Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of Alabama for 2023. These accomplished leaders have been instrumental across various sectors, many within healthcare, academia, and non-profit organizations. As Alabama continues to prosper, it has witnessed remarkable contributions from women who have played pivotal roles in shaping the state's trajectory. This year’s awardees bring diverse perspectives, experiences, and approaches to problem-solving, fostering creativity and innovation within organizations. They serve as role models and sources of inspiration for other women and girls, encouraging them to pursue leadership roles and challenge traditional gender norms.

Among this year’s awardees is Chandler Bibb, Chief Development Officer for Children's of Alabama, who directs development functions, implements fundraising and community development strategies, and manages affiliations with child-centered agencies, along with responsibility for Children’s of Alabama’s Health Information and Safety programs. Another awardee, Ashley McGrane, Vice President of Corporate Development at Encompass Health, concentrates on regional growth strategies and strategic partnerships in rehabilitation hospitals throughout 158 facilities nationwide. Also awarded is Libba Yates, Chief Administrative Officer of VIVA Health, who successfully launched the company’s first Medicare Advantage plan, contributing to its growth and success in the ever-changing and challenging field of health plan management.

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

1. Chandler Bibb
Chief Development Officer, Children's of Alabama

Chandler Bibb is the Chief Development Officer for Children’s of Alabama. In this role, she is responsible for planning and directing the development functions, designing and implementing strategies for fundraising activities and community development. In addition, she is responsible for overseeing affiliations with other child-centered agencies and development organizations, as well as Children’s of Alabama’s Health Information and Safety programs. Children's of Alabama is an Alabama-based healthcare organization that provides treatment for diseases including cancer, allergy, asthma, and dental care for children.

Bibb is a graduate of the University of Georgia where she earned an undergraduate degree in speech communication. She received a Master of Management in Health Care from the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University and completed the Executive Certificate in the Non-Profit Leadership program at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has also received several other professional designations and honors, including the 2020 Association of Healthcare Philanthropy’s 40 Under 40 winner, graduate of the 2014 class of Leadership UAB, and the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) designation. She joined Children’s in 2013, serving most recently as director of development. Prior to Children’s, she was a VP of marketing and development at Birmingham’s McWane Science Center.

2. Tara Plimpton
Chief Legal Office & Corporate Secretary, Regions Bank

As the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for Regions Bank, Tara Plimpton has over 20 years of executive and general counsel leadership experience. She is a member of the company's Executive Leadership Team and oversees the Legal, Government Affairs, and Corporate Governance departments for the $160 billion asset company.

Tara’s core competencies include corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, risk and compliance management, litigation, and joint venture operations. She has a passion for people, culture, digital innovation, and change, and has successfully built and managed large, global, cross-functional teams that deliver high-quality legal services and solutions. Tara is also committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession, and has been recognized as a Leader in Diversity and a Corporate Counsel DEI Champion. She graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with a JD and from the University of Nevada-Reno with an undergraduate degree in international affairs.

3. Tracey Morant Adams
Senior EVP & Chief Community Development & Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Renasant Bank

Tracey Morant Adams is a Senior Executive Vice President and the Chief Community Development and Corporate Social Responsibility Officer for Renasant Bank. Morant Adams has served in this capacity for the Bank since the fall of 2013. She is responsible for leading and directing the development of community programs and initiatives throughout Renasant’s corporate footprint which support economic and community development. She believes in giving back through many civic and service engagements.

Morant Adams is a graduate of the University of Montevallo, received her MBA from Samford University, and is currently a Doctoral student pursuing her PhD in education, policy, law, and research from Alabama State University.

Morant Adams will be premiering ‘The Nest,’ a Renasant Roots platform geared towards effective business development and financially focused technical assistance for women-owned business leaders. It is designed to educate and encourage women to intentionally plan and prepare for their financial well-being.

