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Siegel Institute's Phenomenal Woman of the Year announced: CNN news editor wins

Pictured left to right, 2013 PWC Awardee Taunya Lowe, 2014 Phenomenal Woman of the Year Awardee Tanika Gray Valbrun, and Seigel Institute Executive Director Linda M. Johnston.
Pictured left to right, 2013 PWC Awardee Taunya Lowe, 2014 Phenomenal Woman of the Year Awardee Tanika Gray Valbrun, and Seigel Institute Executive Director Linda M. Johnston.
Kathy Rechsteiner with permission

For 14 years the Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character at the Kennesaw State University (KSU) has sought to enlighten, empower and recognize women in all walks and stages of life. And while former KSU President Dr. Betty Siegel has the distinction of being the name and power behind the created organization (and Dr. Linda M. Johnston enjoys being the KSU Siegel Institute Executive Director), it is Joann Trodahl who serves as the project coordinator for their big annual event known as "The Phenomenal Women's Conference".

On Friday, March 28, 2014, the Atlanta Top News Examiner communicated with Joann Trodahl about her 14 years of service to an institution credited with helping hundreds of women move forward more successfully in their personal and professional pursuits in life. But, true to form, Trodahl wanted to talk about the winner of this year's 2014 Phenomenal Woman of the Year instead.

And why shouldn't she, as Tanika Gray Valbrun is the KSU Siegel Institute's 2014 Phenomenal Woman of the Year awardee. And Valbrun is worthy of the accolade, currently employed with CNN as a news editor and producer, but accomplished in many more ways than just her media day job might indicate.

Yes, Tanika Vlabrun has a formal education in media and broadcasting, which has served her well in her professional endeavors with the Cable News Network in Atlanta, but she has also pulled serious duty as a teacher in Broward County Florida and in the Atlanta Public School system, according to KSU's Joann Trodahl. And Vlabrun also manages to combine the two loves of media and education into a philanthropic effort in which she seeks to create opportunities and provide knowledge to elementary and high school students who aspire to work in the field of media themselves one day.

Both Vlabrun's efforts--Project Media for elementary school students, and CNN Future for high school students--help exemplify the leadership qualities sought in an awardee of the Siegel Institute's highest honor. But the buck doesn't stop there when it comes to naming someone to hold the distinguished title, as Dr. Betty Siegel founded her namesake organization on leadership, ethics and character. And Tanika Gray Valbrun has proven to be worthy of recognition in all three.

For example, in her job with CNN she says she is tasked with "investigating, pitching and developing stories for CNN, HLN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol and CNN dot com." And anyone in the journalism field knows that there is always the potential for legal suit to be brought against any journalist who does not get their facts straight. And large media outlets and cable news channels who value their reputation don't want anyone handling their story investigations who will not observe the best and most ethical practices in that regard.

Tanika Vlabrun has been doing that in her journalism capacity since she began with CNN, and she has three Peabody Awards to prove it. And if she had any concerns about the legality of any part of a story she was covering, she could just ask her husband James Valbrun, who happens to be an attorney with the Valbrun Law Group.

This 2014 awardee has also received the Rising Star Journalist award from the National Alliance for Women in Media. And before that she received the Charter School Teacher of the Year Award. So this KSU Siegel Institute 2014 Phenomenal Woman of the Year had leadership skills and an ethical background, and loads of character, long before it was recognized at KSU. But she has finally taken her rightful place this year by being recognized at the PWC annual event. And she did so alongside her awardee predecessor Taunya Lowe, another outstanding black female making a positive difference in Georgia.

Click here to learn more about the Siegel Institute and the courses currently available in leadership and ethics. And to learn more about the type of workshops that were offered during this year's phenomenal women's conference, and additional articles about some of the speakers, click here.

The Atlanta Top News Examiner has a background in print and magazine journalism, serving as an investigative journalist and feature writer, as well as a columnist for several Georgia newspaper publications. You can reach her at

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