Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of South Carolina for 2023. In South Carolina, women have become an integral part of the state's current economy, contributing significantly to its growth and success. According to recent statistics, women make up 48% of South Carolina's workforce and play essential roles in various sectors, including healthcare, education, retail, and manufacturing. The state has also seen an increase in the number of women-owned businesses, which have created job opportunities and contributed to increased household income. The presence of this year’s awardees in leadership positions has brought about positive change, resulting in more diverse and inclusive workplaces for the state.

Among this year’s awardees is Meredith Johnson, Chief Product Officer of Litera, who uses 20 years of proven experience to drive the organization’s long-term product strategy and lead the product management and design functions to deliver value to customers. Awardee Willette Burnham-Williams serves as the Chief Equity Officer at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she works to advance health equity and inclusivity across the institution. Also awarded is Karen Saldaña who is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and driving growth and expansion for U.S. HealthTek as their Chief Operating Officer.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Women Leaders of South Carolina for 2023.

1. Willette Burnham-Williams
Chief Equity Officer, Medical University of South Carolina

Dr. Willette Burnham-Williams is the Chief Equity Officer of the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also a member of the President’s Council and the enterprise senior leadership team. Under Burnham-Williams’ leadership, the Office of Equity is charged with further elevating, empowering, and prioritizing innovative infrastructure, programs, and resources across the enterprise. Willette is an experienced senior leader in higher education administration and developing strategic diversity initiatives and multi-faceted programs in small and large, public and private organizations.

Before joining the MUSC family, Burnham-Williams held leadership positions at Williamsburg Technical College, The Citadel Military College of SC, and The College of Charleston. She is a spokesperson on matters related to creating, enhancing, and sustaining an inclusive organization and campus environment and is committed to partnering with leaders to build, foster and integrate comprehensive and intentional professional practices of equity and inclusion.

Dr. Burnham-Williams holds an undergraduate degree from Trinity College, and a Master of Education and Doctor of Philosophy in educational administration from the University of South Carolina. She completed 2 post-doctorate certificate programs, health care executive leadership in diversity and inclusion from Georgetown University and Harvard University’s Summer Institute for Educational Management. Additionally, she has participated in state and national women’s leadership development forums hosted by the American Council on Education and South Carolina Women in Higher Education.

2. Meredith Johnson
Chief Product Officer, Litera

As Chief Product Officer, Meredith Johnson is responsible for driving Litera’s long-term sector-leading product strategy. She leads product management and product design functions contributing to Litera's hyper-growth. Meredith focuses on delivering value with their product teams back to their customers and establishing a strong voice for the customer in their roadmaps.

Meredith brings 20 years of proven experience building world-class products, services, and marketplaces for global business, previously generating nearly $1 billion in company revenue. She's a public speaker on topics including leading product management through business model transformation, fueling innovation through portfolio transformation, and end-of-support product lifecycle frameworks. In addition, she is a consummate advocate for women in tech, a public speaker for several SaaS operating models, and an executive board member for nonprofit organizations like Charleston Promise Neighborhood. Meredith holds two undergraduate degrees from the College of Charleston.

6. Jane Appleby
Chief Medical Officer, Trident Medical Center

Jane Appleby is a renowned healthcare professional who currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Trident Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. With over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry, Appleby has dedicated her career to improving the health outcomes of her patients and communities. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas and completed her residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Before joining Trident Medical Center, Appleby served as the chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where she was instrumental in implementing new clinical programs and technologies to enhance patient care. As the CMO at Trident Medical Center, Appleby continues to lead the hospital's efforts to deliver high-quality, patient-centered care to the Charleston community.

9. Natalia Aresu
Regional President, Humana

With over 18 years of experience at Humana, Natalia Aresu has extensive knowledge in health plan operations, ranging from strategy and clinical care models to finance and member services. She most recently served as the Regional President for South Carolina Healthy Horizons, leading the implementation of Humana's South Carolina Medicaid program, which currently serves nearly 20,000 members.

