The will program was founded in 1980 as part of Westhampton College's response to a growing body of feminist scholarship and research demonstrating that women's colleges provide exceptional learning opportunities for students.

The University of Richmond's innovative program was one of the first in the U.S. to combine coursework in women's studies (which became Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Richmond in 2004) with internships and leadership opportunities outside of the classroom.

Initially known as Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL), the program stopped using WILL as an acronym and added an asterisk (WILL*) as a creative way to signal the full inclusion and support of its trans and non-binary students in 2013.

In 2020, the program announced the new, but familiar, program name of will. The name signals that will is a verb, a call to action as demonstrated by the question: How will you change the world?

will is a dynamic, living program that agilely responds to cultural shifts, academic developments, and changing student needs and demands. The will program name, discussed above, is one example of how the program has responded to changing student needs and current scholarship in WGSS.

Over the years, a number of public and private institutions have replicated this model, including Duke University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, University of Maryland Baltimore County, the College of New Jersey, University of Cincinnati, and Pace University, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences.