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  • Writer's pictureBeth & Tim Manners

Sweet Briar: Small is the New Big

The Washington Post: "Sweet Briar, a private college in rural Virginia ... is marketing itself as a safe haven in the midst of a pandemic — and officials even hope that pitch might help shore up its future ... Meredith Woo, the president of Sweet Briar, contends that the biggest challenge for fall opening for any college is not testing or medical facilities — it’s keeping students apart. And Sweet Briar, a small women’s college, is a place that has never had stadiums packed with fans for football games, 700-person econ classes, or parties spilling out of fraternity houses."

"Many universities are now considering holding classes outside, to reduce the spread of the virus. At Sweet Briar, that’s always been a thing: Students study the butterflies that float around the campus and the bees busy in the school’s apiary, its bright beehives painted pastel colors. Engineering students compete in a cardboard regatta at a lake on campus, using duct tape and cardboard boxes to design boats that can get from one landing to another without sinking. Students can study sustainability at the school’s giant new greenhouse, where, on one recent afternoon, basil, lettuce and cherry tomatoes were poking up out of their dirt beds. That produce will be used for students’ meals, donated to needy families, and sold to people in the community who want to eat local food."

"Many of the school’s pastimes can be pandemic-friendly. Students ride horses, as part of the school’s nationally known equestrian program or just to enjoy the 18 miles of trails. (When they’re seniors, they get a day to ride anywhere they like, even right up to the president’s house, said Mimi Wroten, director of the riding program.) They paddle around near the boathouse. They wander campus, past the Georgian brick buildings, the pink roses that first inspired the Sweet Briar name, the vineyard, the forests of oak and chestnut and tulip poplar.

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