Before her current roles, Natalia was a Florida long-term care leader, where she implemented two statewide contracts, driving operational excellence and significant membership growth. With over 22 years of progressive leadership experience, Natalia has a unique expertise in delivering care in the home and improving quality outcomes for vulnerable and underserved populations through innovative clinical models and strategic provider relationships. She is actively involved in industry associations and nonprofit organizations focused on improving the health and quality of senior populations. Natalia holds an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology from the City University of New York and an MBA with a concentration in healthcare from Florida Atlantic University. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family and exploring new places.

10. Jen Buckner
SVP of Technology Risk Management, Mastercard

Jennifer Buckner leads Mastercard’s Technology Risk Management, Global Governance, Framework, and Standards team, providing enhanced visibility and proactive management of security and technology risks, with a focus on the integration of information security standards and controls with technology governance, regulatory obligations, and third-party risks.

Jen is a recently retired US Army brigadier general who held numerous intelligence and leadership positions throughout her military career. In her last government role, Jennifer served as the director of cyber for the US Army where she led governance and oversight of cyber capabilities and championed emerging technologies to enable the detection and disruption of significant cyber threats.

Jen holds an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering Management from West Point and an MBA from Central Michigan University. She was the first US Army Cyber Fellow at the National Security Agency and completed Harvard’s Executive Education Program in Cybersecurity. She currently supports the US Army as a highly qualified expert and senior mentor and serves in advisory roles with the Cyber Risk Institute, Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center Cyber Diversity Scholarship, and Partnership for Public Service Cyber Talent Initiative.

17. Denise Croden
VP of Integrated Production, George P Johnson Experience Marketing

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Denise Croden lived in multiple cities across Canada, Germany, and the United States and is a US and Canadian citizen. She currently serves as the Vice President of Integrated Production for George P Johnson Experience Marketing, the world's leading strategic experiential marketing agency. As the world’s leading experiential marketing agency, they have both the obligation and the ability to create lasting industry change through the fabric of diverse, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable live, digital, and hybrid experiences.

Denise held event production, marketing, and sales roles at Edible Arrangements, Jack Morton, and several pharmaceutical companies in Canada. She is a Certified Meeting Professional and holds an undergraduate degree from McMaster University and a marketing certificate from Ryerson University. In 2023 Denise became the chair of the board of directors, after serving as vice chair and a director since June 2021, for the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

19. Kim Mackrill
CEO, Mammoth Technology

Kim Mackrill is committed to using the power of efficient processes to develop compelling solutions for the problems facing financial advisors and their clients. She began her career in the nonprofit world and moved to a publicly traded company in 2005 where she worked with a global sales team, providing oversight to a joint marketing program. She opened Mackrill Media, a boutique design agency, in 2009.

In 2015, Kim co-founded Mineral Interactive with her husband, Jud Mackrill. Together, with a team of strategists, writers, designers, and developers, they helped advisors across the country amplify their message to those who need to hear it most. They were honored to be named Winner, Best Advisor Innovation, Fuse 2017, and XYPN Fintech Champion 2018.

Mineral was acquired by Carson Group in 2018, where Kim served as the creative director and SVP of marketing. Kim led a rebrand of Carson’s five main business entities, bringing each of them into harmony. She directed a complete redesign of the Carson Client Experience, the main client portal for all investor clients. She provided oversight and direction for the complete re-platforming of Carson Coaching, with a focus on the user interface design. Her leadership of the 32-person marketing team included strategists, copywriters, designers, developers, advertising specialists, and an event team.

In 2021, Kim helped launch Milemarker, an integration as a service company focused on the financial industry where she served as CMO. Shortly afterward, she became a general partner in Mammoth Investors where she helped provide brand, marketing, and design to Mammoth’s subsidiary companies including a venture capital company that specializes in health science and Mammoth Technology, a platform as a service company that is revolutionizing the way fund managers, financial advisors, and founders establish and service funds to enhance investor experience. Kim became the CEO of Mammoth Technology in April 2023.

View the complete list of awardees.

