First captivated by Oklahoma’s ever changing weather patterns, Stephanie Buway always knew she wanted to attend the University of Oklahoma. “Originally I wanted to chase tornadoes for a living! Growing up in Michigan, I did not have any exposure to that, so I thought that sounded like a fun and exciting time. I always liked the Outdoors, but I watched the movie Twister way too much, and so that is what I wanted to do! And as we know, OU has the best meteorology program in the country, so that was my dream school.” Buway’s time at OU began as a prospective meteorology student, but then turned to geography after one class with a significant faculty member.
Dr. Scott Greene, a professor and the Associate Chair of OU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, was teaching an Intro to Physical Geography class that Buway was enrolled in. When asked about Greene’s influence on her change to geographic sciences, Buway remarked, “Not only was I always interested in outdoor science, the environment, things like that, but when I met Dr. Green, it just clicked. I may not be getting a meteorology degree anymore, but I think I found where I fit in this world. The opportunities that he provided through letting me work with the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, I could not have asked for a better experience in my life. That pointed the arrow in the direction of where I am at today. He continues to still be my mentor, and I still look to him for advice.”
Buway recalls her favorite memory from OU was when she was working at the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, and getting to accept the Wind Working Group of the Year Award at the Wind Power Conference in Los Angeles in 2007. She graduated with her B.A. in Geography in 2005, and then her M.A. in Geography in 2007. She currently works for DTE Energy on their renewable energy solutions team. She mentions, “My primary focus right now is on net metering and distributed generation projects, or private solar systems basically. There are aspects of using my geography degrees for this, you need to look at climate maps and understand a lot of dynamics. Geography taught you how to look at the world kind of as a whole, and the interactions. I deal with a lot of customer issues, and I am learning a lot about engineering.” Buway is currently also pursuing an M.B.A. from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. A current class she takes, Urban Business and Sustainability, has opened her eyes to the future of geography: “So much of geography is tied into green infrastructure work. Studies of human and earth interactions, and humans can utilize green infrastructure not only for corporate benefit, but for our own well-being. How it drives patterns of what humans do, just the whole topic of green infrastructure really struck a chord with me. Green infrastructure is something that is going to help communities thrive…the topic reminded me of being back in school with Scott.”
Buway’s advice for current A&GS college students is, “Enjoy it, and have fun! Learn a lot, because there is a lot to learn. Get involved with any groups on campus that are doing what you are interested in. Find organizations in the community that you can also get involved with. Start creating your network now, and get to know people in the fields that you are interested in. Networking is key, also be engaged and ask questions!” Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Buway provides some words to those who have just graduated, “You have gained valuable skills, and pandemic or not, they will always be with you. This too shall pass, and you will still find a career, and there are still people that need intelligent young graduates that are eager to go out into the world. We are still going to have sustainability issues, there is no slowing that down…those are moving forward. Stay resilient, and don’t worry. You are going to end up where you belong in a good career!”