Jo Ellen Parker is the tenth president of Sweet Briar College. She assumed office on July 1, 2009, succeeding Elisabeth Showalter Muhlenfeld, who retired after 13 years as the College’s ninth president.
Under Dr. Parker’s leadership, Sweet Briar has pursued several strategic initiatives, including the renovation and expansion of Cochran library, the refurbishing of classrooms and other learning spaces, increased racial and socioeconomic diversity in the student body, and curriculum review and reform. Her expertise in digital technology and inter-institutional collaboration bring exciting new dimensions to Sweet Briar’s traditional commitments to women’s education and the liberal arts.
Dr. Parker is deeply rooted in both women’s education and the liberal arts: she graduated from Bryn Mawr with a major in English Literature and, after earning the Ph.D. in Victorian Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, served her alma mater as both a faculty member and administrator. In subsequent positions she led innovative organizations at a national level — her previous positions include service as president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and executive director of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE.)
A Brown Belt and certified instructor in the Nia Technique, as an avocation Dr. Parker teaches fitness classes on campus in support of Sweet Briar’s wellness initiatives. With her spouse, Rick Manasa, she lives at Sweet Briar House along with their three cats and two dogs.