Sweet Briar College named its next president Monday, picking a former University of Virginia dean to lead the all-women liberal arts institution as it attempts to recover from a near closure two years ago.
Meredith Woo will take over as president of Sweet Briar in rural Virginia after current president Phillip C. Stone retires in May. Woo was the dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia from 2008 to 2014. Afterward, she worked in London as the director of the higher education support program for the Open Society Foundations, which is tasked with supporting liberal arts colleges in the former Soviet Union and with supporting higher education for refugee populations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Woo will face fund-raising, enrollment and curricular challenges at Sweet Briar after the college's previous leadership attempted to close the college in 2015. Alumnae successfully fought the move, but Sweet Briar has been heavily reliant on fund-raising since then and has posted mixed enrollment results. Stone has said that the college brought in 160 new students this fall but that it needs 200 new fall enrollments as it seeks to become sustainable into the future. The college's total enrollment is about 330.
In an interview Monday, Woo said she intends to improve Sweet Briar's liberal arts curriculum, raise money and build upon Sweet Briar's status as one of only two women's colleges in the country with an engineering program.
“We'll need to move forward to raise resources from foundations and supporters of women's education,” she said. “That will be predicated on having really great ideas.”
Woo is also a former dean of social sciences at the University of Michigan. She holds a Ph.D. in political science and a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University. She received her bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in Maine. She is a native of Seoul in South Korea and speaks Korean and Japanese. She is also proficient in Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese.