Institute for Women's Leadership

Faculty and staff, get educated empowered & enlightened at a discount for the Women’s Leadership Retreat

The Institute for Women’s Leadership is hosting a virtual women’s retreat on Thursday, May 6, from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. All UW-Green Bay faculty and staff can attend at substantially reduced rate of $25. The treat has been designed to be an inspiring day of conversation, advice and shared experiences, and it will be a great networking opportunity with women leaders and dynamic executive coaches.

Robyn Davis, CEO Brown County United Way will discuss “The View from the Other Side.” Executive coaches Chris Kann will share “Four Secrets to Sustainable Success,” and Courtney Booth will advise how to “Uncover Blocks and Live into Your Strengths: Empowered, Energized and Equipped During Adversity.” The day’s discussions will help you assess your leadership strengths and learn how to create energetic alignment with your own personal potential, power and possibilities.

Learn more about the retreat on the Institute webpage.

Faculty and staff only registration.

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Mark your calendars for Strong Women, Strong Coffee, April 27

Strong Women, Strong Coffee will take place on Tuesday, April 27, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. The event will feature Deidre Martinez, executive director of the Sheboygan County Chamber. Strong Women, Strong Coffee encourages business professionals and entrepreneurs to build meaningful connections. Fueled by caffeine & passion, this free online webinar will feature a live interview with a strong woman who has achieved success in business or entrepreneurship. The audience will hear her story of success and feel a connection with other strong women on their journeys, finding inspiration along the way. Learn more and register.

Presented by the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) and supported by the Institute for Women’s Leadership.

Tuesday, April 27
8:30-9:30 a.m.
Featuring Deidre Martinez, Executive Director, Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce

Heather Fleetwood

Program Pioneer

Heather Fleetwood works for an educational institution that focuses on allied health. Because she is the senior director of Talent Development, and there is a lot of training, learning and development within her role, she wanted to advance her knowledge base, so she was looking for a program on diversity, equity and inclusion that would be a good fit to advance her skills and work with her schedule. She has a master’s degree and wanted additional certification, specifically in diversity, equity and inclusion. Plus she wanted to be one of the pioneers to go through the program. She said, “The UW-Green Bay program sounded so fresh and exciting!”

The diversity of her fellow students were also a big plus—one worked in a hospital, another in a financial institution. There was even a principal of a school. That allowed for great discussions and learning from each other. For her, it was the knowledge itself and understanding within that space. She feels she has to have a foundation to train people or create projects. That gives her confidence. The ideas that were presented were applicable to her company’s employees and will make an impact.

Heather said, “The UW-Green Bay Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate Program combines compassion with technology—it’s progressive, on the cutting edge, and what we need in today’s workforce. For me, the program established the fundamentals of how to approach these topics and move the needle in a positive way.”

Heather Fleetwood is on the diversity and inclusion council and working with senior executives at her company who oversee the council. She was a participant the Diversity, Equity and Diversity Certificate Program, offered by the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement.

Image of Stacy Groll

Inclusion Begins Within

No one would deny we live in changing times.

And when Stacey Groll, assistant to the mayor for the City of Manitowoc, Wis. saw an opportunity to do her part, she went for it. The change? Helping to develop a greater sense of equity, diversity and inclusion within herself, city government and ultimately the community she’s lived in all her life.

That’s why she enrolled in UW-Green Bay’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certificate Program. Building diversity is as much a practice as it is a field of study. And definitely a tall order within a five-week program that’s entirely online. Was it worth the effort?

“Absolutely!” Groll says, “For both my professional and personal development.”

Some realizations arrived early-on. Diving into issues involving equity, diversity and inclusion can be very intimidating at the onset. “The starting point for me was realizing how much I really have to learn.” But then she realized that it was the diversity of her fellow students and interacting with them that made the program come alive. “It was amazing! Everyone’s experience was different.”

Groll has no plans on stopping. Her goal is to develop a committee within city government so employees can increase their sense of inclusion and together create a more inviting and welcoming workplace. And then after that, invite members of the community to create their own committee in partnership with the City of Manitowoc.

“I want to pull in leaders from different organizations and communities that may be underrepresented. Anyone that has a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion.”

That would certainly include Groll, who is looking forward to the second level of the program and completing her certification. And after that? She’s just getting started….

Groll was a participant the Diversity, Equity and Diversity Certificate Program, offered by UW-Green Bay’s Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement.

Ty'Liesha Johnson

A Profile in Busy

Turning her “to-do” list into a “to-done” list is what Ty’Liesha Johnson is all about. Working and attending college full-time simultaneously would make that list impressive enough. But it’s her ultimate “to-do” that presents a challenge few would attempt.

“I want to have my own orphanage or foster home for kids and teens who aren’t placed into families. That’s been a desire of mine for a very long time.” She states these plans with such conviction, there’s no reason to doubt her sincerity. Especially when coupled with her current career and educational goals.