5. Ashley McGrane
Vice President of Corporate Development, Encompass Health

Ashley McGrane is the Vice President of Corporate Development of Encompass Health. She first joined the company in 2022. Encompass Health is the largest owner and operator of rehabilitation hospitals in the United States. With a national footprint that includes 158 hospitals in 37 states and Puerto Rico, the organization provides high-quality, compassionate rehabilitative care for patients recovering from a major injury or illness, using advanced technology and innovative treatments to maximize recovery. McGrane is an experienced executive with a demonstrated history in healthcare operations and business development. She is skilled in the administration of multi-hospital health systems, strategic planning, and healthcare management and is currently focused on developing and executing regional growth strategies and building strategic partnerships.

Previously, McGrane was a director of business operations and telehealth at UAB Medicine and before that, a division manager of quality, safety, and risk for the physician practices at Catholic Health Initiatives. Earlier in her career she worked with The McGrane Law Firm as an of counsel. McGrane earned a JD from Samford University, an MSHA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and an undergraduate degree from The University of the South.

9. Stephani Smith
Senior Vice President of Merchandising, Hibbett Sports

Stephani Smith was appointed to serve as Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Hibbett Sports in March 2022. Hibbett, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, is a leading athletic-inspired fashion retailer with nearly 1,100 Hibbett and City Gear specialty stores, located in 35 states nationwide. Hibbett has a rich history of serving customers for more than 75 years with convenient locations, superior personalized customer service, and access to coveted footwear, apparel, and accessories from top brands like Nike, Jordan, and Adidas. Smith joined the company in October 2020 as a VP and general merchandising manager. 

Prior to joining Hibbett, Smith spent almost 28 years at Nike, Inc. where she held a variety of positions with increasing levels of responsibility and leadership, serving most recently as the VP of North American Sales for Converse. In addition, she was the general manager and global vice president of Nike’s Skateboarding Category. Her tenure at Nike included service throughout North America, as well as Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Smith earned her undergraduate degree at Atlanta Christian College in Atlanta, Georgia.

13. Patience Samson
Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Axient

Patience Samson is the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Axient. Axient advances defense and civilian missions from aerospace to cyberspace with multi-domain test and analysis, mission engineering and operations, and advanced technologies. It partners with customers to identify and analyze their most important challenges and design solutions that turn challenges into breakthroughs to accelerate assured performance. Samson has 19 years of experience. She began her career in 2004. 

Samson is an experienced executive working at the Corporate level in strategy, M&A, business operations, and business development. She is a strong believer and exemplar of hard work, persistence, and serving organizations by serving others. She earned an Executive MBA from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and an undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University. Before joining Axient, Samson was a director of corporate business development, marketing, and communications at Noblis and before that, a director of corporate acquisition integration and operations management at Leidos. Earlier in her career she worked with SAIC as a deputy program manager and national security analyst at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

14. Katie Mowry
Vice President of Research and Development, Organogenesis

Katie Mowry began her professional career 10 years ago. Today, she is the Vice President of  Research and Development of Organogenesis. Organogenesis is a leading regenerative medicine company focused on the development, manufacture, and commercialization of solutions for the advanced wound care and surgical and sports medicine markets. They offer a comprehensive portfolio of innovative regenerative products to address patient needs across the continuum of care. Mowry is an experienced research professional with a demonstrated history of scientific expertise and product development. She is responsible for overseeing R&D programs at three research facilities in MA, CA, and AL. Katie is known for being a highly collaborative professional who successfully works with other internal leaders, external consultants, and key opinion leaders. 

Mowry first got her start in 2013 as a senior research engineer at NuTech Medical. She graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a doctorate of philosophy, biomedical engineering, and an MS in biomedical engineering, and from Mississippi State University with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering.

View the complete list of awardees

15. Louanne Giangreco
Chief Medical Officer, American Family Care

Louanne Giangreco is the Chief Medical Officer of American Family Care. American Family Care (AFC) has pioneered the concept of non–emergency room urgent care. With its 2013 acquisition of the Doctors Express franchise, AFC is the nation's leading provider of urgent care and accessible primary care with more than 160 clinics and 500 in-network physicians caring for more than 2 million patients a year. Giangreco has 21 years of experience. She began her career in 2002.

