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The Legacy

1933: Mount Holyoke College in Hartford opens to students.  Name changes over the years to Hartford College, and later,  Hartford College for Women.

1991: Hartford College for Women (HCW) merges with the University of Hartford.

2004: HCW ceases to exist as a degree granting institution.

2006: Women’s Education and Leadership Fund (The Women’s Advancement Initiative) established.

2009: The Women’s Advancement Initiative engaged in a rigorous strategic planning process which evolved the mission to include not only enhancing the education of participants and empowering them to lead, but also focusing on student acquisition and retention.

2010-13: Launch of the Dorothy Goodwin Scholarship Program.

2012-13: Initial pilot programming for first-year students with a plan to build the program incrementally over the following three years. 

2013-14: The program serves both first-year and sophomore students.

2015-16: Comprehensive four-year leadership development program.

2016: Celebrate 10 Year Anniversary and first graduating class. The Women’s Advancement Initiative continues the legacy of Hartford College for Women.

In September 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, 22 young women became the first students and freshman class in Mount Holyoke in Hartford, which has been described as a "noble experiment." Between 1933 and 1939, Mount Holyoke faculty traveled to Hartford each week to teach a freshman course of study at the YWCA formerly located at 252 Ann Street, where the Civic Center stands today. Tuition was $250 for the year. These intrepid pioneer students had responded to a paragraph in the Mount Holyoke College catalog for the 1933-1934 academic year that read as follows:

"To meet the needs of a group of students in Hartford, Connecticut, and its vicinity who are unable to enter a college farther from their home, Mount Holyoke College offers in the city of Hartford for the year 1933-1934 a sufficient number of freshman courses to enable a student to accomplish there the work of the first year of College. These courses are taught by instructors who are or have been members of the faculty of Mount Holyoke College and by a member of the faculty at Trinity College."

As a start-up, The Women’s Advancement Initiative’s (formerly The Funding Entity, and later the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund or WELFund) challenge was to make its conceptual origins a sustainable reality.  It needed to marshal available resources and use them judiciously to build credible programs that advanced its mission, honored the legacy of HCW and benefited the University. 

Initially, The Women’s Advancement Initiative enhanced women’s education primarily through the awarding of grants to faculty, staff and students.  In 2009, The Women’s Advancement Initiative engaged in a rigorous and thorough strategic planning process for fiscal years 2010 through 2013. Emerging from this strategic plan was the charge to build a leadership program for University of Hartford undergraduate women that would advance the mission of The Women’s Advancement Initiative, honor the legacy of HCW, and benefit the University. In addition to enhancing the education of participants and empowering them to lead, the program was to be designed to enhance student acquisition and retention.

This focus on students sharpened The Women’s Advancement Initiative’s connection to the HCW legacy and positioned The Women’s Advancement Initiative to significantly enhance its ability to advance the interests of the University. This “value added” initiative has proven to attract students and keep them connected and engaged. After careful preparation, the initial pilot began in 2012-2013 with programming for first-year students and a plan to build the program incrementally over the following three years.  In 2013-2014, the program served both first-year and sophomore students. By 2015-2016, the program will be a comprehensive four-year leadership development program.  During the 2010-2013 time period, The Women’s Advancement Initiative also launched the Dorothy Goodwin Scholarship Program and has continued to invest in student/faculty project partnerships, while also serving University female faculty and staff through the Laura Johnson Initiative for Women Leaders and The Women’s Advancement Initiative’s Women’s Wednesday Lunch & Learn series. The Women’s Advancement Initiative works with partners on campus to co-sponsor programs of interest to women including lectures, book signings, film screenings, receptions, lunches and dinners, concerts, and community service projects.