Having attended bible college and worked in full-time ministry, Ty’Liesha continues to work at a church in Kenosha where she lives. “I do volunteering, too. Always busy.”

Green Bay gave her a lot of good reasons to attend, including online classes in the program she was looking for. “I’m studying organizational leadership with an emphasis in early childhood education and profit/non-profit organizations.”

“I wanted something online that made sense for me and aligned with what I wanted to do in the future.” Ty’Liesha came in as first-year student, this year and enjoyed most of her classes. “A few were a little challenging, especially with my busy schedule.”

Her biggest concern is one shared by many students. “Being able to pay for college and still live life.” But from admissions, financial aid, and even the occasional wellness check, Green Bay has been with her all the way. But don’t take our word for it…

“I was having a very busy and crazy day and in the middle of it, I got a phone call from the University just to check in on me and see how I was doing,” Ty’Liesha recalls. “That made my day. I was overjoyed and couldn’t stop talking about it.” And if past results are any indication, the University will be talking to her for some time to come.

Ty’Liesha is earning her Associates Degree first with plans to continue to a bachelor’s degree later. She is enrolled through the Accelerated Degree program and will complete that program while receiving advising towards her ultimate goal of the bachelor’s degree. The Accelerated Degree program is designed to help learners balance the demands of home, work, and school by offering 7-week courses, allowing students to work through degree requirements quickly.

Institute for Women's Leadership Kickoff

Institute for Women’s Leadership Announces Keynote Speaker for Kickoff Event

The Institute for Women’s Leadership announces keynote speaker Therese Pandl for the kickoff event on March 5, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Pandl recently retired as CEO/President of HSHS East Wisconsin Health System. Pandl’s keynote will highlight the morning’s kickoff event, which coincides with International Women’s Day. She will elaborate on this year’s theme “Choose to Challenge.”

Pandl says “women should pay it forward to other women—coach, mentor, promote or throw a life-line to other women when needed.”

Chancellor Michael Alexander will discuss how he sees the Institute fitting into the University’s mission. Institute co-founders Joy Ruzek and Sheryl Van Gruensven, both UW-Green Bay leaders and administrators, will also share their vision of empowering women in Northeast Wisconsin. See full agenda.

Recognizing the region’s growing need for a pipeline of women leaders and the distinct challenges faced by professional women in the workplace, the Institute will strive to eliminate barriers that narrow opportunities at all stages in their professional careers, from rising women of promise to woman executives. To learn more about the Institute for Women’s Leadership, please contact Executive Director Teri Zuege-Halvorsen at

Ready to Work

Enroll Anytime in Ready to Work Modules

The Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement continues to expand its offerings for employees and managers of small- to medium-sized businesses to expand their knowledge base with the latest workplace concepts. Modules are self-paced and run an hour or less. Group deals also available. Learn more and register.


Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
Training that helps individuals understand the power of emotions and hw they play into team dynamics and productivity. Self-paced. Enroll anytime.

Telecommuting Best Practices
Acquire tools to make the telecommuting experience productive while finding work-life balance. Self-paced. Enroll anytime.

Tourism Summit

Get Ready for a Tourism Summit with Travel Wisconsin

On April 22, from 9 a.m to noon, in collaboration with Travel Wisconsin, the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement will be hosting a Tourism Summit, a virtual conference with three engaging presentations. Regional tourism specialists will share important insights on how to optimize the opportunities of tourism for your destination, attraction or community.

9-10 a.m.
Travel Wisconsin 101: Ten Ways to Engage with Travel Wisconsin to Advance Your Tourism BusinessTravel Wisconsin

10-11 a.m.
Wisconsin Hospitality & the Importance of Customer Service

11 a.m.-Noon
Wisconsin Tourism Partners: Best Strategies for a Successful 2021

Although COVID-19 has had a negative impact on tourism in Wisconsin, recent surveys show Americans are in a “ready-to-travel” state of mind. Get ready for when vaccines are widely available.


A Catalyst for Change

UW-Green Bay leaders Ruzek and Van Gruensven are catalysts for change

Joy Ruzek and Sheryl Van Gruensven have long dreamed of an Institute for Women’s Leadership at UW-Green Bay as a catalyst for change in the University community and the broader region of Northeast Wisconsin.

The idea for the Institute evolved as both grew into their current roles. Ruzek is assistant vice chancellor of the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement, partnering with businesses and organizations to develop innovative programming in response to professional and workforce development needs throughout Wisconsin. Sheryl Van Gruenesven is chief business officer and senior vice chancellor for Institutional Strategy, a key leader fulfilling an essential role.

