With over 300 undergraduate and 110 graduate students enrolled, the OU School of Meteorology is the largest program of its kind in the nation. The school has produced Oklahoma's first resident elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, and has graduated students who later became Directors of the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center, a Space Shuttle astronaut, two past Presidents of the American Meteorological Society, and the state’s first member of the National Science Board. With so many accolades, the School of Meteorology shows no signs of slowing down.
The School’s students dominated the scholarships awarded this year by the nation’s professional organization for the atmospheric sciences, the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Out of the 14 available national scholarships awarded to outstanding high school seniors, 6 were awarded to incoming OU freshmen in the Class of 2016. A 7th OU freshman was selected for an AMS scholarship specifically designated for outstanding minority students traditionally underrepresented in meteorology. The next closest university in these rankings had only two scholarship recipients. OU upper-classmen also did well in these rankings, with the university tied for the lead in terms of the most AMS scholarships awarded to college juniors and seniors.
In addition to these talented undergraduates, two graduate students received National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships in the 2012 competition, and a third student received a Graduate Fellowship from the AMS. These graduate students are part of an active research enterprise that significantly benefits the state, since the sum total of the School of Meteorology's grant awards puts them at #5 in the entire nation. Additionally, 56% of their undergraduate students go on to graduate school, and that number is increasing steadily.
Why are so many talented individuals attracted to the OU School of Meteorology? "It's a very special place for students to study, both for undergraduates and graduates," says Dave Parsons, Director of the School of Meteorology and Mark and Kandi McCasland Professor. The school is located in a unique place, right in the heart of the National Weather Center. Due to the combined resources of 12 University of Oklahoma, state, and federal organizations, as well as private companies located on OU’s research campus, students have significant internship opportunities, both in the private and public sector. The educational experience is also enhanced, particularly by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory, who help mentor graduate students and bring their extensive professional experiences into the classroom as adjunct professors.
Students in the School of Meteorology also have the opportunity to participate in pioneering research. Because of the nature of the National Weather Center, which also houses NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center and the National Weather Service Forecast Office, if a student has an idea for a research project, they can almost immediately see the operational potential of their research. Very few places in the world afford undergraduate and graduate students the experience of seeing firsthand how their research can become operational. Students also have the opportunity to learn from the best in the field.
The School of Meteorology provides a unique outlet for job-seeking graduates. "If students come to me and ask what they need to do to be competitive when applying to work for the National Weather Service, I just take them downstairs so they can find out exactly what they need from the people who work there," says Susan Postawko, Associate Professor.
Almost no other place in the world contains such a large confluence of public, private sector and academic organizations, and opportunities to excel. "There are strong academic opportunities here, and students get the experience of having contact with diverse segments of meteorology," says Parsons. The faculty, staff, and students in the OU School of Meteorology are true champions of the new scientific frontier, and we are proud to have them as part of the Sooner family.
Interested in exploring the National Weather Center? Get a behind-the-scenes look on iTunes U.