Before joining American Family Care, Giangreco was a senior medical director of medical affairs at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and before that, a chief medical officer at WellRight. Earlier in her career she worked with SUNY Upstate Medical University as an emergency medicine resident. Giangreco graduated from Albany Medical College with an MD in medicine and from Cornell University with an undergraduate degree in biology.

16. Jennifer Gaines
Vice President of Support Services, Southeast Health

Jennifer Gaines is the Vice President of Support Services at Southeast Health. Southeast Health has provided for the changing healthcare needs of the growing communities it serves which includes about 600,000 residents in neighboring communities and counties of Southeast Alabama, Southwest Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle. Gaines is an ambitious results-focused professional with 20 years of progressive leadership experience. She is a natural leader driven to motivate teams to exceed business goals and targets while under pressure. She’s known for transforming high-potential staff into outstanding leaders who demonstrate the creativity and savvy that are critical to financial and operational success. Gains is an experienced professional with strong leadership and relationship-building skills. She thrives in dynamic, challenging, and fast-paced professional environments.

Previously, Gaines was a business account executive at Alltel Wireless. From there, she went on to Southeast Pharmaceuticals, before eventually rising to become a program director at Healogics, Inc., her most recent position prior to joining Southeast Health. Gaines graduated from the University of North Alabama with an MBA and from Troy University Dothan with an undergraduate degree in business administration and marketing.

20. Libba Yates
Chief Administrative Officer, VIVA Health

Libba Yates is the Chief Administrative Officer of VIVA Health. Founded in 1995, VIVA Health is now the preferred healthcare provider for close to 300 Alabama companies and more than 100,000 members and growing. As the Chief Administrative Officer, Yates is responsible for strategic planning and execution to ensure the company maintains competitive, growing Medicare plans and exceptional levels of customer service, quality, and compliance. She joined VIVA Health in 1997 and successfully launched its first Medicare Advantage plan in 1998, adding Part D prescription drug benefits in 2006. Her leadership and collaborative management style have helped VIVA Health achieve growth and success in the ever-changing and challenging field of health plan management.

Yates empowers her employees to continuously improve the operations of their departments as well as their own technical and management abilities. She believes in going the extra mile for their customers and her work demonstrates her commitment to the company’s core values.

22. Christy Thomas
Chief Financial Officer, BLOX

Christy Thomas began her professional career 36 years ago. Today, she is the Chief Financial Officer of BLOX. BLOX is reinventing how healthcare buildings are designed, manufactured, and constructed. Its focus is doubling the quality of buildings, delivering them twice as fast, and supercharging their value. It is the go-to for major healthcare providers scaling their footprint. Thomas is a motivated, results-oriented executive with experience in accounting, financial planning, and strategic partnering. She is regularly recognized for her outstanding analytical, strategic, and interpersonal skills. She has strong operational involvement with a drive to improve business performance. 

Thomas first got her start in 1987 at Arthur Young. From there, she went on to Equifax before eventually rising to become an EVP of compliance at Jemison Metals, her most recent position prior to joining BLOX. Thomas graduated from Georgia State University - J. Mack Robinson College of Business with an MBA in taxation and from The University of Georgia with an undergraduate degree in accounting.

25. Tara Hickey
Senior Vice President & Secondary Residential Mortgage Manager, River Bank & Trust

Tara Hickey is a Senior Vice President and Secondary Market Mortgage Manager at River Bank & Trust, one of the largest state-chartered banks in Alabama. With an impressive twenty-one-year career in the mortgage industry, she has gained extensive experience and expertise in all facets of the field.

Tara is well-respected by her peers and is known for her ability to mentor other professionals in the industry. She is a graduate of the Alabama Banking School, has recently completed the school's Executive Leadership Certificate Program, and is currently serving as a class director for Alabama Banking School. Tara is deeply involved in her community and currently serves on the board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile and the Mobile Area Association of Realtor's affiliate council. She was also recently nominated to serve on the 2023-2024 American Bankers Association Emerging Leaders Council.

