President Fleming Responds to Closing of Sweet Briar
Dear Converse Alumni and Friends, We are deeply saddened by the news that Sweet Briar College in Virginia will close at the end of this academic year. This loss is tremendous for the entire Sweet Briar community of faculty, staff, students, alumnae and friends as well as for women’s colleges and indeed, all small, independent colleges. Converse has reached out to our colleagues and friends of Sweet Briar, sharing our heartfelt sorrow and also our willingness to work with students, faculty and staff in finding a new home.
“Converse has been proactive and adaptive in reshaping its business model for long-term sustainability.”
Reports have shared that our sister institution, with a rich history spanning over one hundred years, faced significant enrollment and financial challenges that the Board deemed insurmountable. This information has prompted many of you to ask questions of your alma mater.
Converse has been proactive and adaptive in reshaping its business model for long-term sustainability. The exceptional work and dedication of Converse faculty and staff, Board of Trustees, alumni and friends to strengthen our enrollment, to fortify our fiscal health and to evolve our educational experiences so that they best support today’s students – both at the undergraduate level for women and at the graduate level for men and women – has resulted in growth and progress for Converse.
With our move to reset our undergraduate tuition to $16,500 for fall 2014, a 43% decrease over the prior year’s price, Converse became an innovative leader in the heated national debate about the value and affordability of a college education. We have increased our traditional undergraduate enrollment by more than 20% in just two years.
During the past decade, we have raised over $75 million to support academic and co-curricular programs, to grow endowment funds, and to finance such construction projects as The Heath, Barnet Commons, Marsha H. Gibbs Fieldhouse and the renovation of Pell and Dexter Residence Halls. We have launched new academic programs and expanded athletic programs. And, our work to adapt and evolve is ongoing.
This fall, we launched a broad-based strategic planning initiative called L.E.A.D. (Learning, Enrollment, Access and Activation, Development.) This student-centered effort will provide a roadmap for future growth and investment, while ensuring that we remain committed, first and foremost, to advancing the voice, value and vision of a distinctively Converse education. I look forward to sharing those plans with you later this year.
We are deeply grateful to our alumni and other friends, whose commitment has sustained Converse for over 125 years. We are also reminded of the importance of continuing this support through financial gifts, increasing engagement with the College, and encouraging prospective students. Putting Converse foremost in your hearts and minds will ensure our future. Many alumni and friends have asked for more specific information about how they might grow their support. Here are some suggestions:
- Support our efforts to strengthen successful student outcomes by providing internships, employment and mentoring opportunities for current students and new graduates. Join the Converse Mentoring Program on LinkedIn, post internships and jobs in your place of business to the Converse Jobs Database, and create professional connections via the Converse Alumni LinkedIn page.
- Make plans to attend Reunion on April 24-25, 2015. Our Reunion Weekend is now open to alumni from ALL classes every year.
- Give, at whatever level you can, every single year to the Converse Annual Fund as an outward sign to foundations, other donors, prospective students and parents, ranking organizations and the broader community that you believe in the voice, value and vision of Converse-past, present and future. The percentage of alumni who support Converse is published annually and makes a difference.
- Challenge yourself, your classmates, your family members, or even your business to make a more significant investment in Converse-to support a program, to build an endowment, to fund a scholarship.
- Share Converse with others in your community. Most especially, offer to connect young women with our admission team or to bring them for a campus visit; explain the distinctive experience here that contributed to the person you are today.
- Continue to grow and share your unique voice, value and vision with the world – and do so proudly and loudly as a Converse alumna! You are the best example of the distinctions of this educational experience.
Together, we have worked passionately and diligently over the last few years, grappling with dramatic change at times, to provide financial security for Converse. As president, I am fortunate to be surrounded by talented and enterprising faculty and staff. As a college, we are blessed by the incredible support of Trustees, alumni and friends. I am confident of a bright future. Thank you for all you do for Converse, President Betsy Fleming