Creating Your Own Program

This initial information can help you start a will program on your campus. To request additional materials or to ask questions, contact us.

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  • Staffing, Resources and Curriculum

    Minimum programmatic and financial requirements for establishing a will program:

    • Sufficient courses in WGSS to create a minor, the academic foundation of the will program. If you can’t provide a minor, can you offer a WGSS certificate? Or can another combination of courses accomplish your goals? It need not be an official minor or certificate, but required coursework is important in cultivating community and a shared intellectual foundation among members.
    • A person who will administer the components of the program: WGSS curriculum, including the internship; leadership development, including the student-run organization; social justice programming outside of the classroom; and community building.
    • A program budget, which can start small and increase over time.

    Things to keep in mind:

    • You can start small and build your program over time.
    • If you accomplish a great deal with a minimal amount of money, however, budget decision-makers might think that you do not need additional resources. Document the time and energy put into the initiative so that you can make your case for increased resources when the time comes.
    • You can work with other departments to co-sponsor programs to defray the costs of programming. Working with other departments simultaneously builds support for will.
    • Create a budget line for contributions, a line that will not revert at the end of the year. This is a powerful way to build both financial and program support.
    • Learn the budget cycle of your university.
    • Determine the personnel responsible for distributing, and the process for obtaining, university funding.
    • Find examples of successful budget requests.
    • Identify foundations, grant agencies, and individuals to cultivate for financial support.
    • Use your advisory board to help facilitate this initiative (see information under advisory board).
  • Student Recruitment, Selection and Retention

    Recruitment and Selection

    At the University of Richmond, a maximum of 30 students are admitted to will each year through a selection process. Most are first-year students, but we also accept transfer students and sophomores as long as they commit to the WGSS minor.

    Students have two time frames to apply: "early admission," due Aug. 1, and fall admission, due October 1, prior to spring registration.

    Items to consider:

    • Establish program standards for admission.
    • Determine number of membership spaces available based on resources and maximum class enrollments.
    • Create a timeline for selection.
    • Publicize the program widely and work closely with offices representing diverse populations.
    • We have found orientation programming especially important in promoting the program to new students.
    • Incorporate faculty and staff into the selection and recruitment process.
    • Meet with academic advisors and faculty to explain both the will program and their role in the selection process, such as encouraging them to apply and/or nominating them.
    • Review applications; select and notify students.
    • Provide orientation and mentoring for new members.
    • Solicit feedback from students who chose not to apply.
    • Create and maintain a social media presence.


    These procedures help retain students in the program:

    • Advise students individually. Establish a regular one-on-one meeting schedule.
    • Obtain regular feedback from will students.
    • Involve students in all aspects of the program.
    • Organize peer mentoring.
    • Hold member retreats.
    • Monitor student participation and attendance at programs and other events.
    • Conduct exit interviews with seniors and students leaving the program.
    • Make sure course offerings are sufficient for students to complete the requirements.
    • Make sure course offerings and program topics reflect diversity.
    • Build faculty and staff support for the program.
    • Require will-only classes if possible, as it facilitates both intellectual community and personal connections among students.
  • Programming Ideas

    Free or low-cost

    • Brown-bag lunches with faculty, staff, or leaders from local organizations with a feminist focus
    • Career talks with college/university or program alums
    • Film festival using campus library’s media resources

    Moderate cost

    • Sponsor an evening talk featuring a local speaker
    • Attend local plays, conferences, or other events with students
    • Visit local sites related to social justice
    • Co-sponsor speakers with other departments or external organizations

    High cost

    • Invite well-known speakers using a speakers’ bureau. Note that such events often require up to a year of advance planning
  • Student Leadership Organization

    Advise students closely as they establish structures and processes to practice inclusive leadership through a student leadership organization. This work takes intention and sustained attention as advisors and students think through how to create and maintain an organization in which intersectional analysis is put into practice.

    Advise students as they establish:

    • Goals and focus of the student leadership organization
    • Criteria for participation and attendance
    • A meeting schedule
    • The leadership structure within the organization
    • Meeting content
    • Opportunities for member feedback (all-member retreats, annual surveys, etc.)
    • Activist initiatives
  • Alum Outreach

    Though alum outreach can happen only after a program begins, it is important to plan ahead to establish and maintain contact with program alums.

    • Maintain accurate student records. Work with the registrar’s office and/or alum office to create record keeping that identifies students in your program.
    • Hold exit interviews with seniors to get their feedback on the program and to learn ways they might be interested in connecting with it after graduation.
    • Record students’ jobs or graduate school plans in your files so you can link current and former students for internship contacts or organized career talks.
    • Develop an email list through which you can keep alums informed of upcoming events and significant program developments.
    • Create a list of alums interested in returning to your institution for alum lunches or in providing internship sites for your current students.
  • Advisory Board

    The advisory board should be your supporters – the people who believe in your program. You can start small and grow over time. At the University of Richmond, will started with a small group of dedicated faculty and grew over time to encompass a larger group of faculty, staff, and alums who represent a diverse cross-section of the university.

    There are two main reasons for having an advisory board:

    1. These "friends of the program" increase and build support for will among administrators, faculty, students, and staff. It is important that they stay well informed about the program so that they can promote it based on current information.
    2. The will advisory board helps the person(s) staffing the program to problem solve and strategize. When you are facing resistance to any part of the program, it is helpful to have a group of people to brainstorm about strategy and action. Also, these people can apply pressure on behalf of the program if necessary. As you start your initiative, this group of supporters can be very helpful.
  • Program Assessment

    Define your program’s goals and objectives:

    • Develop program outcomes and how you are going to assess them.
    • Establish a database of student information for your program from the beginning.
    • Utilize data collected for other purposes to enhance your program’s database.
    • Maintain an accurate history of program implementation.
    • Involve students from the beginning.
    • Utilize combinations of qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
    • Vary the approaches and types of instruments used to gather data to prevent assessment fatigue.
  • Worksheets to Help You Plan and Strategize