Dr. Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, is the recipient of the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) Fellow Award for 2018. The award was presented at NAI’s national workshop on November 30, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The workshop provided participants with professional skills, ideas, and networking opportunities with others in the fields of environmental, cultural, historical, and recreational resources interpretation.
“As much of an honor as it is to receive the Fellow Award, it is even more of an honor to be part of the profession of interpretation,” said Ward, a native of Wytheville, Virginia. “I am proud to be part of a profession dedicated to helping connect people to significant places and for me that means linking people to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I grew up.”
The NAI Fellow Award is the organization’s highest and most prestigious honor and is presented to a member exemplifying career achievement in guiding the interpretive profession by instruction, mentoring, research, writing, front-line interpretation, and management, and who provides strong support for NAI.
NAI is a not-for-profit professional association for those involved in the interpretation of natural and cultural heritage resources in settings such as parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, aquaria, botanical gardens, and historical sites.
Ward’s distinguished career has spanned three decades in numerous interpretive roles: front-line interpreter, consultant, researcher, author, editor, professor, and most recently as a CEO. Since 2003, Ward has served as editor of the Journal of Interpretation Research (JIR). The publication serves as the primary forum for peer-reviewed, scholarly discourse, linking empirical research to application. As editor of JIR, Ward has guided the intellectual discussion of the profession.
As current CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the primary philanthropic partner of the most visited unit in the national park system, Ward started the Kids in Parks program. This collaboration unites the National Park Service, state parks, local community groups, the Cherokee Nation and nonprofit organizations around the goal of getting more kids moving in the outdoors. In recognition of her transformative leadership, Ward is a 2012 recipient of the White House Champion of Change award.