20. Marie Prentice
Chief Operating Officer, WAM Academy

Marie Prentice is the powerhouse Chief Operating Officer of WAM Academy and its sister 501 (c)3 organization, WAM Impact Partners, together known as “WAM”. Her impressive background in managing complex logistics and strategies in the operational and political sectors, along with her expertise in fundraising, budgets, and systems management, has made her an industry heavyweight.

She has a wealth of experience leading multiple companies, nonprofits, and government agencies through growth transitions in various settings, including roles at The Obama White House and senior leadership roles in dozens of political campaigns, MoveOn, senior director positions at top management companies, and executive coaching for Fortune 50 and 500 C-Suite leadership. She's been widely sought after for her impact, which includes impressive strategic thought partnerships, innovative solutions, and operational expertise in managing multi-hundred million dollar budgets and thousands of staff.

With her over 20 years of leadership experience, Marie has helped WAM find success with both its for-profit and 501(c)3 nonprofit organizational arms. WAM is focused on redefining and revolutionizing mentorship for Black, Brown, and diverse learners. Using her knowledge of growth, systems, and compliance, she has helped to lead their proprietary platform to be accessible for students in 5-12th grade worldwide. She is committed to supporting the people, organizations, and companies who share her passion for improving lives and lessening inequities. She holds a particular interest in fostering connections and cultivating a dynamic network of like-minded individuals, and she welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with insightful leaders who share her values.

She is a graduate of SUNY at Albany focusing on politics, public policy and communication, and rhetoric. She then attended The University of Akron’s Masters in Applied Politics program. Marie is also a graduate of the Campaign School at Yale and has mentored over 200 women personally and professionally in her career and has been recognized for her leadership and commitment to empowering women in various industries.

21. Emily Watrous
Vice President Human Resources, MARLEYLILLY

Emily Watrous has over 27 years of experience at Fortune 150 companies in various leadership roles and has worked across various industries in both public and privately-run organizations. Emily has a broad range of experience across the human resources spectrum, from change management and compensation to succession planning and talent development, and has served as the VP of HR and CHRO at several organizations. Whether working at the production level or with the c-suite for strategic HR decisions, Emily is comfortable delivering results and consistently exceeds expectations. She has a passion for continuous learning and an open mind in the pursuit of maximizing the potential of people through talent identification, gap assessments, and creating opportunities for both people and organizations to capitalize on their collective strengths and succeed in handling the challenges of tomorrow.

Emily has worked in the areas of higher education, professional services, banking, construction, distribution & transportation, manufacturing, e-commerce, and equipment rental. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology, a master’s degree in human resource development, and her certified senior HR designation. Her career background, experience living abroad for 8+ years, and global perspective make her well-rounded, culturally aware, and adaptable in driving results and building robust teams for the success of any organization.

24. Missy Ryan Penland
Senior Associate Vice President for Development, Clemson University

Missy Ryan Penland is a nationally recognized philanthropic leader within higher education and community-based organizations. She is known for motivating staff and volunteers to reach ambitious philanthropic goals with passion and commitment to mission. A seasoned strategist with executive-level experience in major gifts, prospect management, talent, financial management, and board governance, she excels in operations of all sizes.

Missy currently is the Associate Vice President for Development at Clemson University. She was named one of six Fundraising Stars nationally in 2010 by Fundraising Success Magazine as well as named AFP's Fundraising Executive of the Year for the Upstate of South Carolina. She has been nationally recognized for her work and success in gift officer productivity through her D.A.D. fundraising program by such groups as the Education Advisory Board and the Major Gifts Report.

26. Penn Williams
Chief Operating Officer, Pintail

Penn Williams leads the operations and strategic business initiatives for Pintail and oversees the creation and execution of their annual and long-range business plans. Before joining Pintail in 2018, Penn was director of resource development at Christ Church Episcopal, where she planned and executed multiple annual giving campaigns as well as an $8 million capital campaign. Before this, Penn worked for many years at ScanSource, Inc., a technology distributor, where she was Director of Merchandising.

Penn holds an undergraduate degree in business economics from Wofford College, where she was Phi Beta Kappa and an International MBA from the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Focusing her IMBA studies on brand management, she spent time completing coursework in Germany followed by an internship in Switzerland before ultimately returning to Greenville.

