A much-needed addendum…

A sun-soaked flower bed from this afternoon.

A sun-soaked flower bed from this afternoon.

Because much has changed since my last post:

I am back in the office. Alumnae volunteers are hard at work in the middle of a three-week sprucing-up of campus. Students return in 18 days. Not just students: A Class of 2019 will begin their Sweet Briar education in eighteen days.

All of this is dizzying and wonderful. Sweet Briar College not only survived, but is rockin’ and rollin’.

Holla, holla, hot damn.

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Beginning of the end…


As I posted to Facebook yesterday (April Fool’s), my letter arrived while I was at work, giving me a “pink slip for my pink slip” as a colleague said. I retrieved my certified mail and confirmed that my last day of employment at Sweet Briar College will be June 30, as anticipated, with no severance at this time and only a vague possibility of anything. There’s still a lot of unknown, but now, a date.

As I have said before, I intend to continue serving the College these next twelve or so weeks, photographing the highlights of our academic community, preserving the traditions that remain, and capturing Commencement for the Class of 2015. There will be tears. There will be impossible joy. There will still be anger, just under the surface.

It has been my delight to photograph this institution, these young women, these academic scholars, and this particular stretch of land. I’ll never forget the particular curve of Paul’s Mountain, or how it changes in every season and time of light, or the way the afternoon light hits the curving balustrades. I’ll hear the strains of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” and think of the members of the Class of 2011, holding back tears as they sang it at Baccalaureate in the Chapel. The rooms, packed to capacity, full of professors and students alike who came to listen to a senior honors thesis, or a reading in the Browsing Room, where it was almost too full to try to photograph because of all the people celebrating the pursuit of knowledge.

There are so many things like this, that I have witnessed here, that will hopefully live on not only in my memory but in my work. I’ve said it so many times: I love my alma mater, but if I had only seen this place at 17, I too would be a Vixen.

One last thing: when I leave campus on June 30, I will be exactly 10 weeks shy of my five year anniversary of employment at the College: I started on a Tuesday, and will finish on one. An odd coincidence and a bitter symmetry.

Not four years, but for life. 

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DSC_4352 Margaret Raymond ’16 DSC_6205 DSC_2902

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Pining for snow

It’s the last week in January, and we have yet to see significant snowfall at Sweet Briar (though, New York is getting walloped with a blizzard right now). I’m posting these photos from the prettiest snowfall we’ve had in my four years here, on March 25, 2013, as a wistful reminder of how transformed this beautiful campus becomes after snowfall.

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Leadership and Determination

No photos tonight, just a few quick recaps from the week.

First, if you ever have the chance to hear Trish Downing speak, you must!

Downing was the keynote speaker for the Leadership Conference this morning. Ironman, paraplegic athlete and inspirational speaker, she was a great fit for the conference theme, “Confidence and Courage.” I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to suddenly go from able-bodied athleticism, to needing to re-learn how to even sit up in bed. But Downing told the story with such grace, and her pluck is quite remarkable. I don’t want to spoil her story, but one thing that stood out to me is that while her strength and determination were inimitable, she also readily admitted that she couldn’t have competed without the belief of her equally stubborn support team.

My husband is quite the Ironman fan, and needless to say, was quite jealous.

I hope to share pictures later, but this evening I photographed another speaker from the conference, one of our own: Lieutenant Colonel Polevitzky ’93, who has served in the Marine Corps for nearly 20 years. I asked her what’s changed for women in service since she enlisted. Among other changes, she said that then, there were fewer roles women could fill, so her “MOS” (military occupation specialty, or career path) choices within the military were limited. Now, enlisting women have many more options from day one.

Earlier this week the Waxter Forum speaker, filmmaker Josh Fox, spoke about his documentary “Gasland,” and made the case for banning the controversial hydrolic fracturing (“fracking”) method of obtaining natural gas. He mentioned an uptick of medical problems in communities where fracking is prevalent, such as an increase in birth defects. I won’t get into anymore particulars here, but I’m looking forward to watching the film.
Between these events and hitting the ground running with projects in the office, it’s been a busy week! But one of those weeks that reminds me of why I love working in higher education: so many interesting and inspiring lectures, and always new things to learn.

