Marquette’s Institute for Women’s Leadership to honor inaugural group of ‘Transformational Leaders’ at annual IWL Gala, March 7

Feb. 28, 2023

Thelma SiasMILWAUKEE — Marquette University’s Institute for Women’s Leadership will hand out its inaugural Transformational Leadership awards as part of its annual IWL Gala on the eve of International Women’s Day, Tuesday, March 7, at 5 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Union, 1442 W. Wisconsin Ave.

This year’s gala will celebrate “Leaders for Courageous Sisterhood,” a theme which honors all who have had the courage to uplift women and make them more than they thought they could be. The gala will celebrate the power of sisterhood and active leadership that supports and elevates women in the workplace and in the community. The goal is to recognize the importance of courage in all its forms and its power to transform the lives and work of women.

Distinguished guest Thelma Sias, a Milwaukee-based leader who founded The Sias Group and has spent 30 years as a corporate executive, will join IWL Director Dr. Jennica Webster for a fireside chat. Sias will share stories from her life about the power of courageous sisterhood.

The Transformational Leadership awards include:

  • IWL Transform Award, which recognizes a community leader: Kareeda Chones Aguam, senior vice president of partner strategy and management for the Milwaukee Bucks
  • IWL Inspire Award, which recognizes a member of the Marquette research community: Rosemary A. Stuart, Wehr Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences
  • IWL Engage Award, which recognizes a Marquette student: Gabrielle Chun, a third-year mechanical engineering undergraduate

Biographical information on the distinguished guest and award winners follows.

Media wishing to attend the IWL Gala or speak with event organizers should contact Kevin Conway, associate director of university communication, at

The Institute for Women’s Leadership builds upon Marquette University’s historic role as the first coeducational Catholic university in the world beginning in 1909. The mission of the IWL is to support and conduct cutting-edge gender research and build transformational experiences and relationships that empower women and advance women’s leadership.

More information on distinguished guests, award honorees

Sias is currently the founder and CEO of The Sias Group, which provides political and leadership consulting expertise. A retired corporate executive, community advocate and activist, and professional speaker, Sias is devoted to mentoring and inspiring young leaders, building opportunities for executive women’s leadership, driving political engagement, and advancing diversity in the community.

Prior to her retirement in 2017, Sias served as vice president of local affairs at We Energies, where she was responsible for building and enhancing long-term relationships with Milwaukee community leaders and the government to garner support and approval for the utility’s critical corporate initiatives. In addition, Sias has held numerous leadership roles in the greater Milwaukee community and serves as a key connector to business, community, and political leaders.

Chones Aguam has blazed her own trail as the senior vice president of partner strategy and management for the Milwaukee Bucks. She began her career with the organization in ticket sales following her graduation from Marquette and worked her way up the corporate ladder to her current role. With women making up just under a third of team vice president roles in the NBA and under 10% of team presidents or CEOs, Chones Aguam has made it her mission to help reach out to those behind her, ensuring that "the next young lady has the same opportunities I have," and advocating for greater diversity of thought and diversity in work culture. This work expands into the greater Milwaukee community in Chones Aguam’s active membership on various foundations’ boards over the years. In addition to her work in the community and with the Bucks, Chones Aguam has maintained a multiple decade career as a freelance voice artist—with more on the horizon. Her courageous work has changed the lives and careers of women.  Such work is inspired by the support of Chones Aguam’s amazing family—especially her husband, children, parents, and siblings—who motivate her and help drive the work that she does.

Stuart’s research and work on campus over the last 23 years has embodied the IWL's mission to elevate and inspire women. She has previously served as associate dean for the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences and is currently director of the Biological and Environmental Sciences Internship Program. Since 2000, Stuart has led many student-centered research groups funded by the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation, and she currently serves as co-director of Marquette’s MU4Gold Scholars program. In addition to her “behind-the-scenes" role as an advocate and champion for women on Marquette’s campus, Stuart has also formally mentored a total of 16 Ph.D. students (eight at the University of Munich and eight at Marquette), and is particularly proud that 12 of these students were women and five of them were mothers to young children at the time of their Ph.D. Stuart serves on the university's Committee on Diversity and Equity, the IWL Faculty Advisory Council, Marquette's faculty-led Pay Equity Taskforce, and Marquette’s NSF-funded ADVANCE initiative, which seeks to support the advancement of women faculty in STEM and SBE fields. Additionally, Stuart is proud to parent her two children, Ciara and Eddie, who have grown into fine young adults.

Chun is a mechanical engineering student with minors in business administration, graphic design, and writing-intensive English. She has been accepted into Marquette's Graduate School of Management and will be completing her MBA as part of the university's five-year STEM-MBA accelerated degree program. Beyond her academic excellence, Chun is an active student leader who serves as a tutor for both the writing center and the physics department, a Sacristan for Campus Ministry, and an executive board member for the Society of Women Engineers, the Art Club, and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society. As outreach director for SWE, she has worked with Notre Dame School of Milwaukee and Discovery World to organize volunteer opportunities promoting engineering to future generations of women in STEM. Most recently Chun employed her graphic design skills in collaboration with mechanical engineering professor Dr. Somesh Roy’s special exhibition for the Haggerty Museum of Art entitled “Entangled Air.”

About Marquette University

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. Through the formation of hearts and minds, Marquette prepares our 11,100 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional students to lead, excel and serve as agents of positive change. And, we deliver results. Ranked in the top 20% of national universities, Marquette is recognized for its undergraduate teaching, innovation and career preparation as the sixth-best university in the country for job placement. Our focus on student success and immersive, personalized learning experiences encourages students to think critically and engage with the world around them. When students graduate with a Marquette degree, they are truly prepared and called to Be The Difference.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or