Penn enjoys being a part of Commercial Real Estate Women Upstate and serving on the Youth Parents’ Council and other committees at Christ Church Episcopal. She volunteers at her children’s schools and is an enthusiastic supporter of the local arts community, serving on the board of directors for the Metropolitan Arts Council as well as the steering committee of their MAConnect group.

27. Katharina Zunk
Vice President of Operations, Pyramid Healthcare

Katharina Zunk currently serves as the Vice President of Operations for Pyramid Healthcare. She grew up in the northeastern area of Pennsylvania and New England. She relocated to South Florida at a young age and experienced first-hand a life in addiction and shortly after surrendered to a life in recovery. Katharina has dedicated herself to serving the recovery community. She always volunteers her time to pay it forward and shares her story in hopes of saving others from the throes of addiction that almost took her own life.

Katharina has an extensive background in substance use disorder and mental health treatment. This, accompanied by her clear understanding of the 12 steps and recovery, has allowed her relentless pursuit of helping individuals struggling with addiction. She strives to let every individual know that they are taking the very first step in a life-changing journey, emphasizing how important that first step toward their new life truly is.

Katharina’s extensive operational, clinical, substance use disorder, and mental health background allows her to help not only those who are suffering but also their families suffering as well. Katharina has led many great teams in the behavioral health field. She specializes in facility startups, team building, turnarounds, CARF, Joint Commission, and compliance with all state and accrediting bodies’ standards.

32. Jeannette Andrews
Professor & Dean of the College of Nursing, University of South Carolina

Dr. Jeannette Andrews, recognized nationally and globally for her work in community-engaged research and tobacco control interventions with underserved women, is the 7th Dean and Helen Gurley Wolford Professor of Nursing at the University of South Carolina College of Nursing. With a combined 35 years in nursing practice and education, Dr. Andrews has led transformational innovations that have impacted the health of communities and education and support for future nurses, including advanced practice registered nurses and nurse scientists. Dr. Andrews is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, a Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Executive Fellow, and an AACN-Wharton Executive Fellow.

Dr. Andrews achieved success as a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded investigator for multiple community trials utilizing innovative community engagement approaches to address tobacco prevention and cessation with disparate communities. She has authored over 200 publications and abstracts and has served as an international and national consultant along with contributing to multiple task groups related to health and nursing. Selected awards include the SNRS Researcher in Minority Health, South Carolina Health Care Hero Award, Palmetto Gold Award, NPACE National Nurse Practitioner Award, Veterans Administration National Professional Nurse Award, and Georgia Nurses Association-Nurse of the Year. Before arriving at the university, she served as the associate dean for research and director of the Center for Community Health Partnerships at the Medical University of South Carolina. Clinically, she is a family nurse practitioner and has a robust history in practice working in medical-surgical units, intensive care units, and primary care.

Since arriving at the university, Dr. Andrews has led significant growth, quality outcomes, and diverse partnerships, all of which propelled the college as a nationally recognized premiere College of Nursing. Dr. Andrews received her Ph.D. in nursing science from the University of South Carolina, a master’s in nursing with a family nurse practitioner specialty from Georgia Southern University, and her undergraduate degree in nursing science from the Medical College of Georgia.

36. Elizabeth Regan
Department Chair of Integrated Information Technology & Professor of Health Information Technology, University of South Carolina

Dr. Elizabeth Regan is Chair of the Department of Integrated Information Technology and Associate Professor of Health Information Technology at the University of South Carolina. She is also an adjunct professor at the Arnold School of Public Health. Before joining USC in 2011, she served as chair of the Department of Information Systems, College of Business, at Morehead State University, Kentucky, for 11 years, and as the Elmer and Donna Smith Endowed Chair in Health Systems Management for two years. She serves on the board of directors for the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) of which she is a founding member and first board chair. The RHIO also serves as the Regional Extension Center for Eastern Kentucky. Dr. Regan served five years on the coordinating council for the Kentucky State Health Information Exchange and on the faculty of the University of Kentucky Medical School Rural Physician Leadership program. She was recently appointed to the national HIMSS Innovation Committee.

