Sweet Briar welcomes first wave of college students to region | Local News

AMHERST — Students are returning to college campuses in the Lynchburg area as the fall semester is set to begin in the coming days.

Sweet Briar College was the first local school to welcome students as they moved in Friday. 

Move-in day for Lynchburg College is Saturday, and for Randolph College it’s Wednesday. Liberty University students will occupy their residence halls Wednesday and Thursday.

Kerri Bond, SBC director of residence life, spent her summer preparing housing assignments and matching roommates. She said watching eager freshmen arrive on campus, and helping them move into their new home for the school year, was what she needed to get excited for the semester.

“They’re all really excited, and that’s invigorating,” Bond said.

Meredith Dresing, an incoming freshman from Elyria, Ohio, never had heard of Sweet Briar before the veterinarian who cared for her family’s horses recommended the college to her. Dresing said she was struck by the natural beauty of the campus set in Amherst County. A visit to SBC sealed the deal.

“How can you say no once you see the campus?” Dresing said.

An avid horse rider, Dresing plans to major in business and also earn an equine studies certificate.

Incoming freshman Sammy Runyon, who will study psychology, and Jordan Macurak, who plans to double major in history and business, said family ties helped steer them toward Sweet Briar.

Both also expressed confidence in the school following the attempted closure of Sweet Briar in 2015, when the previous administration announced it would shutter the 115-year-old women’s college due to “insurmountable financial challenges.”

Alumnae fought back to rescue their alma mater. A legal challenge kept SBC open, and millions of dollars in donations kept it operational. Since the attempted closure, more than $25 million in donations has rolled into Sweet Briar.

Runyon said the alumnae reaction was a positive reflection on Sweet Briar.

“I didn’t really think about the financial part of it; it was mostly about how all of the alums came back and helped. It’s just a nice community to be in,” Runyon said.

“I think what they did helped make a stronger school,” Macurak said.

Dresing shared Macurak’s sentiments. She believes SBC is stronger after surviving that close call.

Sweet Briar officials declined to provide current enrollment numbers because those have not yet been reported to the Board of Directors, which meets next week.

Enrollment for the last school year was listed at 376, according to the Sweet Briar website. Enrollment was at 700 students for the 2014-15 school year, which preceded the closure attempt. SBC leadership previously cited 800 as a sustainable number of students the college would like to reach.

Students began moving into their residence halls at 8:30 a.m. Friday with the help of 20 to 30 faculty and staff members, according to Bond. Incoming freshmen live in Meta Glass Residence Hall, which can accommodate 140 students.

With the early move-in time, some families from out of state arrived the night before. Bond said some early arrivals stayed in The Elston Inn & The Conference Center on campus.