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Program seeks to build leadership skills in female students

UNG wants to develop the leadership skills in its female students and give them the confidence to step up.

Five staff members across multiple campuses at the University of North Georgia (UNG) are shepherding a new initiative to instill leadership and confidence in female students.

The Women's Leadership Initiative, supported by a $5,000 Presidential Innovation Award, is under the guidance of Lindsay Bailey, director of student involvement for the Oconee Campus; Mimi Fortune, coordinator of student leadership and commuter services for the Dahlonega Campus; Gicorey Keys, coordinator of student leadership for the Oconee Campus; Cara Ray, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students for the Cumming and Gainesville campuses; and Stacie Rowley, associate dean for student life for the Gainesville Campus.

"We started this program because we noticed there was a lack of female students stepping into leadership positions," Fortune said. "UNG has a lot of administrators who are women, but at the student level there were only a few women leading. We want to develop the leadership skills in our female students and give them the confidence to step up. There is a gap between the number of women who graduate as leaders and carry on in leadership professionally."

A women's empowerment luncheon on salary negotiation was held earlier in the fall that had excellent attendance on the three campuses participating. Events coming in spring 2016 include sexual assault awareness programs, an assertiveness luncheon, and three presentations delivered on the Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee campuses by Josie Ahlquist, a national speaker on student leadership and empowerment. She will talk about women using social media and their digital identities, and will also discuss online harassment that women face.

"We have had very positive feedback and many participants across our campuses support this initiative," Ray said. "One of our goals is to ensure that our female students are taking advantage of the leadership opportunities available to them, and that they reach their leadership goals after graduation."

Ray said that each campus' student government association has also been instrumental and enthusiastic in supporting the initiative.

"SGA finds great importance in the Women's Leadership Initiative. One of the best parts of this program is that it forms connections so the women of UNG currently holding leadership titles and positions can serve as mentors for our female students," said Grace Magrino, SGA President of the UNG Oconee Campus.

"Our young women leaders also need mentors," Fortune added. "Women who are in leadership positions must impart knowledge to the generation behind. Sometimes people get into their careers and forget about those behind them. It's important to look behind you and help the next generations forward, and this is especially important for first generation students who  may not have had these leadership opportunities exemplified to them."

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