A Meteorology Memoir

Elyse Smith
A Meteorology Memoir
Class of 2017

Why meteorology?

As I went on through grade school and into high school, my teachers and classmates knew me as “Irish Dancing Weather Girl;” I was a World Champion Irish dancer and had always had this interest in meteorology. Unlike most of my grade school classmates, I was not frightened by thunderstorms. When the siren would sound, I wondered how it was triggered and could warn us when dangerous weather was coming. Then my parents introduced me to the occupation of a meteorologist, specifically a television meteorologist. I was awed at the fact the these people could tell you what the weather was going to be, which seemed to be an impossible feat to me at the time.

Why Valpo?

After visiting the campus during an Admitted Student Overnight Visit that spring, the choice was simple. Yes, I knew I wanted to study meteorology, and successfully do so. Besides the program, Valpo had so much more to offer:  extracurricular clubs and organizations of every major, activities that were both educational and entertaining, and a welcoming worship space for everyone of any religious background. Valpo was, and is, the well rounded environment where I knew I would be able to thrive.

How was the experience in meteorology?

Coming from high school, I was the only one I knew of who wanted to study meteorology. The change from being the only one to one of near fifty meteorology students at Valpo was so intimidating! But, on the first day, I was welcomed with open arms by all my professors and classmates. I finally could be the inner weather nerd I was and make the most genuine friendship while doing so. Plus, not only were my classmates great friends, they were some of the most intelligent people I had ever met, and still are. Valpo has the best of the best when it comes to hard working, enthusiastic students that are driven by their passions. There is no doubt, in my mind, that I would not be where I am today without them. For the major, you take as much math and physics as an engineer… you could say the major is “atmospheric engineering.” It was not easy. I remember many nights where I was up late, glued to a white board, drilling calculus equations into my brain, or at the library studying with a physics peer tutor, or in my professor’s office getting extra help on why the atmosphere worked the way it did. These resources that were openly available to me, and every student, are what helped me successfully pass the required courses for meteorology. Within my major, each professor had a different area of expertise in meteorology. The Valpo theme of being a well rounded individual is most present in the meteorology curriculum too. You could study tropical meteorology, aviation meteorology, learn how to program, forecast lake effect snow, and so much more. And on top of all of that, the professors were there to help you succeed, if that meant sitting down and making a career plan or just a quick life chat over a cup of espresso. Bart, Teresa, Craig, Adam, and Kevin are all here at Valpo, to educate the next generation of meteorologists. Also, there are weather centered clubs and organizations you can get involved in within the meteorology department. I was lucky enough to climb the ranks within the professional development organization, and be President of the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the American Meteorological Society/National Weather Association my senior year. I am thankful that my peers saw me as a capable leader for one of the department’s organizations. Throughout my four years in this organization, I participated in school wise fundraisers such as Relay for Life, helped organize and run local meteorology conferences, and represent this Northwest Indiana chapter at national conferences. I saw how being a part of these professional societies as a student opened doors for me, specifically with landing an internship with Chief Meteorologist James Spann in Birmingham, Alabama. I networked my way to that one, and after that, networked my way to my first job.

How did all the other experiences at Valpo add or detract from you experience?

Let me start off by saying that every Valpo student is crazy busy. If you did not have a job, leadership position or two, and participate in community fundraisers all at the same time, while being a student, you did not have the Valpo experience. I mentioned I was President of the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the American Meteorological Society/National Weather Association my senior year, which sounds like that should be plenty of responsibility and time consuming in itself. Yet, my  leadership roles and commitment did not stop there. Over my four years at Valpo, I was involved in Sigma Alpa Iota, The Dance Ensemble Showcase, VUTV, VUDU Comedy, Candlelight services, Relay for Life, Dance Marathon, and was the inaugural speaker at TEDx Valparaiso University in 2016. In short, I got to be a musician, dancer, choreographer, public speaker, child of God, and broadcast meteorologist, to name a few. I participated in all of these activities because I could… no door is closed to any student who wants to get involved in some way. These activities either taught me great time management skills, provided stress relief, or kept me grounded. Looking back, I could have participated in more, but I believe I found the perfect balance between being a student and having a collegiate experience. And in the end, I found that the most successful students at Valpo are the ones who are involved within and outside of their respected majors.

How did you change or not change?

From a career standpoint, I knew I wanted to explore the career of a Broadcast Meteorologist. Yet, I was still free to explore other fields and change my mind on my career. I have always had a passion for science and public speaking. I thought the career of a broadcaster would be a great fit, and Valpo provided that affirmation for me. From an extracurricular standpoint, I am so honored that I got to lead and be a part of so many diverse organizations. I did not plan on being as busy and involved as I was, which was a nice surprise and amazing challenge. Each one was an outlet for me to expand my horizons and find out who I wanted to be as a person and future professional in the work force. From a university standpoint, it’s cool that I was and am one of the students/graduates that the university turns to for publicity. It’s sort of unreal, to be one out of thousands of students that the university believes was a model student and graduate? Wow, that is a lot to live up to! If I have made Valpo proud with what I did as a student, I plan on doing the same a an early career professional. For everything else, you could say I grew up, not necessarily changed. I was shaped by who I surrounded myself with, and I discovered I got to choose who that was. A lot happens in college; your friendships change, family dynamics change, relationships change, and you have the power to surround yourself with those who are going to lift you up, not tear you down.

Where are you now?

I’m a goal setter, that’s how I keep myself grounded and motivated. At Valpo, I set goals to achieve different leadership positions or earn certain grades. Some were achieved, some were not. But, that idea of setting goals and working towards them was ever present through my education at Valpo, and will be for the rest of my life. At the end of my senior year, I set a goal to start looking for Broadcast Meteorologist jobs in May. I knew it was okay not to have a job lined up before graduation, and could wait to find a job that was the right fit for me. Well, that job found me, and it happened a lot quicker than I thought it would! Post graduation, I am at KRCG 13 in Jefferson City, Missouri as a full time Meteorologist. It’s hard to find a starting, full time meteorologist position in the media world these days. But, I worked hard, networked with the right people when I had the chance, and earned this job before I was even out of college. I have big dreams for myself. My long term goal right now is to be a Broadcast Meteorologist in Chicago. And, the best part is, I have mentors in the business who believe in me and know I can get there. Yet, I know that the television industry is changing so rapidly, and I will have to adapt as I go on if I want a long career. Outside of the tv industry, I hope to be President of the National Weather Association one day. And, above all, I know that I am happy and doing what I love.

Note: From Jefferson City, Missouri Elyse went to Buffalo, NY to forecast and report on lake-effect snow, experience Bills football, and taste-test buffalo wings! Her latest adventure sent her south to ABC13 Houston, Texas in June 2023.