Institute for Engagement & Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Prysby Named 2019 McCarthy Award Recipient

The Institute for Engagement & Negotiation (IEN) at the University of Virginia is pleased to announce that Michelle Prysby is the recipient of the 2019 Gerald P. McCarthy Award for Leadership in Environmental Conflict Resolution. The McCarthy Award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates leadership in preserving and protecting the Commonwealth's environment through collaboration.

Michelle received the award for her work in developing the Virginia Master Naturalist Program from its start in 2005 where she continues to work as an active volunteer in the Rivanna chapter. Michelle’s ability to lead coordinators across various chapters along with 7 partner agencies is just one example of her outstanding leadership capabilities. Being the Special Projects Coordinator of the VMN program requires knowledge of facilitation and navigating diverse stakeholder opinions. In the early years of the program, she was the sole paid employee of the program that eventually expanded to 29 chapters with over 2,500 volunteers. Michelle greatly values the work of VMN volunteers and the countless hours they spend spreading educational information about natural resources and engaging with stewardship work across Virginia local and state natural areas. Her primary focus is empowering volunteers to lead their chapters and better their communities. Her leadership style is built on the values of compassion and understanding the differences of those she leads.

She is an Extension faculty member in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech, and is based out of Charlottesville.  She provides aid to the state's 30 VMN chapters; teaches basic and continuing education courses; leads development of new training resources and program initiatives; and engages with sponsoring agencies, partnering organizations, and national organizations to support the program's mission.  

Michelle served as the Citizen Science Director at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and Director of Science Education and Public Outreach at the University of Virginia. Her Interest in citizen science led her to start the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project as part of her Masters’ research in ecology at the University of Minnesota.