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Sweet Briar names new president

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Meredith Woo photo by Aaron Mahler

A former University of Virginia dean has been named the new president of Sweet Briar College.

Meredith Woo will succeed Phillip C. Stone, who retires in May.  Stone took over as president of the school in July 2015 after alumnae succeeded in reversing plans by the previous administration to close the 116-year-old women’s college.

Woo will become Sweet Briar’s 13th president.  From 2008-14, she was  the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at U.Va. where she oversaw 11,000 undergraduate students, 1,600 graduate students and 800 full-time faculty. Annual donators for the college nearly tripled under her tenure.

Most recently, Woo has lived in London directing the Open Society Foundations’ global higher education program. The program has created and  supported more than 50 liberal-arts colleges in former Soviet bloc nations. Woo also is credited with helping to provide university-level education to refugee populations in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Before coming to  U.Va., Woo was associate dean for social sciences at the University of Michigan and a professor of political science. She was a visiting scholar at the Ministry of Finance in Tokyo. She also taught at Northwestern University and Columbia University.

Woo holds a doctorate in political science and a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia and a bachelor’s degree in  history from Bowdoin College in Maine.
A native of Seoul, Korea, she speaks Korean and Japanese and is proficient in Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese. She has authored or edited six books and many scholarly articles. Woo also is the executive producer of an award-winning film, which premiered at the Smithsonian Institution in 2006.

Woo is married to historian Bruce Cumings, the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago. Their son, Ben Cumings, 23, is a recent graduate of Bowdoin and an aspiring actor.

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