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Hello, world

I have a list of blog posts I want to write, about Lauren Alkire ’12 visiting campus and making time to come say hi to me which warmed my heart. Or about the really interesting and exciting photo projects I’ve been working on, and sharing some of the past magazine’s behind-the-scenes stories and images. Or about the beautiful new library and how I love the light in its new student studying spaces.

But for now, I leave you with one of my favorite images from the annual walk to the monument. It’s been indoors the past two years because of rain, and it was nice to be back outside, and also to try to find a new way of seeing this event.




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Summer Sunshine

I’m back on campus after maternity leave this spring, and summer is in full swing: programs and campus are rotating through buildings each week, and the only relief from summer sun is the shade of our old trees or an afternoon thunderstorm.

Here are a few moments I found while wandering around campus, reacquainting myself with my old familiar nooks, and finding a few new views.

Construction on the library renovation continues! It was just a steel shell when my baby was born at the end of March, and I think it’s fascinating to see how quickly things have moved along.


Cochran Library Construction.


I have walked past the sundial in Daisy’s Garden, a gift from the Class of 1923, dozens of times and have probably taken wide photos of it, especially since Sweet Briar House makes such a lovely backdrop. But this was the first time I have paused to take a detail photo. It’s so beautiful!

The sundial in Daisy’s Garden, a gift from the Class of 1923.


And of course, I had to stop at Sweet Briar House.

Sweet Briar House


Two summer camps currently in session are the Blue Ridge Institute for Young Artists (BLUR), which emphasizes technology as a tool for artists, and the Young Writers Workshop, which features a songwriting component. I caught both camps a few times. The first photo was not taken outdoors, but there was beautiful sunshine through the windows in Fletcher. The second is an aspiring songwriter who spent her afternoon elective composing music in the quad.


A BLUR creative writer reads a story aloud on her iPad.


Composing music in the Quad during the Young Writers Workshop.


This final image is not a new subject–I’ve captured dozens of images of the Bell Tower over a variety of seasons. But as I wandered campus, I tried to consider new angles and look for new ways of seeing the same things. I walked off the sidewalk in front of Fletcher, and happened to notice the way the branches created a sun-dappled frame, which made for fresh perspective of the tower.


Sweet Briar College Bell Tower.

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A Year in Photos

Happy New Year! The College offices have reopened after the holidays, though classes don’t resume until January 23 so campus is quiet, besides the ongoing construction.

2012 saw the start of work on the library expansion, the graduation of a remarkable class of young women, a visit from alternative farmer and locavore Joel Salatin and the first summer, of hopefully many, hosting the Young Writers’ Workshop (formerly at University of Virginia). Members of our office took a trip to DC to meet with some of our many alumnae doing great work in that city, and wrote about it for the summer 2012 college magazine. As I’ve written before, author and activist Masha Hamilton visited as part of her work with the Afghan Women Writers project. These are just a few of many highlights on campus.

Before we get much further along into 2013, I thought I would gather a few of my favorite images from the year. These are in no particular order, and are by no means inclusive of every program or tradition at the College, but rather they’re images that make me smile, or that I’m particularly proud of when looking back at the year’s work. I hope you enjoy them, too.

First, some of my favorite Instagram images from the year.

Morning light through the trees on the campus drive.


The first view of campus after coming down the drive.


An image of Lauren DuHadaway ’15 on one of the iconic pink bikes, from a brochure photo shoot. Hopefully the piece will be printed soon and I can share more images!


The remaining images were shot on Nikon cameras, either my trusty D700 or the fabulous (especially in low-light!) D800.


The annual Gospel Fest in Memorial Chapel, organized by the Sweet Spirits.

Members of the Class of 1952 with Vixen mascot, Indie, at Reunion.

The Campus Events Organization (CEO) brought a stilt-walker to promote the Spring Fling carnival.

Sierra Wright ’12 on the set of her senior directorial project, “Doubt.” EDIT: After posting this entry, I remembered that “Doubt” was staged in the fall of 2011, but our story about Wright ran in the Fall 2012 alumnae magazine, so I’m keeping this photo in the list.

Children of campus daycare stop during their morning walk to watch the library construction.


Spencer Beall ’14 conducted much of her summer honors research in Cochran Library.


Members of the Class of 2012 make their way upstairs to the balcony of Sweet Briar House for the traditional Senior Toast.

This past summer, Pamela Webster ’13 interned in the accounting department of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.


Grace Loughhead assists the Class of 2012 as they prepare for Commencement.

