With the support of a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Hollins University and Sweet Briar College are exploring the possibility of collaboration between two of the nation’s leading women’s colleges – traditional competitors that share a commitment to women’s education and the liberal arts.
Over the next several months, officials will look at ways in which working together on operational activities may help both institutions control costs. They will also investigate whether international education opportunities for students at both schools can be enhanced by working more closely together.
“Our purpose in exploring collaboration is to keep both Hollins and Sweet Briar academically strong and affordable,” said Jo Ellen Parker, president of Sweet Briar. “The discussions we are undertaking with Hollins are mission-centered, aimed at creating educational benefits for the students of both colleges.”
Prior to assuming the presidency at Sweet Briar, Parker served as president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and as executive director of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, organizations dedicated to encouraging collaborations between academic institutions.
“Based on my experience, in order to collaborate successfully, institutions need to share core educational values, have the ability to think ‘outside the box,’ and have leaders with the vision and flexibility to work together effectively,” said Parker. “Sweet Briar and Hollins have all those things.”
“We are and will remain competitors,” added Hollins President Nancy Gray, “but given our common emphasis on educating women for success in a global workforce and as global citizens, it makes sense to see where there is potential for cooperation on particular initiatives, such as determining if we can collaborate to improve the quality of our international learning programs and save money.”
Gray also noted collaboration among colleges and universities on specific projects is becoming increasingly common, citing Hollins’ 2011 partnership with Emory & Henry College to launch an energy conservation initiative and foster a culture of sustainability on both campuses.
Nationally, St. Olaf College and Carleton College announced a similar planning process to the Hollins/Sweet Briar initiative in August 2012, as did Wofford and Converse colleges last fall.
Well-established, larger collaborative partnerships include the Five Colleges of Massachusetts (Amherst, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire, and U. Mass. Amherst,) the Tri-College Consortium (Haverford, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr) and the Claremont Colleges (Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, the Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University).