Dr. Regan holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and previously held appointments as an adjunct professor at New York University and the University of Connecticut School of Business. She brings to the classroom 16 years of IT management experience to the industry, where she was responsible for many projects involving system design and implementation, end-user computing, knowledge management, and organizational transformation. Current research interests are primarily in the areas of health information technology and exchange and in information technology, innovation, and organizational change. Her projects have been supported by major grants from HRSA, The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation Grant, and the US Department of Education. She is the lead author of two college texts on end-user information systems and has published and presented her research in numerous national and international forums.

38. Kylie Felker
President and Principal, Foster Victor Wealth Advisors

As the President of Foster Victor, Kylie Felker leads the strategic direction of the firm and encourages innovative ideas to provide world-class planning to clients. She ensures the proper allocation of resources to create successful relationships and encourages the professional development of the FV team through short-term and long-term goal planning. Her favorite part of her job is being surrounded by a team of hard-working and thoughtful professionals who inspire her every day. Kylie also serves as the chief compliance officer, shaping policies and procedures that continue to evolve to reflect the financial industry’s ever-changing regulatory requirements.

Kylie graduated from Furman University with an undergraduate degree in accounting in 2009 and has since been a member of their Young Alumni Council. She was awarded the Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional Designation by The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 and recently finished her Executive MBA through the University of North Carolina. Kylies serves on the board of the Greenville Local Development Corporation, an organization that strives to stimulate Greenville’s growth and community development through catalytic and economic projects.

View the complete list of awardees.

40. Laurie Haughey
Executive Director, Operational Communications, Marketing and Communications, Clemson University

Laurie Haughey brings leadership experiences from two preeminent SC employers to direct operational communications at Clemson University, collaborating with leaders to establish communication priorities and change management communications tied to the University's strategic plan. Previously, Haughey directed communications for all of Clemson’s HR and payroll functions and served as director of operations for HR during its national CHRO search.

Previously, Haughey served as director of education services & marketing for Performance Solutions by Milliken where she led the launch of multiple lead-generating Safety and Operational Excellence conferences. The conferences extended this brand in the market and contributed directly to double-digit growth in clients during this period. Performance Solutions by Milliken is a consulting business within Milliken & Company’s portfolio of businesses working in more than 30 countries around the world.

Earlier, as Clemson’s director of professional advancement and continuing education, Haughey marketed executive education, Six Sigma, Operational Excellence, Lean, and other best practices. She also cultivated a consortium of leading SC employers to create and enroll participants in Clemson’s inaugural Leadership Summit for High Potential and Emerging Leaders. Collaborators included BMW, GE Energy, Hubbell, Michelin, Wells Fargo, the City of Greenville, BB&T, RBC Insurance, and Duke Energy.

Haughey penned the preface to Marlene Caroselli’s The Business Ethics Activity Book published by the American Management Association and Steadily Breaking Through Barriers: How Milliken Improves Performance and Innovation for Industry Week magazine. She serves on the board of the Community Foundation of Greater Clemson as chair of its Grants Committee and is past president of South Carolina’s chapter of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

41. Mary Alexander
Assistant Provost for Academic Administration & Chief of Staff, University of South Carolina

Mary Alexander is the Assistant Provost for Academic Administration and Chief of Staff at the University of South Carolina. She manages the division’s $47 million budget and is responsible for the HR functions for the division, the university’s calendaring office, Military Affairs which includes ROTC, and the Community Engagement office. She has budgetary oversight over all of the USC Columbia academic units and guides on operational issues that are elevated to the Office of Academic Affairs.

Before working at USC, she was employed by the Budget and Control Board as director of revenue management and Department of Health and Human Services as manager of institutional research and statistics. Before her state service, she enjoyed ten years working in private industry, including Wachovia Bank, Columbia Farms, and Yon-Drake and Associates investment consulting firm.

Mary has served as the chair of USC's Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) since 2010. Recently the WLI was recognized with the national leadership award for the Advancement of Women in Higher Education from the American Council on Education. Further, she developed and leads the Executive Leadership Academy at USC. This program prepares highly talented individuals to obtain executive-level leadership positions in higher education institutions. She is committed to building a pathway for underrepresented leaders within the academy and volunteers her time and expertise to help others develop their leadership acumen.

