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Sweet Briar President moves in with students a week before classes

Sweet Briar President Meredith Woo moved into Grammer Residence Hall on campus with freshman students during orientation week.

Woo wanted to learn more about students’ living experiences on campus.

“The students, I think, were thrilled. I think they felt connected. I felt connected with them,” Woo said. “Just as I was curious about them, they were curious about me.”

First-year students moved into residence halls Aug. 13, with classes beginning this week.

Woo said when she first came to Grammer Hall, students asked her to come down to the basement to join them in a card game.

Liz Carr, a freshman at Sweet Briar, said she and friends decided to have a game night and invited the president by slipping a note under her door on the first floor.

Woo didn’t play but watched briefly.

“It was kind of fun to talk to her and see her,” Carr said.

With it being orientation week, Carr said students were busy with activities. They didn’t get a chance to see her as much, but she said it was nice to see the president. Carr described it as a interpersonal experience.

“It was interesting that she decided to do that,” Carr said.

Late in the spring, Sweet Briar reached record numbers in alumnae donations. The class of 1972 had its 50th reunion as it gave more than $10 million in donations. With hopes of renovating and upgrading student living spaces.

So far, the college has created a common space with gardens where students can go, renovated the student café, activity centers and parlors, which are living room spaces in different dormitories.

“As we continue with this activity of renewing the student life space, I really wanted to have a really good feel for student experience, the pattern of their activities in life, how they used the dorm and other activity space, and to get a really good feel for it,” Woo said.

Two big takeaways the president had from this experience were receiving a book — “Women Who Dared: To Break All the Rules’’ by Jeremy Scott — from the librarian of the hall and receiving a red piece of cloth from an international student that you tie around a braid.

Woo said she learned a lot about what the students are thinking.

“I want to do my job well, and my job means really supporting our students, making sure that they’re happy, that they prosper,” Woo said.

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