28. Melissa Horton
Vice President of Business Development, JESCO, INC.

Melissa Horton serves as Vice President of Business Development for JESCO, Inc. Construction. JESCO, as part of the Yates Companies, was recognized by Engineering News-Record as the #1 Manufacturing Contractor in the Southeast United States. JESCO has been in business for more than 80 years and includes divisions of Construction and Engineering, Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing, Industrial Services, Millwright-Maintenance, and Steel Fabrication. JESCO has offices in Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama, and Tupelo and Fulton, Mississippi.

Currently, Melissa is responsible for business development and marketing and is a part of the Leadership Team. In this role, she works with companies and communities to help foster economic development and construction-related activities in both manufacturing and resort-hospitality markets. Internally, she leads project recruitment efforts and seeks to develop a cohesive team spirit both internally and with partners. Melissa has been with JESCO for 17 years. In those years, she has held 8 positions ranging from project administrator to project manager. During her time as project manager, Melissa managed a wide variety of projects, such as the successful renovation of the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, AL, building the Relieving Platform for Austal USA, and constructing the Battle House Parking Deck located in downtown Mobile.

Melissa was born and raised on Dauphin Island, AL where she attended the Little Red School House, until moving to Mobile with her family. Melissa has excelled in her career through hard knocks knowledge, hard work, and dedication to becoming a success. Outside of her business life, Melissa enjoys deep-sea fishing and being at the beach with her family.

View the complete list of awardees

30. Rachel Bryars
Vice President and Head of Communications & Marketing, HigherEchelon, Inc.

Rachel Bryars is HigherEchelon’s Vice President and Head of Communications and Marketing, generating and executing the marketing and strategic communications strategy in support of corporate objectives, contributing to record-breaking results across the company’s technical and professional services divisions. Bryars also serves as a sought-after consultant and executive coach to clients, serving a range of senior leaders at NASA, private-equity-owned fast-growth companies, and beyond.

Before joining HigherEchelon, Bryars served as president of a well-respected creative services and communications firm serving a range of corporate and media clients. In that capacity, she served as editor of a large digital news platform, where she oversaw a team of award-winning journalists, radio personalities, and content producers while contributing high-engagement reported articles and videos. She also previously served as senior fellow for a well-respected public policy research institute, speaking and writing in state and national media, earning coverage in outlets such as Vox Media and NPR’s All Things Considered, and appearing frequently as a guest on state top talk radio programs. She served as a commentary journalist for Alabama Media Group, appearing weekly on the state’s largest news platform and in 142,000 print editions of the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press-Register. For corporate clients, she created internal communications campaigns and programs, marketing materials including corporate videos, podcasts, and digital products, and provided professional development solutions including communication workshops, mastermind groups, and executive coaching to help people become effective communicators. 

Bryars holds an MA in communication from The Johns Hopkins University, where she received a rare honors distinction for her experiment-based thesis. She earned an undergraduate degree in English and communication with a journalism focus from Palm Beach Atlantic University, where she was an NAIA All-Region and All-American scholarship varsity soccer player and team captain, editor-in-chief of the university newspaper, and the recipient of the Women of Distinction scholarship and the Most Outstanding Communication Graduate award.

32. Anastasia Wengrowski
VP of Strategy, Apprentice.io

Anastasia Wengrowski began her career conducting cardiac physiology research in a biomedical engineering laboratory, where she acquired a PhD. This passion for cardiac physiology led to a position as a medical device and combination product reviewer for the FDA. Since then, Anastasia has dedicated her career to working in the life sciences industry, at a biotechnology company, and various software technology companies, with a particular interest in cloud software solutions.