Alexander attended the University of South Carolina and received undergraduate degrees in both finance and management science, a master's in public administration, and a doctorate in education administration with a concentration in higher education. She enjoys teaching administrative leadership and governmental HR in the MPA program at USC. She is most proud of her family; her husband and two daughters.

43. Koshina Legette
Managed Services Director, PwC Columbia, SC

Koshina Legette is a Managed Services Director for PwC’s Columbia, SC office where she leads several professional revenue cycle teams in providing operational support functions for hospitals and medical groups. Her teams operate virtually as an Extended Business Office delivering optimal results and meeting the financial and operational goals of each of their clients. As a PwC Managed Services Director, Koshina remains dedicated to achieving results that drive overall efficiencies and operational success for her clients. She consistently sharpens her expertise and has a knack for connecting the smallest details to business objectives as she applies her diverse healthcare knowledge. She promotes and facilitates a culture of learning and progression even during the most demanding fast-paced periods supported by her business acumen and strategic leadership.

Koshina is recognized as a highly motivated and results-oriented healthcare business professional with a successful track record. Because she thrives on learning and development, she continues to advance her skillset allowing for continued success. She stays abreast of the ever-changing healthcare industry, maintains current knowledge of industry best practices, and is an active member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. Koshina served the SC Chapter as CRCA Program Chair for a period of her membership. Her talent for mastering technology has enabled her to perform at optimal levels. She operated as the Payment Application for Single Business Office Access and Revenue Cycle Readiness Lead, ARCR for Epic build and implementation for a large hospital. This role included build and implementation training at EPIC’s facility in Verona, Wisconsin resulting in certification.

Koshina gives back to her community through the mentorship of professionals as they progress through their career journey, and she serves as a resource to her peers and other professionals in the healthcare industry. Her relationships are grounded in trust, transparency, and knowledge sharing. Koshina inspires others to present their best selves every day as they develop their personal and professional brand.

44. Shaniece Criss
Associate Professor & Graduate Program Director, Furman University

Dr. Shaniece Criss is an Associate Professor and public health researcher in the Health Sciences Department at Furman University. She is also the director of the Master of Arts in Advocacy and Equity Studies, which is an innovative program for problem-solvers and leaders who want academic and applied expertise to enhance their communities.

As a founding member of the Big Data for Health Equity Research Collaborative, Shaniece works with university researchers from across the country to investigate how societal issues impact health. At Furman, she partners with the Institute for the Advancement of Community Health and serves as a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach.

Dr. Criss is an elected official on Travelers Rest City Council and serves on the board of directors for Prisma Health. As a public health practitioner, she served as producer and host of a national television show for the Ministry of Health in Guyana during her Peace Corps service. She graduated with a doctorate from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, master's degrees from Harvard Kennedy School and Emory University, and an undergraduate degree from Oglethorpe University. 

45. Ellen Hart
Regulatory and Business Controls Director, 1st Franklin Financial

Ellen Hart is the Regulatory and Business Controls Director with the Compliance Department at 1st Franklin Financial Corporation and specializes in regulatory compliance in the subprime/near prime lending space. 1FFC is known as the Friendly Franklin Folks among its community of branches throughout the Southeast. As a family-owned company for over 80 years, 1FFC has worked with generations of families to provide them with the funds they need when they need them the most.

At 1FFC, Hart oversees regulatory licensing, examinations, complaints, and vendor management programs and is also skilled in change management, risk mitigation and remediation, customer service, and leadership. One of Hart’s favorite professional interests is studying complex regulations and translating them into plain language to educate line-of-business partners and branch staff members to better operationalize regulatory requirements.

Before joining the 1FFC family, Hart utilized her decade-long experience working in the financial services industry at other organizations such as World Finance, Heights Finance, and Genesis Financial Solutions. Hart is committed to using her cheerful demeanor and servant's heart to encourage and help others succeed in all aspects of life. Hailing from the Upstate of South Carolina, Hart is a two-time Clemson University graduate, receiving her undergraduate degree in Spanish and MBA from the esteemed University.

