Sweet Briar’s intellectually and socially vibrant campus is a true community, home not only to students but also to approximately a quarter of our faculty as well as many staff members. It is a living laboratory that provides hands-on opportunities for exploration and discovery in nearly every discipline, from the arts and humanities to the sciences and engineering.
History, arts management and environmental science students have a particularly rich setting in which to do research. The campus was a working plantation in the 18th and 19th centuries and, the founding family left with it a vast collection of artifacts. Across campus, research sites include old-growth forests, experimental biofuel plots and weather stations where instrumentation collects data on the atmosphere. The main campus buildings lie at the center of 3,250 acres of rolling hills, woods and meadows in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The broad landscape includes two lakes, eight nature sanctuaries or protected areas, and an extensive network of walking, horseback riding and hiking trails.
The campus, designed in the early part of the 20th century, is dominated by the architecture of Ralph Adams Cram, whose work is also seen at MIT, Princeton, Wellesley, Rice and West Point. Twenty-one of Sweet Briar’s campus buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Within these historic buildings are housed impressive academic facilities. Our science laboratories contain some of the best instrumentation in the nation for liberal arts colleges.
The Mary Helen Cochran Library is the cornerstone of the College’s academic community. In 2012, a project was undertaken to restore the historic 1929 building designed by Cram’s firm, and to add 16,000 square feet of study, classroom and collaborative spaces. The project was completed in fall 2014. This state-of-the-art facility and its resources provide students with one of the finest private college libraries in Virginia. The collections include more than 270,000 volumes; subscriptions to more than 1,000 current periodical titles; and 8,000 audio-visual materials. Older journals, microform resources and government resources are housed in the Wick Closed Stack facility. The library also provides the College community with access to more than 300 online academic databases, e-book and video collections through the library website.
Other recent construction projects include the 53,000-square-foot Fitness and Athletics Center and the Green Village. The latter provides furnished apartment-style living on campus for 60 students.
The 526-seat Murchison Lane Auditorium in Babcock Fine Arts Center is host to cultural and intellectual events from student dance and theatre productions to world-renowned speakers and the Babcock Season, which brings visiting performing artists, theatre troops and music ensembles to campus.
Rotating art exhibitions are research-, studio- and community-based and are presented in one of three galleries: Babcock, Benedict and Pannell; the latter houses the Sweet Briar Collection.
Located in the Boxwood Alumnae House, the Sweet Briar Museum contains an excellent teaching collection of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century American decorative arts, including artifacts of the College’s founders and memorabilia from throughout the College’s history.
The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), the only artists’ retreat in the nation with direct ties to a college or university, is adjacent to the Sweet Briar campus. Writers, visual artists and composers working at the VCCA come to the College to teach in its interdisciplinary Bachelor of Fine Arts program, and to take part in campus life.
The Florence Elston Inn and Conference Center complex, located on campus, provides a fully equipped 10,000-square-foot conference facility and an inn featuring 38 rooms.
The College is centrally located within the state of Virginia, 54 miles south of Charlottesville and 168 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., on U.S. 29.