The Perfect Atmosphere for Learning

Zachary Bruick

Class of 2017
Hometown: Seward, Neb.
Major: Meteorology
Minors: Spanish, Mathematics, Geographic Information Systems

Zachary Bruick recognized his interest in meteorology early — early enough to apply for the American Meteorological Society Freshman Undergraduate Scholarship during his senior year in high school. He won the coveted award and took it to Valpo.

“Talking to people in the meteorology industry, I learned that Valpo is recognized as an excellent school,” Zach says. “And the facilities are outstanding: you have all the tools you need.”

Zach chose Valpo because of the meteorology program’s reputation, but it’s the department’s atmosphere that makes him very satisfied with his choice.

When he arrived at Valpo for his first semester as a meteorology major, Zach discovered that the community was as important as the technology. He was delighted to his find that his department felt like his department right away.

“You are involved in the program from day one. It’s focused on undergraduates, which is rare in this field,” Zach observes. “The professors are here to help you.”

And they’re here to illuminate and inspire, right from the get-go.

“In our first-semester intro class, we had lab sessions once a week,” Zach recalls. “In one of my favorite labs, we used dry ice in a large freezer to model how clouds are formed. You shine a flashlight through it and see this cloud of ice crystals in the dark … this is referred to regularly in class, and they make it so striking that you never forget it.”

Other students are an important factor, as well. “The juniors and seniors are great at integrating the freshmen into the life of the department, and there’s a program that matches incoming students with juniors and seniors who serve as mentors. There are so many opportunities to get connected,” Zach says.

The department holds regular social events where students and faculty have a chance to meet in an informal setting. The Valpo chapter of the American Meteorological Society is open to first-year students, and after the first year, students with high academic standing may be inaugurated into Chi Epsilon Pi, an honor society for meteorologists.

Like many Valpo meteorology students, Zach especially appreciates being able to join the Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team, Valpo’s storm-chasing group. VUSIT keeps “chase logs” of the 10-day field studies that are offered by Professor Bart Wolf for meteorology credit each spring and summer. The group also runs its own daylong chases during the school year to observe severe weather events in the region around Valpo, safety permitting.

Zach hopes to participate in a storm chase soon. Meanwhile, he has contributed to VUSIT’s efforts toward another important part of its mission: using its knowledge, skills, and equipment to report severe weather developments to the National Weather Service and local authorities.

“Meteorology is a service-oriented field,” Zach says. “Our outreach is directed to saving lives and saving property.”