A late fall sunrise over the Bell Tower.


Sweet Briar College continued to host the Girls on the Run Celebration 5k twice annually, organized by Girls on the Run of Central Virginia. Here, a runner and coach make their way through the woods of the Dairy Loop.


Local band Victory Garden opens for Jeff Carl as part of a Valentine’s weekend concert.


Greer Gordon ’12 with her horse Duggan.

President Parker leads Nia, a fitness class, for faculty, staff and students.

Students make their way from Prothro on a clear February evening.


A BLUR participant works on a charcoal drawing.


The 2012-2013 Vixen swim team.


The first year class participates in their first Step Singing tradition.

Endstation Theatre Company’s production of “A Comedy of Errors,” part of their annual Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival.

Maria El-Abd ’12 walks forward during commencement to receive the honorary title of Emily Watts McVea Scholar, awarded to the highest-ranking member of each class.

Students at the Spring Fling carnival.

A student works in the ceramics studio during the first week of spring semester classes.

I can’t write a post about 2012 without mentioning my student photographer Sarah Lindemann ’13, whose great attitude and talent have graced our office for a year now.  I’ll be sorry to see her go this May, though the great big ol’ world will be lucky to have her.

Sarah Lindemann ’13, in DC for our meeting with area alumnae.


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Instagram views of Sweet Briar

Whether or not you have an iPhone, chances are you’ve heard of Instagram, the  app that lets you apply vintage filters to photos and upload them to a social network. One of the reasons I like using the app is because it gives me a creative outlet while taking away a lot of the control that I’m used to having as a photographer. That is, I can’t change aperture, shutter speed, or zoom (or as some photographers say, I have to zoom with my feet and walk closer!), so I’m forced to think about the angle, framing, etc., in new or creative ways. It’s sort of liberating in that way. And the filters add a fun little pop.

When I think of it while out shooting around campus, I’ve tried to snap some Instagram moments here & there in addition to using my Nikon. If I do, I tag them with the hashtag #sweetbriarcollege (if you’re on Instagram, do the same!) to create a little collection of these images.

Here are some  favorite moments:


Memorial Chapel and some particularly dramatic clouds.

Students walk to the first classes of the day. Benedict Hall is in the background.

A herringbone brick pattern along the walkway in front of the library.

A candelabra in Sweet Briar House's dining room. Love the striped wall!

A pink bike parked below the stairs to the library.


Dogwoods last spring. Can't wait to see these again.


Students gathered in Prothro for the Jeff Carl concert last Friday night. Here, local band Victory Garden opens the show.



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Welcome back…


It’s been lovely to see all of our students return to campus refreshed, ready to tackle a new semester. Nearly everyone has said that her break was relaxing, and more than one senior has posted to Facebook about the “last first day.”


I love all of the smiles and seeing happy reunions! Just now, on my way back to my office from lunch, I ran into one student who appeared to be arriving on campus after a grocery run. Her arms full of groceries, she still stopped, shifted her bags with a grin and asked me how my holidays went.

I  realize I’ve written nearly the same post twice–this time last year, saying nearly the same thing, about having students back on campus…it’s just so very quiet on campus without these young women! I’m currently reading a collection of short stories about military families titled You Know When the Men Are Gone.  The  title could work here, too: You Know When the Young Women Are Gone. It’s  a completely different place. Prothro and Daisy’s are shuttered, the Quad nearly echoes, the FAC is often dark. And now, the lights burn into the night, and these smiles greet you around every turn.


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Interdisciplinary: arts + activism

Next week, author and activist Masha Hamilton will visit Sweet Briar for a week-long residency. You can read more about her visit on our website, including information about the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP–also, the project was featured on NPR yesterday).

One of my favorite details of her visit is the fundraising project coordinated by Sweet Briar business students, involving an art project by two of our students. These artists are creating beautiful engravings that will be printed on broadsides with poems written by women of AWWP.

Yesterday, I spent a few minutes at the Art Barn as Sally (red sweater) and Katie made their final adjustments to their engravings. I’ve always been fascinated by this artform; printmaking requires incredible patience and also a good deal of coordination as the artists carve their art in reverse–not to mention all the steps and technical precision required for the inking and actual pressing (which can vary greatly with the brand of ink, for instance, or the weight and absorption rate of the paper).

If you’re interested, the finished broadsides will be for sale at the reading next Friday.


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