Anastasia is a highly focused and analytical strategic leader with experience leading key growth initiatives in the life sciences software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. The past few years of her career have focused on go-to-market (GTM) strategy for varying-stage technology companies that support the pharmaceutical drug product lifecycle. Anastasia enjoys teaching and mentoring and is also a remote adjunct professor at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

34. Patricia Sims
President, Drake State Community and Technical College

On December 1, 2018, Dr. Patricia G. Sims began her tenure as President of Drake State Community and Technical College. She is the fourth President in the institution’s sixty-year history. Dr. Sims leads Drake State with a spirit of excellence and brings to the institution an in-depth knowledge of higher education and administration and an unbridled enthusiasm for student success. She has led the charge for Drake State to expand partnerships with business and industry, to create new opportunities and pathways for students, and worked to increase resources to support student achievement. Under her leadership, Drake State has seen a significant increase in state and federal funding, has increased enrollment, and expanded its program offerings. In 2021, Drake State became the first and only Historically Black Community College to be awarded a Cooperative Agreement Notice by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center Minority University Research and Education Project since the program’s inception.

With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Sims is committed to ensuring that students have both the access and training needed to transform their lives. She is actively engaged in academia, serving as the VP of the Executive Council for the Board of Trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Her distinguished career also includes having served as the Dean for the College of Education at Athens State University, where she led the largest teacher education program in the state of Alabama and was the first African American to serve as an academic dean at the institution in its over 200-year history.  

Recently, President Biden appointed Dr. Sims to serve on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, where she represents the state of Alabama and higher education. She has also been elected to the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges, the primary advocacy organization for community colleges at the national level. Engaged throughout the state, Dr. Sims’ passion for education and service is evidenced through her work with a variety of organizations. In 2019, she became the first African-American woman to serve on the Board of Directors for the Alabama State Port Authority. Her service also includes serving as a board member of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust, Alabama Partnership for Children, and as a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority Regional Energy Research Council.

Dr. Sims has been recognized for her work locally and across the state. In 2021, she was recognized by Yellowhammer as a Woman of Impact in the state of Alabama and named by the Alabama Media Group as a member of the 2019 Class of Women Who Shape the State of Alabama. Dr. Sims is also a recipient of the 2019 Huntsville Progressive Alumni Chapter of Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University’s Outstanding Alumni Award. She and her husband, Themika, are the proud parents of a daughter, Kirsten.

39. Kathryn Bowden
Executive Director, Oasis Counseling for Women and Children

Kathryn Bowden is the Executive Director of Oasis Counseling for Women and Children. Oasis helps women & children heal, grow, and overcome difficult life challenges by providing exceptional mental health counseling in a safe and nurturing environment. Bowden joined the Oasis staff in January 2006. She has a JD from the Cumberland School of Law and an undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama. At Alabama, Bowden was an honors scholar with a specialization in women’s studies. Ten years after receiving her law degree, she returned to college and earned a master’s degree in counseling at Auburn University.  

Bowden’s prior experience includes the private practice of family law and service as executive director of two statewide non-profits. Her special expertise in regulatory issues includes terms as an attorney for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the US Department of the Interior, and SONAT Inc. Her expertise in public relations includes her role as press secretary for two statewide political campaigns. Bowden is a Robert Wood Johnson Ladder to Leadership Fellow and a Momentum graduate. Her business background, as well as her legal and non-profit experience, combined with her education and personal passion for supporting women and children makes her the perfect fit as the manager of an organization dedicated to the well-being of women and children. 

42. Hannah Smith
Co-Founder & Executive Director, Be Brave for Isla 

Hannah is the Co-Founder and Executive Director at Be Brave for Isla, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and emotional support to families after losing a pregnancy, infant, or child. Hannah and her husband founded Be Brave for Isla after the death of their daughter, Isla Marie Smith, at seven months old from a life-limiting genetic disorder. 

Since Be Brave for Isla's establishment in March of 2023, twenty-eight families have received financial aid so they may honor their children in death without fear of bankruptcy or financial crisis. Hannah also facilitates Be Brave for Isla's monthly online peer support group for bereaved parents with members throughout the United States. During her time as Executive Director, Hannah has established a network of licensed counselors across Alabama who specialize in perinatal grief, loss, anxiety, depression, and trauma therapy to refer bereaved families for formal therapy after loss. 

