by Beverly James
During the day, Boriana Milanova Treadwell teaches Georgia Perimeter College students about public speaking and basic news writing. By night, the Bulgaria native works as a producer and assignment editor at CNN covering international news and events.
So far, Treadwell has racked up two Emmy awards, five George Foster Peabody Awards, a Dupont-Columbia University award, an Ed Murrow award and a Golden Nymph award for her journalistic efforts.
Her first Emmy was for CNN’s coverage of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2012, she won her second award for CNN coverage of the revolution in Egypt and the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. According to Treadwell, the work is thrilling, but can also be exhausting.
“I am glad to get recognition for the hard work that we do. But, there is a physical and emotional toll, even though our jobs seem glamorous,” Treadwell said. “It is long hours, lots of dedication and a commitment that sometimes means giving up a normal life.”
The “normal life” Treadwell strives to lead includes her 12-year marriage to Ty Treadwell, an American who is a writer. They have a 9-year-old daughter named Sophia.
Treadwell’s job with CNN doesn’t involve traveling around the world, she says, “so I don’t have to pack in a moment’s notice and go. It’s because I choose not to, though, because of my family situation.”
Instead, Treadwell works from CNN Headquarters in Atlanta.
“But I do have to come on short notice, on my days off, cut my vacations short and spend long hours working whenever there is a big breaking news story. I mostly work 10-hour, overnight shifts–which means sacrificing sleep and social life.
“We juggle a lot of things at the same time, work under very tight deadlines and tons of pressure,” she says. “And because of the fact we cover so many tragedies, disasters, wars, violence, etc.–this gets to me and stays with me for a long time.”
When Treadwell does encounter some free time, she generally spends it with family and friends.
“We love traveling, going to the beach, skiing, and all the normal things people enjoy, such as playing games, going to the movies, attending concerts and festivals,” she says.
Treadwell grew up in communist Bulgaria.
“My parents are both engineers, and I and my younger sister were both born and grew up in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia. I did leave them behind when I came to the U.S., but not for long. My sister moved here to pursue an MBA degree in 2000. She is now living with her husband in San Francisco, and works as a marketing director. My mother is retired and lives in Chicago. Sadly, my father passed away a few years ago.
Treadwell’s future took shape when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. She was 18 years old.
“That opened our borders–and our eyes,” she says.
“Communism fell in Eastern Europe, and the American University [in Bulgaria] opened its doors to its first class in 1991,” she said. “I was in that class and decided to major in journalism so I could tell our stories.”
Treadwell worked for a Bulgarian national newspaper for a time, but in 1997, she came to the United States. She enrolled at Georgia State University as a graduate student in communications and was hired as an intern at CNN. Once she graduated from Georgia State, she worked full time at CNN.
She also began teaching at Oglethorpe University and, eventually, at Georgia Perimeter.
“I teach my students that, unfortunately, disasters are a journalist’s finest hour. You have to protect yourself from the enormity of the event while preserving the dignity of the people you are covering,” she says.
Students say Treadwell makes her class come alive.
“Taking Communications with Boriana Treadwell was a blast,” says one of her former GPC students, Thomas Waluk. “As a working journalist with such an extensive international background, she always had stories that not only entertained us, but also contributed to the material taught.”
Treadwell plans to continue teaching and working as a producer at CNN. However, she admits that she occasionally has asked herself why she continues doing what she is doing.
“It involves long, grueling hours, and covering mostly the worst of humanity,” she says. “But a few years ago I got an email from an English teacher who was teaching children in Myanmar illegally (it’s not legal there to take English lessons). And she wrote to me that in her hotel room she gets CNN International, and she tapes the show I produced at that time (called World Report). Then she shows the stories in that show to her students, and through them they learn English and they learn about the world.
“She was thanking me for what I was doing because it was helping her students and her,” Treadwell says. “And then I realized that what I do helps change the world, one report at a time.
The reason she teaches college is similar, Treadwell says.
“I can help change the world–one student at a time. My classes are very hands-on, and I try to teach my students things they can implement in the real world right away.”
It helps that Treadwell has 20-plus years of experience in journalism and communications—both in Europe and in the United States. It also helps that she has worked across the different platforms of print, broadcast and digital. And she remains at work in the field.
“I am still a practicing journalist, with the world’s biggest news organization, and I bring that experience and knowledge to the classroom and share them with my students,” she says.
The students recognize what she brings to education.
“Her passion for information and knowledge of communication turned the classroom from an ordinary, boring lecture hall into a place of growth and relevance in life,” Waluk says. “She is an awesome teacher, and a great person.”
Treadwell’s global background and career choices have yielded other benefits, too.
“I’ve taken my husband and daughter to Bulgaria a few times, and they both love it very much. I have tons of friends who still live there–but thanks to my work with CNN, I have friends all over the world–literally.
“On Facebook, I have about 650 friends from more than 70 countries, and I am very proud of all the relationships I have created and kept throughout the years.”