Meet our Board: Elaine Smith

This is the fifth installment in a series to learn more about who’s doing the work behind the scenes to keep our Chapter running along.

Elaine with a saw-whet owl at the Highland Retreat banding station, November 2014. Photo by Rinn Siegrist.

Stephanie Gardner, HMN Board Historian and Parliamentarian, is conducting a series of online interviews with the members of our 2021 Board of Directors.

Here we are featuring Elaine Smith, Chair of the Continuing Education Committee.

How long have you been a Virginia Master Naturalist? 

Since 2015

Of which Headwaters Master Naturalist cohort are you a member? 

Cohort IV

What is your position on the HMN Board? 

CE Committee Chair

How long have you been serving?

Started January 2020, pre-pandemic

Have you held other positions on the HMN Board?


What is your favorite thing about your role in the chapter?

Finding cool events for people, and working with my great committee members!

What have been some of your most memorable activities/projects as a VMN?

Several. Prior to starting my training, the Trainees in Waiting (as we were called because our training was delayed) took a fantastic trip to the Smithsonian in DC. It was a great opportunity, both to see cool, behind-the-scenes stuff, and to start getting to know our cohort. Brian Lux was our “chauffeur”! Then the opportunities to see the saw-whet owl banding operation were amazing. And the Rarequest project I took part in was very cool. And the annual wildflower walks are great!*

What are your future hopes for our chapter?

To continue to grow, but to retain the small chapter “feel.”

Where do you live in the Valley?  


Are you originally from Virginia?

Yes, born and raised in Harrisonburg. Graduated from Bridgewater College.

Please tell us a little about your past or present career(s).

My first job out of college was working in a bookstore, which took me to Northern Virginia for almost ten years. I came back home to be closer to my aging parents and began working at JMU. I’ve been at JMU 30+ years now. I’m the office manager in the Office of Institutional Research.

What do you enjoy doing when not volunteering for VMN? 

Kayaking, cross country skiing, gardening (with native plants)

If you were an animal, plant or fungus; what kind would you be?

Bird: kestrel. Animal: dolphin. Plant: bluebell flower

What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

Hopefully having more actual, in-person events!

December 2021

* Elaine shares her photos of some of her favorite events from being an HMN here:

saw-whet owl banding, November 2018

RareQuest adventures:

behind the scenes tour of the National Museum of Natural History, March 2015