Before co-founding Be Brave for Isla, Hannah received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in nursing from The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) and worked as a trauma nurse. She was quickly promoted to shift leader, and eventually assistant nurse manager of UAB Hospital's Acute Trauma Care Unit. As assistant nurse manager, Hannah coordinated daily operations and promoted effective and efficient allocation, distribution, and use of resources for the delivery of safe, cost-effective patient care and hospital operations. During her time in Trauma Surgery, she received UAB Health's System's Clinical Excellence Award in Nursing. Hannah now continues to work as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP-BC) in Emergency General Surgery at UAB Hospital in addition to serving as Executive Director at Be Brave for Isla. As a highly motivated, driven self-starter and "loss mom" herself, she brings a unique perspective and passion to comfort care for bereaved families and patients alike.

44. Amanda Jordan
Talent Acquisition Executive, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

With over 15 years of industry expertise, Amanda Jordan rocks the role of Talent Acquisition Executive like no other. She's not just an ordinary pro in the field, she's been shaping the Talent Acquisition game for over a decade! Back when Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) was still in its infancy, Amanda fearlessly blazed the trail, helping sculpt the industry into what it is today. 

At the forefront of innovation, Amanda currently leads the charge as the mastermind behind Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Global Talent Acquisition and Onboarding Systems, supporting over 60,000 team members globally and 11,000+ new hires annually. Her secret weapon? Pushing boundaries to revolutionize the hiring and onboarding systems and processes to take Talent Acquisition practices to new heights. Amanda thrives on thinking outside the box when it comes to finding and retaining top-notch talent. 

Amanda holds an undergraduate degree in business from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, specializing in international business and human resources. She also earned her executive master's degree from the esteemed University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Sheldon B. Lubar College of Business. Amanda's career success is rooted in her unwavering philosophy of smashing through barriers and constantly striving to be the best version of oneself.

45. Sara Giddens
Director of Industry Marketing, Kahua

Sara Giddens serves as the Director of Industry Marketing at Kahua. With an impressive career spanning over 12 years, Sara is an accomplished marketing and business strategy expert within the software and SaaS industry. In her current role, she is the head of industry engagement and marketing operations and is responsible for accelerating revenue and market growth.  

Her expertise particularly shines in the sectors of Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) as well as Owner-Operator firms, where she has collaborated extensively with some of the world's largest organizations. She understands the unique pains the construction industry faces and consistently steers organizations through digital transformation. She enjoys the challenge of turning complex issues into streamlined solutions. 

Giddens was honored to be nominated as a finalist in 2020 for the Top 100 Women Award. She was particularly touched because this is one of the top awards for women in construction. She holds an MBA from the University of North Alabama, which has equipped her with a strong foundation in advanced business concepts and management strategies. In addition to her MBA, Sara also earned an undergraduate degree in business management from Athens State University. 

There's more to Sara than just business. She’s got a heart as big as her ambitions. She's all about giving back and supporting her community, having served as a board member for an Alabama-based non-profit that rescues and rehabilitates survivors of human trafficking. She also has a passion for mentoring, especially for young professionals and women looking to carve their own paths, and enjoys speaking to university students studying marketing or business.

View the complete list of awardees

46. Terri Dunn
Alabama Director of Adult Education, Southern Region

Dr. Terri Dunn began her professional career 24 years ago as an accountant at a local CPA firm. Shortly thereafter, she took a side job teaching business and accounting classes as an adjunct instructor at a local community college, which led to a full-time position managing a program called “School-to-Career.” That is when she knew she had found her calling. For the past 21 years, Dr. Dunn has served in various capacities within the Alabama Community College System where she is an experienced administrator skilled in organizational leadership, consulting, program development, problem-solving, assessment, instructor and student development, grant writing, workforce development, budgeting, coaching, and efficiency planning. In her current role, Dr. Dunn works directly with WIOA Title II sub-recipient award programs based in the Southern Region of the state to expand partnerships and program offerings that address business and industry needs for the incumbent and emerging workforce. 

