Philanthropist John Nau, along with two Sweet Briar alumnae, Virginia “Ginger” Cates Mitchell and an anonymous donor, have pledged a total of $3 million to support Sweet Briar College’s innovative leadership core curriculum, according to the college.

The combined award, one of a number of significant recent investments in Sweet Briar, demonstrates the commitment of its alumnae and friends to President Meredith Woo’s vision for the college, which focuses on academic innovation, an expansion of the Presidential Scholarship program and stewardship of its built and natural environment.

The core consists of 10 courses designed to teach the habits of mind and skills needed for democratic and collaborative leadership, such as problem solving, creative expression, persuasive communication, ethical thinking, scientific literacy and financial competence. Six core courses were launched in the 2018-2019 academic year; the remaining four are being taught for the first time this year, including the capstone course, The Consequential Citizen, which focuses on teaching the founding principles of America. The phased rollout allows the college’s faculty and administration to assess what is working, what needs refining and what additional resources are required to support the core.

This $3 million gift for the leadership core will fund faculty development to refresh and update course content within the context of a changing world; support learning activities that take place beyond the classroom, such as domestic and international field trips; and enhance core courses with guest speakers, visiting professorships and other special events.

Woo said in a news release gifts to the college’s academic program allow Sweet Briar to “offer a superlative education that is relevant to the needs of our time, preparing women to take ownership of solutions to global challenges and opportunities.” She expressed her gratitude to the three donors.

Nau, a graduate of the University of Virginia and former member of its board of visitors, is a lifelong student of American history, particularly of the Civil War era, and is committed to the preservation of national parks and significant historic sites, according to the college’s news release.

Mitchell, a 1963 graduate of Sweet Briar, has contributed to the college for decades and the anonymous donor, described as a business and community leader, also a long-term supporter of her alma mater, according to the college.

“When I look at Sweet Briar’s alumnae, I see women who carry all before them in their families, communities, and places of business, women who work together to get things done,” Woo said in the release. “At Sweet Briar, we believe we can mindfully teach an ideal type of leadership. Our leadership core formalizes the traits that have always been the hallmarks of good leadership and intentionally cultivates them. Women who want to be leaders are welcome at Sweet Briar.”

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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