Melissa Pritchard is being honored for her ability to create rich, nuanced educational opportunities for her students.
During winter break 2009, Pritchard became an embedded journalist with five female soldiers serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. The experience impacted her profoundly. Pritchard wrote profiles of the soldiers with whom she interacted when she returned. One of them, “Finding Ashton: A Soldier’s Story,” which focused on U.S. Air Force Sr. Airman Ashton Goodman, was published in O Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Issue in May 2010. Goodman, 21, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) four months after Pritchard returned; to honor Goodman’s memory, Pritchard created the Ashton Goodman Fund to support the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP), an award-winning online mentoring program connecting American women writers with Afghan women writers.
In 2011, Pritchard directed a staged performance at ASU, "Out of Silence," featuring eight MFA students reading from select poetry and prose by Afghan women – the first such performance at an American university. Donations from the event benefitted AWWP's Ashton Goodman Fund.
Pritchard co-taught a course at ASU on "The Writer as Witness," which included in its curriculum military veterans who came to class to speak to students about their experiences. Pritchard has given lectures for military audiences; invited to speak as part of the Commandant’s Speakers Series at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in Dayton, Ohio, she also offered a writing workshop to students there.
A recipient of numerous prestigious awards for her writing, Pritchard’s ninth book, a novel, will be published early next year. She serves on the artistic council for WordTheatre and is an advisory board member for both the Afghan Women's Writing Project and the Lost Boys Center in Phoenix.