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Women of UNG honor student and alumnae leaders

Ten female University of North Georgia (UNG) students were honored March 3 during the Women of UNG Leadership Luncheon on the Dahlonega Campus.

Some students strive to earn the highest grade in class or conduct research with a faculty member. Some students volunteer for charity or work part-time to pay their tuition. Some are campus leaders while others encourage leaders.

Ten female University of North Georgia (UNG) students who encompass those attributes and more were honored March 3 during the annual Women of UNG Leadership Luncheon. The event on UNG's Dahlonega Campus marked the beginning of Women's History Month, which is in March. The Women's History Month Expo was March 4 on UNG's Gainesville Campus.

"If you had asked me as a freshman if I thought I was going to have all of the leadership experiences that I had during college, I would have told you that you're crazy," said Madison Black, a senior pursuing a degree in middle grades education from Canton, Georgia. "However, now as a senior, I really think every experience provided to me at UNG has helped shape me into the student leader I am today."

Emilie Bertsch, from Cumming, Georgia, said she felt humbled to be selected as an honoree.

"The honor of being considered a leader is something that I don't take lightly," the senior pursuing a dual degree in elementary education and special education said. "I don't do the work required or go above and beyond to be recognized. I do it because I have a passion for the field that I am in and supporting others in any way that I can."

Leanne Schliestett Minghini ('88), chairwoman of the board of Women of UNG, said the luncheon's purpose is to recognize female leadership, including current students and alumnae. The honorees were nominated by deans, department heads and alumni for displaying leadership qualities such as integrity, initiative, courage, humility, responsibility, and positivity.

Of the 27 nominations, the committee selected the "best of the best." Along with Bertsch and Black, the other eight students were:

  • Lauren Bell, a senior pursuing a degree in nursing from Dawsonville, Georgia.
  • Wakeitha Cunningham, a sophomore pursuing a degree in business administration from Auburn, Georgia.
  • Gabrielle Davis, a senior pursuing a degree in biology from Dahlonega, Georgia.
  • Coral Montalvo, a senior pursuing a degree in kinesiology from Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Laura Rodes, a senior pursuing a degree in psychology from Sharpsburg, Georgia.
  • McKay Shively, a senior pursuing a degree in management from Dawsonville, Georgia
  • Melissa Silva, a senior pursuing a degree in Spanish from Gainesville, Georgia
  • Renee VanHorn, a senior pursuing a degree in business management from Marietta, Georgia.

Students were not the only ones receiving praise. Five alumnae taking a bow were:

  • Honorable Judith S. Helton '66 from Acworth, Georgia.
  • Judy Norris Palmer '74 from Dahlonega, Georgia.
  • Lorraine Carrington Payne '63 from Monroe, Georgia.
  • Rochelle Bannister Schneickert '72 from Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Donna Hix Scott '81 from Alto, Georgia.

As the keynote speaker, Scott shared her leadership journey and the truths she has learned along the way.


Donna Hix Scott '81 was the keynote speaker at the Women of UNG Leadership Luncheon in the Dining Hall banquet room on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. Ten female students and five alumnae were honored.

"I think the most important truth is to lead yourself first," she said, providing examples such as getting to class on time, attending all of your classes and following through with your actions. "Do the right thing. It is always the hardest thing to do, but it will serve you well."

Scott, who is the principal for Phoenix High School in Gwinnett County, said delivering the speech was an honor. She credited UNG for giving her such a platform to share her wisdom with students and acknowledged the role the school played for her.

"UNG was a launch pad for my career," she said. "It provided me with a network of friends and colleagues that I have to this day."

Minghini said showcasing the alumnae such as Scott to the female student leaders provides them tangible role models for life.

"We want to recognize our female student leaders and inspire them to remain active and do good things in the community," she said. "Our alumnae's stories inspire our students and show them how far they can go."

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