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.

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.


Two retirement women

Let’s talk money

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Woman learning on her Tablet

Build confidence and connection with ESL class

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