new features on their program this year: for example, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities offered a workshop called “Break the Cycle, Be the Change” that was extremely well received. (And not surprisingly, afterwards, the VCIC facilitators were full of praise for the quality and energy of Sweet Briar students.) Personally, I did “workout workshops” with both the student Peer Health Educators and the SGA leadership team to connect concepts of leadership with wellness.
Vixen athletes (Go Sweet!) arrived for pre-season. Every coach I’ve spoken with is full of enthusiasm about this year’s recruits. Returning athletes welcomed first-year teammates and offered lots of tips and inside information to the new students. In welcoming the athletes and their families, I reminded them that Sweet Briar is proud of its Vixens for what they accomplish on the field but also in the classroom and in the community. Year after year, for example, the GPAs of Vixen athletes are higher than the campus average (Holla Holla) — our Vixens are truly student-athletes in the spirit of NCAA Division III.
A “successful summer” picnic celebrated those members of staff whose work made the summer (with all its derecho-induced challenges) a great one here on campus.
Members of the Physical Plant, Housekeeping, Campus Safety, Hospitality, and Facilities teams along with their families gathered for a terrific steak dinner and an evening watching the sun set over the lake. What a great way to catch our collective breath before plunging into the activity of the semester. . .
And then, yesterday, at last, the arrival of the class of 2016 and other new transfer and Turning Point students!
At the welcome assembly for students and their families, Dean of Enrollment Steven Nape shared the story of how, to his surprise, he discovered an intellectual passion for philosophy in college. He assured them that here at Sweet Briar they too will discover life-long interests.
Dean of Faculty Amy Jessen-Marshall encouraged the new students to revel in the experience of being new. Reflecting that last year was her own first year at Sweet Briar, she reminded them that while being new has its challenges, it has enormous benefits (for example, people try very hard to be patient with you!) and is an experience to be cherished, not simply endured.
Today the returning students arrive and Wednesday is Opening Convocation, formally launching the new school year.
For me, the first week of the academic year always brings an overwhelming sense of optimism and good fortune. How lucky we all are to come together in this beautiful place to share the remarkable work of learning together. Happy New (Academic) Year!