The Institute seeks to address the “broken rung” in the ladder that is holding women back. McKinsey and Company conducts an annual Women in the Workplace Study, and for the sixth year in a row women continue to lose ground in the first step up to manager. Not only does this stall the progress toward gender parity, but also puts companies at risk of the loss of future women leaders. Companies in Northeast Wisconsin in particular identify developing leaders as a critical goal, and it has been repeatedly demonstrated that women at senior levels of management impact profits and share performance in a positive way. They are also more likely to be champions of diversity and inclusion, contributing to a stronger workplace culture.

As Ruzek and Van Gruensven see it, the key to changing this trajectory lies with senior leaders — male and female — to ensure women can advance. “As leaders,” they advocate, “we all need to demonstrate this is a priority by what we say, what we do, what we measure and how we lead.” Over time, they hope, the Institute will enhance the quality of life and economic development in the region in the following ways:

• Fulfilling critical leadership needs in the region and contributing to a robust, more broadly engaged and representative professional workforce, essential to a healthy, fully-engaged society and economy.
• Eliminating barriers that narrow women’s professional opportunities, preparing women for leadership roles early on so they can advance mid-career and beyond.
• Creating a culture of “Conscious Inclusion” that builds on the desire, insight and capacity of people to make decisions and to lead, think and act with the conscious intent of including everyone.

Ruzek and Van Gruensven are looking forward to the kickoff event, which will take place on Friday, March 5, in celebration of International Women’s Day. It seems a fitting day to see their dreams come to fruition with the official launch of the Institute for Women’s Leadership, especially with this year’s theme of “Choose to Challenge.”

Ruzek and Van Gruensven have indeed chosen to challenge, and their plans for the Institute will pave the way for future women leaders of today and tomorrow. With their help, women will rise together.


Joy Ruzek
Joy Ruzek

Ruzek serves as assistant vice chancellor for the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement where she provides strategic vision, innovative programming and advanced services to address the developmental needs of all ages throughout Wisconsin. She joined UW-Green Bay in 2009 and has over 35 years of experience in executive business management and progressive professional training and development. She earned her bachelor’s in business management, and holds a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in higher education.





Sheryl Van Gruensven
Sheryl Van Gruensven

Van Gruensven serves as chief business officer and senior vice chancellor for institutional strategy where she provides leadership and oversight for the development and execution of a sustainable financial model and administrative services to the University community. She joined UW-Green Bay in 2004 and has served as director of human resources and affirmative action prior to her current role.  She earned her bachelor’s in human resources management from Upper Iowa University, and holds a master’s degree in management.

Extending the Vision to Advance Women Leaders

Extending the vision to advance women in leadership

Bridget Krage O'Connor
Bridget Krage O’Connor Owner of O’Connor Connective and its social enterprise The Connective: A Community for Women in Business

A Personal Reflection
Because it’s personal. It’s the best answer I can give when asked why I invest in the advancement of women. Since I own a strategic communications firm, why offer a social enterprise for professional women? And why now partner with UW-Green Bay’s Institute for Women’s Leadership? Well, again, it’s personal.

I grew up in a family that encouraged me to be anything. I believed an education was my ticket to a good life, and it was. Earning a bachelor’s degree opened doors and opportunities. And a master’s degree expanded my world further. But my formal education didn’t teach me how to ebb and flow through the politics of the organizations where I would work. And figuring out how to thrive within the confines of norms and realities that hadn’t typically included people like me in leadership, well, that didn’t come from my class lectures. It came from just living through it. Yet, I wondered if having access to more women in leadership would have helped soften the hard edges of those intense lessons and allowed me to go further, sooner.

When I launched my own company, O’Connor Connective, I learned of women entrepreneurs with businesses on the Main streets of Wisconsin who were looking to connect, to share, to learn together. At the same time, I realized I needed my own posse. I needed a group of professional advisors like an attorney, an accountant, a financial advisor, and a banker who understood my vision and would have my back as I built a team and a business for the long haul. But where to start? That took a lot of time but when it came together, that group of advisors (interestingly mostly women) helped me make my vision for O’Connor Connective a reality.

Then, when working with my clients, I witnessed women organizational leaders presenting different needs than their male colleagues. And I could relate.

Together, these experiences crystalized my thinking: I needed to create a forum for women leaders to network, access experts so they could establish their posse and develop programs to intentionally support the unique needs of women in leadership.

So, with the help of my O’Connor Connective colleagues, my original posse, and other colleagues and friends who said yes to this concept, we did just that. For two years, The Connective: A Community for Women in Business touched hundreds of people. Now, with a vision to expand, I’m beyond excited to collaborate and align with UW-Green Bay’s Institute for Women’s Leadership. This means more programming, more support, more networking for more women. The longer-term impact will mean more equitable leadership in Wisconsin, which research tells us will improve organizational profitability and strengthen our economy.

The Institute’s the ideal combination. It puts the formal degree or credit experiences together with the networking, programmatic, and experiential support women seek throughout their careers. Just think of the boost this will give those seeking to lead.

Here’s to rising, more, together so to advance the great state of Wisconsin and beyond.