Candy Briar Faculty’s president appears again on what it was wish to take over a school on the point of closing — science weblog

When Meredith Woo took over because the president of Candy Briar Faculty in 2017, the nonprofit Virginia girls’s establishment was seen as a troubled place. Alumnae had wrestled the faculty again from the brink of closure, but it surely nonetheless confronted monetary points, leading to a warning from its accreditor. 

Woo just lately introduced that she shall be departing from her position as Candy Briar’s president in spring 2024. She spoke with Greater Ed Dive about her tenure. 

This interview has been edited for readability and size.

HIGHER ED DIVE: If you took over as president, Candy Briar was nonetheless within the information for a 2015 closure try, and there have been some accreditation points due to monetary stress. I am curious in case you had any doubts coming into the position.

A headshot image of Meredith Woo.

Meredith Woo

Permission granted by Candy Briar Faculty


MEREDITH WOO: Once I got here right here in 2017, I want I may say that I did my due diligence, and that I had studied the funds, that I had studied the lecturers and all of the institutional points of the faculty in addition to I may, and made a smart resolution to steer the establishment going ahead. In actual fact, it wasn’t like that. As a result of irrespective of how arduous I attempted to grasp the state of affairs of the faculty in 2017, it was not that straightforward to grasp what was happening. 

However to me, becoming a member of Candy Briar, deciding to steer it, was an act of religion. Candy Briar is not only a really wonderful faculty, but it surely has served for a really very long time as a big cultural, social and financial pillar for Central Virginia. 

Faculty shouldn’t be merely a enterprise enterprise or perhaps a nonprofit entity. It truly is an important nationwide treasure, oftentimes for the nation. Candy Briar fills an important position in schooling of girls. At present there are quite a lot of girls on college campuses. In actual fact, there are extra girls than there are males in universities. However there’s a position to be fulfilled by all-women’s establishments, which give really empowering schooling for that small section of girls that would actually profit from it. And so for me, it was a perception that this establishment has the fitting spine, proper constructing blocks, and that with some creativity and creativeness, we are able to make it work.

And about that creativity and creativeness: You made a number of adjustments to the faculty throughout your time as president, some which will have helped its longevity. What do you assume had been essentially the most impactful adjustments?

One is the form of change that’s business-oriented, that’s accomplished instantly, in an effort to make ourselves sustainable. So the very very first thing I did may be referred to as a really complete reset of the faculty — academically, financially and budgetarily. 

Academically, this meant eliminating all of our gen ed and creating a brand new form of gen ed, within the type of a really tightly structured girls’s management core curriculum that speaks to the excellence of the liberal arts, however being very a lot intentional in producing girls leaders going ahead via 4 years of superb schooling. 

With a purpose to appeal to college students, we determined to alter the regime of our funds. So as an alternative of getting a regime of very excessive sticker worth, and really excessive low cost price, we determined to make our tuition very clear, but additionally deploy greater than 200 completely different endowment accounts for scholarships to offer affordable benefit scholarships for our college students. And in order that was a really radical change that entailed a tuition reset, of near 40%, when it comes to discount in tuition, to make our tuition reasonably priced. 

Once I first got here right here, we had lower than 200 college students. And we had 85 school members with 45 majors. And so we lowered the variety of majors by half, and in addition made changes in school and workers measurement, in an effort to make it proportional or acceptable for the scholar physique that we had. None of this was very straightforward.  

The second set of adjustments had been way more structural, and people include two issues. 

One was making a five-year motion plan, step-by-step, to attempt to intensify issues that Candy Briar is or may very well be arguably higher at than anyone else. And the opposite one was engaged on the infrastructure of the faculty. 

For the five-year plan going ahead, we emphasised 5 issues that we may be really distinguished in. One is the agenda of constructing our core with a management curriculum pretty much as good because it may very well be. 

Two, to make our efforts with sustainability very innovative. And it is a very attention-grabbing factor, as a result of Candy Briar’s campus is arguably one of the stunning within the nation.

The third factor is that we’re the one engineering program totally ABET accredited, which solely has girls college students within the classroom. In a classroom with out misogyny and intimidation, our college students thrive.

The fourth factor that Candy Briar is absolutely good at, we’ve got the oldest equestrian program within the nation. By far the perfect equestrian program amongst liberal arts faculties. We’re going to honor that legacy by constructing significant tutorial packages round it. In order that it may be a program that is actually complete when it comes to athletics, profession paths, in addition to teachers. 

After which lastly, the hassle to make Candy Briar right into a vacation spot in Virginia and within the nation. 

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