As a fourth-grader, Taylor Stephenson declared she was going to be a meteorologist. She once asked her teacher if they could do a class about clouds because she really liked clouds, and she still has journals from that age in which she wrote her future plans.
Now, the recent University of Oklahoma graduate is about to fulfill that lifelong dream when she starts as an on-air meteorologist at 13WMAZ in Macon, Georgia, in June. Stephenson said that according to the research done, she will be the first degreed Black meteorologist at the station.
Stephenson also gained on-air experience during her time in college, working for OU Nightly, a student-produced newscast. Stephenson, who minored in broadcast journalism through the School of Meteorology's partnerships with the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, got involved with OU Nightly during her first semester on campus, and most recently served as a director.
“You’re learning how to do a lot of on-air live stuff with meteorology. You're learning how to build graphics. You're learning how to deal with other people who are doing news, sports, and everything else,” Stephenson explained. “As a director, I’ve learned how to do a lot of the technical side of things … I feel like OU Nightly is the best thing for broadcast students at OU.”
Stephenson grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and while she considered a few schools, she ended up at OU because she felt that for the education she would receive, it had the best price and the best educators. The university was also on her radar because her parents both attended OU and met while students here.
Other organizations Stephenson was involved with included Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the Black Student Association; Diversity Enrichment Programs; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Norman; Student Affairs Committee for the School of Meteorology as the senior representative; and the National Association of Broadcast Journalists.
In 2019, Stephenson completed an internship at The Weather Channel, working as a weather graphics intern. She stressed the importance of networking and said that’s how she secured that internship. The vice president of on-air talent had come to speak to her class, and Stephenson mentioned she was thinking about applying for the position. It turned out he was over the internship.
“I feel like I would never have gotten that position at the Weather Channel had I not gone out of my way to talk to him every day that he was here,” Stephenson said. “I would definitely say maybe step out of your comfort zone a little bit because a lot of good things come from that.”
“OU was so worth the money for the academics,” Stephenson stated. “It was irreplaceable. I have education connections that I know I would have never gotten had I gone somewhere else."
- Taylor Stephenson
She was also selected for a prestigious internship in the summer of 2020 called Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) after being nominated by one of her professors. The program is for minority students, and only 13 people in the United States were selected.
Unfortunately, the internship was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Stephenson had planned to study the effects of man-made pollution in minority and underserved communities. Stephenson feels like the School of Meteorology’s faculty have always been looking out for her, and this semester, she received faculty recognition as the school’s outstanding undergraduate student.
While Stephenson is starting her career on-air, she is open to dabbling in research at some point. She said she is interested in maybe serving as a meteorological liaison someday, possibly as a correspondent for a state or local government. Another potential option for her down the line is earning a master’s degree in an area through which she can advocate for climate change policies.
“OU was so worth the money for the academics,” Stephenson stated. “It was irreplaceable. I have education connections that I know I would have never gotten had I gone somewhere else. So, looking back, I'm super grateful for all the professors, staff members, education that I got because, again, I just don't think I would have gotten that anywhere else, and the School of Meteorology has been amazing.”