Staff and Faculty

Kelly Altizer

Kelly Altizer provides project management, facilitation, stakeholder outreach, and community engagement for a wide range of projects, which have included issues of coastal resilience, agricultural, environmental justice, forestry, and conservation, among others. In her current role, she serves as Director of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute (VNRLI). She received a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, and a B.A. in Government and Environmental Thought & Practice from the University of Virginia. 

Alexandra Cook

Alexandra Cook serves as the as the Events and Trainings Manager at the Institute for Engagement & Negotiation. She is also the Program Manager for the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute (VNRLI). Alexandra has worked with IEN for 5 years but joined the staff in a full-time capacity in October 2022.  She has worked on several projects during her time at IEN including coordination of the Governor’s Summit on Equitable Collaboration, Virginia Rural Health Plan, OCEANS PACT, Clean Energy Task Force, the Sustainable Food Collaborative at UVA. Alexandra received a B.A. in Politics from the University of Virginia.  

Tanya Denckla Cobb

In 1997 I found a professional “home” at IEN for my passion for bringing people together to discover common ground and create solutions for mutual gain. Beginning as a Senior Associate, then Associate Director, I was privileged to be appointed Director in 2015. Through the years my work has covered a broad range of challenging environmental, agricultural and community issues. Now, as Director, working with a talented and collaborative team, I strive to be a servant leader while providing vision and strategic direction. As we build on IEN’s rich history to continue tackling the tough issues with integrity, our team seeks to meet the evolving needs of our times, through innovative leadership in our field and engaging stakeholders in ways that are fresh, focused, relevant and effective. 

Marcus Comer, Ph.D

Dr. Marcus Comer currently serves as Associate Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist at Virginia State University, teaching and developing outreach programs for farmers, ranchers, and landowners. He has developed and constructed 4-H programming for youth, community development, research, and serving on College of Agriculture, departmental and university committees. Prior to his time at Virginia State University, Dr. Comer was employed by North Carolina A&T as Professor of Agricultural Education for undergraduate and graduate students. Teaching courses including instructional technology, adult education, leadership, curriculum, program development, public policy, and program evaluation. Dr. Comer Graduated from Tennessee State University in 1997, earning a Master of Science Agricultural Education, before completing his Doctorate in Philosophy, Career, and Technical Education-Concentration in Agricultural Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2002.  

J. Michael Foreman

Mike’s focus has been on collaborative leadership and team-based performance planning his entire career. After 30 years of state service, Mike retired from the Commonwealth of Virginia in December 2016 where he was the Director of the Office of Environmental Education at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Prior to his state career, Mike held positions in academia and business. He has been a trained facilitator since 1990 and has led and served on many collaborative efforts such as the Chesapeake Bay Program, US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program and Virginia Nonpoint Source Advisory Council, Virginia United Land Trusts, and Farmland Preservation Task Force. He has also led many NGO and state strategic planning and conservation policy efforts. Mike has been teaching the leadership portion with the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute since 2001 and is a graduate of the Covey Leadership course.

Frank Dukes, Ph.D.

I have been privileged to work for the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) since 1990, and served as its Director from 2000-2015. As a mediator and facilitator, I seek to help individuals and groups address complex public problems and conflicts in ways that strengthen communities rather than tear them apart. Each year I work on average on a dozen or so projects involving environment and land use, contaminated sites, community development, education, and health. I have also facilitated many difficult community conversations on topics ranging from faith and homosexuality, to education, to reparations for slavery. 

Justin Barnes

Justin Barnes is the Deputy Regional Forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry in the Central Region. He is a graduate forester of West Virginia University. Justin began his tenure with VDOF in 2009 and has served as a Forest Technician in Virginia’s Piedmont, and an Area Forester and Senior area Forester in the Shenandoah Valley. Prior to coming to the agency, Justin worked with the Army Environmental Command in Maryland and as a forestry technician at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. In his free time, Justin enjoys fly fishing, reading, canoeing, and backpacking. Justin lives in Nelson County with his wife Blake and their chocolate lab Moxie and yellow lab Atlas.

Mike Ellerbrock, Ph.D.

Professor, Extension Specialist and Director of the Center for Economic Education at VT. Mike has been teaching environmental economics, environmental ethics and environmental theology for 24 years. Mike participated in the Kellogg Foundation’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute at the University of Kentucky. He served on the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Education and drafted the final report. Mike has received seven major university teaching awards, including the Congressionally-Sponsored USDA National Award for Teaching Excellence for all fields of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Human and Veterinary Sciences. Mike serves as Special Assistant to the Provost for undergraduate education. He has taught twice in UVA’s Semester-at-Sea program.

Craig R. Nicol

An Ohio native, Craig joined the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in 1997 after making his way to Virginia as a Stinger Missile Gunner for the US Navy. Craig’s tenure at DEQ has included many roles; from his early days in the Air Inspection Program, Air Compliance Management, and as an Air Enforcement Manager. Craig’s talents in program development and strategic planning led him next to his role as the Water Withdrawal and Permitting Compliance Manager. A major initiative in this role was leading and negotiating the significant reductions of groundwater withdrawals to protect the coastal plain aquifer from over withdrawal, salt water intrusion and land subsidence.  In his current role as Regional Director, Craig strives to be a servant leader and continues his personal growth by engaging the next generation of environmental leaders, within his community, DEQ, and those enrolled as Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute Fellows, in expanding their understanding and use of mindfulness in leadership. When not working, most of his free time is focused around art, raptors, food and investigating the environment and people around him. Craig has a BS in Environmental Science from Ferrum College and a MALS from Hollins University.