46. Linda Walder
Co-Founder, President & Executive Director, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation

Linda J. Walder is the Co-Founder, President, and Executive Director of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation for Adult Autism which was established in 2002 as a continuing legacy and honor in the name of her son, Daniel Jordan Fiddle who passed away at the age of nine. It was Linda’s vision that started a movement to embrace the fact that Autism is lifelong and that the diverse population of adults should be valued as individuals as a matter of human rights. Linda’s unique hands-on approach to developing, advocating for, and funding programs, creating resources, and most recently designing the first adult Autism focused endowment funds at leading United States universities, has blazed a trail that will guarantee innovation concentrating on adult Autism now, and for generations to come.

Linda has received over 20 honors of recognition for her visionary and inspiring efforts that opened doors for Autistic adults to have opportunities to work, live and recreate in their communities. Linda works tirelessly with legislators in Washington, DC, and on the statewide level to develop public policy that supports the needs of individuals and families affected by Autism. Collaboratively, Linda has spearheaded the creation of much-needed resources such as a pocket transportation troubleshooting guide that promotes independent use of buses and trains to a guide on the prevalent co-morbid condition of Autism and Epilepsy, to name a few.

Linda is also a writer and motivator using her blog Autism for a Lifetime: Finding Joy in the Journey, and her numerous published articles, and appearances on television and other media as a means of fostering awareness about adult Autism and promoting thoughtful discourse on prevalent issues. In 2016, Linda joined the editorial board of Autism Spectrum News. That same year, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Leader in Adult Autism Award was established in partnership with the Autism Society of America as an enduring source of inspiration to the Autism community and beyond recognizing the strengths and talents of adults with Autism, and those who exemplify leadership through their supportive endeavors.

47. Cathy Stevens
Senior Associate, Riley Institute

Cathy Stevens is a Senior Associate with the Riley Institute. In this role, she serves as an advisor to and representative of the Riley Institute with particular emphasis on the work of the Center for Education Policy and Leadership. She offers counsel to the directors of the Riley Institute’s after-school and summer and facilitates connections among them and state and national individuals and organizations involved in after-school and summer learning.

Before her current role, Stevens served as the director of after-school and summer learning initiatives at the Institute and was the director of the White-Riley-Peterson Afterschool Policy Fellowship for eleven years. She has also served as a member of the selection committee for the Diversity Leaders Initiative.

Cathy is a member of the board of directors for Family Connection of South Carolina and is passionate about disability advocacy and policy in support of individuals with disabilities. She holds an undergraduate degree in English from Furman University and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Clemson University.

View the complete list of awardees.

48. Leslie Skardon
Director of Client Partnership, Global Prairie

Leslie Skardon serves as Director of Client Partnership and runs the Charleston office of Global Prairie, an international purpose-driven marketing firm. In her role, she oversees a $1.5 million portfolio of revenue, successfully leading strategic insights, purpose-definition, and branding and communications projects for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and the federal government.

Beyond her professional career, Leslie is the founder of Charleston Civil Rights and Civics, an immersive educational program for high school freshmen to teach the untold civil rights history of the Lowcountry. Leslie was recently appointed by the Mayor of Charleston to serve on the City’s Commission on Women. She is an active board member and advocate for the League of Women Voters, and has been a champion for the International African American Museum through her service on their Interfaith Advisory Committee. Leslie sits on the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Policy Committee and is a graduate of their Leadership Charleston program. She was recently appointed to the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative fellow.

49. Christina Tran
Director of Finance and Project Management, Contender Development

Christina is a Greenville native currently serving as Contender Development’s Director of Finance and Project Management. Before joining Contender, Christina spent 7 years in wealth management and finance where she provided holistic relationship management using portfolio analysis, financial forecasting, and a goals-based approach to ensure clients’ financial success.

Christina attended Arizona State University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in international business and finance. Outside of the office, you can catch her hiking with her dog, reading a good history book, or at a cycle class.

View the complete list of awardees.