Skip to Main Content

Press Release for Wednesday, March 6, 2019

UNF Hosts ‘Rising Ranks: Women Veterans Through the Ages’ Panel Discussion

Media Contact: Amanda Dawson, PR Specialist

Department of Public Relations

(904) 620-2192 


The University of North Florida’s Military and Veterans Resource Center, with the Northeast Florida Women Veterans Association, will host a “Rising Ranks: Women Veterans Through the Ages” recognition event 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, March 13, at the Adam W. Herbert University Center, Building 43, Board of Trustees Ballroom, Room 1058.


This event is part of the Northeast Florida Women Veterans 2019 Recognition Week, Monday, March 11, through Friday, March 15. The program and panel discussion will feature women veterans with decades of military service, spanning the 80s, 90s and 2000s to the present day.


The program will provide awareness about women veterans by featuring a female panel sharing their personal service experiences, discussing challenges they faced while serving and exploring how military gender demographics have shifted through time.


Featured panel veterans are retired Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michelle Veal, retired Army Col. Dr. Linda Connelly, retired Navy Cmdr. Amanda Hawkins, retired Air Force Master Sgt. Marrian James and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Amanda McGhee.


Veal first joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1984. During her service, she participated in over 2,000 search and rescue missions including the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Recovery Mission. While stationed in Miami, special duty assignments included a multi-agency law enforcement task force under the direction of the Secret Service for the protection and planned emergency water extrication route for the visits of Pope John Paul, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy. She participated in Operation Zero Tolerance, a maritime drug enforcement program whereby she and her crew were featured on the ABC Evening News with Peter Jennings. Currently, Veal works as a physical therapist and a realtor; she is also a member of the Navy League Jacksonville Counsel.


Connelly graduated from the Mobile Infirmary Hospital School of Nursing in Alabama and completed a philosophy of nursing doctorate at Barry University in Florida. Her areas of research interest include disaster preparedness, nursing simulation and care of veterans. Connelly served as a citizen soldier for 25 years before retiring as a Colonel. During her time in the reserves, she served as the deputy commander of the 345th Task Force in Iraq. Her last tour was as a drilling individual mobilization augmentee in the Office of The Surgeon General of the Army in the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Presently she is an assistant professor of nursing in UNF’s Brooks College of Health, School of Nursing.


Hawkins earned her designation as a naval flight officer for her first operational tour in Hawaii in 2000. Most recently, she served as the Executive Officer and Commanding Officer for Patrol Squadron 16. Hawkins served in the Weapons and Tactics Unit at Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Two and later at Patrol Squadron 30 where she helped to establish the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School. Hawkins retired from the U.S. Navy as a Commander in 2018 and started her own business, Ursus USA LLC, as an environmental and human capital consultant. She is actively involved in the non-profit organization Women in Defense, serving as the First Coast Chapter president.


James enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1989 and retired as a Master Sergeant. James holds three Meritorious Service Medals, three Air Force Commendation Medals, four Air Force Achievement Medals, a National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Korean Defense Service Medal. She is a member of the National Defense Transportation Association, Charleston Women in International Trade; Lupus Foundation of America, Florida Chapter; and has officiated basketball for over 26 years.


Since 2005, McGhee has actively served in the U.S. Marine Corps. She was promoted to her current rank of Gunnery July 2018. McGhee served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009 and was deployed to Afghanistan during 2011 and 2012. Her awards include the Navy Achievement Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. She is majoring in public health at UNF and is part of Jacksonville University’s NROTC. She is also an active member in Eta Sigma Gamma, a club dedicated to health education promotion.


This free event will include complimentary breakfast; registration is required via the website. For event questions, contact Theresa Hammock, MVRC coordinator, via email.


UNF currently has 181 female active-duty or veteran students. Some of these students will be featured on yard signs throughout campus during Women Veterans Recognition Week.


The MVRC’s mission is to provide a broad range of student services and resources focused on the unique needs of today’s military veterans, service members and their families to enhance their smooth transition from the military environment to campus life, leading to academic success and post-graduation employment opportunities.


UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.