Our Story

The Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) is a story of partnership and problem-solving that is both the genesis of its creation and mirrored in its leadership structure. 

Marquette launched the Explorer Challenge in 2015, under Vice President for Research and Innovation, Jeanne Hossenlopp, to expand innovation on Marquette’s campus. The Challenge received more than 180 proposals from faculty, students, and staff. While proposals came in from all areas of campus, it was noted that women were not participating in a proportional way. One donor to the original campus innovation fund, Claire Rolfs, noticed this problem and decided to do something about it. Thus, their partnership Jeanne began.

Over the next five years, Rolfs and Hossenlopp worked together to facilitate change. First, Rolfs, through the Thomas J. Rolfs Family Foundation, supported a pilot project charged with developing a more inclusive campus innovation community.  This project, the Women’s Innovation Network (WIN), reached across campus as well as into the community to inspire women and other underrepresented populations to become active participants in the university’s growing innovation community and to expand the pipeline of innovation talent. And with that foundation, the partnership was ready for the next step.

In 2019, through the leadership and advocacy of Rolfs and Hossenlopp, IWL was launched with a generous $5 million endowment by the Thomas J. Rolfs Family Foundation. Today, IWL is positioned to leverage the research talents of Marquette’s remarkable community of scholars to become a national thought leader on women’s leadership issues. WIN will serve as the programming arm of the IWL.

Establishing IWL also provided Marquette an opportunity to think creatively about leadership structure and how to mirror this partnership and problem-solving. Thus, IWL uses a shared governance model that takes advantage of a talented and diverse group of faculty and staff who collaboratively lead the institute.

As we live out IWL’s mission to advance women’s leadership locally and globally through pioneering research, innovative programming, and collaborative engagement, we remain deeply appreciative of the support from our partners: Claire, Tom, Janet, and Ted Rolfs.

As advocates for justice, we invite everyone to join us to bring to life the IWL’s vision of intersectional inclusivity and gender equity as we Engage, Inspire, and Transform


Advisory Council

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The IWL welcomes partnerships from within the university and across the community. Our mission is to advance women’s leadership locally and globally through pioneering research, innovative programming, and collaborative engagement. Our partners include:

We look forward to growing our partnerships and welcome any inquiries.