“I chose Sweet Briar because I really liked Sweet Briar"
When we asked women why they chose this school, the answers varied by generation. Women who attended in the '80s or later — when co-ed options were multiplying — were more likely to say they hadn't sought out single-sex education. “I chose Sweet Briar because I really liked Sweet Briar, not because I specifically wanted to attend a women’s college,” said Margaretta Colangelo, class of 1987 and now the president of U1 Technologies. Amelia Currin, who started at Sweet Briar this fall, agreed. “I liked the academics; I liked how the professors really care about their students,” she said.“If I went to a big university, I really wouldn’t get that one-on-one attention." For Juliette Arnheim, class of 1961, however, Sweet Briar was one of a limited number of options open to her in the 1950s. A Tennessee native, her choice was either the University of Tennessee or a women’s college. Since she didn't want to go a large state school, Sweet Briar it was.
"A very supportive social and emotional environment"
Whatever their stated reason for attending, as soon as the Sweet Briar women started digging deep into what they loved about their school, many brought up the community — a tight-knit, supportive atmosphere that many link, at least indirectly, to the lack of men. “There’s a very supportive social and emotional environment...when men are not around,” said Tomlinson. This is especially true within typically male-dominated STEM studies. Colangelo created a “Sweet Briar Women In STEM” group this summer to offer alumni mentoring from remarkably successful women, including Leah Busque. Busque, class of 2001, is the founder and CEO of Task Rabbit; she recently joined the Sweet Briar board of directors.
“I really feel like I found my confidence at Sweet Briar,” she said. “I found my voice.”
Arnheim “didn’t really miss male participation in class,” but wished she had more interactions with men outside of class. She and other grads say that the lack of 'boy friends' along with boyfriends didn't prepare them well for real life. Most of Arnheim’s interactions with men were “synthetic” — they revolved around riding a bus off campus, going to a dance, and riding a bus back to campus. Although Sweet Briar women can miss out on organic relationships with men, they may be more protected from sexual assault. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, there were zero reported sex offenses at Sweet Briar. In fact, the school's crime log is filled with zeros, with the exception of a few burglaries and a handful of liquor law violations.
The crime log is filled with zeros, with the exception of a few burglaries and a handful of liquor law violations.
“I just have more confidence in the school now than ever before"