Of the many roles in which she has served, Dr. Dunn is most passionate about developing others. She has coordinated leadership programs for several years and is the founder of the Covington County Youth Leadership Program where she works with other business and education professionals to provide leadership training for high school juniors.

Dr. Dunn is a Certified Talent Developer for the State of Alabama and is part of the Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways, a committee of the Alabama Workforce Council tasked with annually identifying regional and statewide in-demand occupations, career pathways, and credentials of value. She has served her community on multiple boards and has served her state as a member and President of the Alabama Adult Education Directors’ Association and President of the Alabama Association for Public and Continuing Adult Education. She currently serves on the Professional Development Planning Team for the National Association of State Directors of Adult Education. 

Dr. Dunn’s educational background includes bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, with a concentration in accounting, and a doctorate in educational leadership, policy, and law. She is also a proud graduate of the Alabama Community College Leadership Academy offered through the University of Alabama. 

47. Stephanie LaBonte
Director of Strategic Inclusion, Culture, and Belonging, CGI

Stephanie LaBonte is a seasoned professional with over two decades of business experience, having dedicated 13 years of her career to CGI. Drawing strength from her CliftonStrengths Top 5 Themes - Maximizer, Connectedness, Learner, Arranger, and Input - Stephanie is a driving force in the realm of business, strategic operations, and human thriving. Stephanie approaches both her personal and professional life with an appreciative inquiry perspective. This philosophy, combined with her innate ability to maximize potential, connect people, and arrange complex scenarios, has shaped her journey in the corporate landscape.

Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Troy University and a Master of Science in Positive Psychology Coaching from Life University, Stephanie seamlessly blends her academic achievements with her extensive business experience. Currently serving as the Director of Inclusion, Culture, and Belonging at CGI, Stephanie is at the forefront of fostering a culture of inclusivity and connection. Her role involves orchestrating initiatives that emphasize the unique contributions and strengths of individuals within the organization and is a driving force in curating educational programs and initiatives that promote a culture of thriving. As a Certified Mental Health First Aider, Certified Diversity Professional, and Prosci Change Management Certification holder, Stephanie brings a wealth of knowledge to her leadership position.

Stephanie's quote encapsulates her philosophy: “A culture of belonging is cultivated as individuals co-create inclusive relationships: seeing themselves and each other for their unique contributions, strengths, and fallible humanity. Authentic relationships, connection, and belonging lead to respectful curiosity, increased innovation, retention of top talent, and, ultimately, a shared vision of success and organizational thriving.”

In addition to her professional pursuits, Stephanie is currently receiving treatment for stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer. This personal challenge has deepened her commitment to being a human thriving advocate, ensuring that more individuals reach the end of their lives grateful for the work they did, the authentic contributions they made, and the life they lived. Stephanie LaBonte's journey is a testament to her resilience, compassion, and dedication to creating a positive impact in both professional and personal spheres.

48. Jennifer Smith
Director of Marketing and Human Resources, David Christopher's, Inc.

Jennifer Smith is the Vice President of an import wholesaler and retail company, David Christopher's, Inc. David Christopher's sells products to customers worldwide and specializes in designing and developing their own products. A two-time graduate of the University of North Alabama, she holds an undergraduate degree in communication and marketing and a master's degree in counseling. Jennifer's specialties include social media marketing and human resources. Due to her efforts, David Christopher's has developed a successful YouTube channel leading them to decorate for celebrities, as well as being named Alabama Customers' Choice awardee by the Alabama Retail Association and one of 70 of America's Top Small Businesses by the US Chamber of Commerce. 

Smith is on the Board of Directors for Shoals-Sav-A-Life, a non-profit serving pregnant women during and after pregnancy supplying them with practical resources, parenting classes, and medical services. She has published a book titled Leading with Jesus: Ministry Outside the Walls of a Church, a Christian leadership book targeted towards anyone in leadership trying to also walk out their faith. In her free time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her husband and two sons. The Smith family calls North Alabama home. 

View the complete list of awardees