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Alumnae and female UNG students recognized for leadership

March 2, 2020

From the moment Jenny Muller stepped onto campus at the University of North Georgia (UNG) for Freshman Recruit Orientation Group (FROG) Week with the Corps of Cadets, she realized she wanted to lead them.

Her goal was not easy to achieve, especially since not a lot of women were in the Corps' leadership ranks. In fact, some laughed when she said she wanted to be a company commander.

Muller overcame those stumbling blocks, mental challenges and setbacks to succeed at UNG. In her senior year, she became the first female company commander at UNG. The 1994 graduate shared this story on March 1 during the annual Women of UNG Leadership Luncheon on UNG's Dahlonega Campus.

"I wanted the women of UNG to know not to let other people's limited beliefs limit them," she said.

Her message came through loud and clear to the nearly 100 UNG students, faculty and staff along with friends and family at the luncheon.

"She paved the path for us," said Nataleigh Ryan, a member of the Corps of Cadets. "Because of her, we didn't face as much push back as she did."

Samantha Ethridge, a member of the Corps of Cadets, said she had heard Muller's story as a freshman.

"Her story inspired me and it showed me where I want to go and what I wanted to do," she said.

Muller was one of six UNG alumnae recognized at the annual event. Her fellow honorees included:

  • Beth Brownlee, '79, a motivational speaker, cancer survivor and co-founder of Trust Your Journey, which is an online company offering ecofriendly women’s apparel, jewelry and accessories
  • Laura Williams Croft, '85, vice president for advancement at the CDC Foundation, which is an independent nonprofit that supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Jacqueline Jenkins Daniel, '04, founder of ConnectAbility, a Dahlonega-based nonprofit organization that creates communities where people of all abilities are valued, included and empowered.
  • Patricia Vandiver Powell, '72, retired senior vice president and officer of The Coca-Cola Company and a former UNG Board of Trustee
  • Greta Railsback, '99, the first female UNG Corps of Cadets graduate to be promoted to full colonel.

Leanne Minghini, chairwoman of the Women of UNG, said the leadership luncheon recognized outstanding alumnae and students who have excelled in their collegiate and professional careers and supported the university. It is held annually on a Sunday in March, which is Women's History Month.

"What better time to recognize them?" she said.

Nearly 30 female UNG students were nominated by deans and professors for the honor. A committee selected 11 to be recognized. They were:

  • Samantha Ethridge, a senior from Roswell, Ga., pursuing a psychology degree
  • Olivia Ferrara, a senior from Vidalia, Georgia, pursuing a biology degree
  • Sydney Lawrence, a junior from Macon, Georgia, pursuing degrees in marketing and management
  • Jelma Flores-Mota, a junior from Gainesville, Georgia, pursuing a political science degree
  • Kimberlee Nettles, junior from Waycross, Georgia, pursuing an early childhood education degree
  • Camden Pruitt, senior from Woodstock, Georgia, pursuing a music education degree
  • Nataleigh Ryan, a senior from Augusta, Georgia, pursuing a sociology degree
  • Logan Scott, a senior from Pembroke, Georgia, pursuing a kinesiology degree
  • Kylee Smith, senior from Suwanee, Georgia, pursuing an international affairs degree
  • Julianne Sutton, junior from Flowery Branch, pursuing a kinesiology degree
  • Adriana Zarate, a senior from Alpharetta, Ga., pursuing a kinesiology degree

"These women had to display the leadership qualities of integrity, initiative, courage, humility, responsibility, and positivity," Minghini said. "We are really excited to honor these students who stepped up and took the initiative to get involved and lead."

Muller credits UNG and its Corps of Cadets for teaching her about leadership. She does both as a district sales manager at Smith & Nephew, a British multinational medical equipment company. The Houston, Texas, professional manages nine sales representatives covering the Gulf Coast region.

"I feel my experience in the Corps of Cadets gave me the knowledge and the confidence to 'put myself out there' and believe I could do it or at least deserved a chance to try," she said. "My experience at UNG also taught me that I could weather the storm. When times were difficult, I wore my class ring to remind myself that tough times don't last, but tough people do."

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