I have just begun my second year at Mississippi State University (These are the Bulldogs, it’s not Ole Miss), studying meteorology.
You might ask, why would someone who has performed the job of meteorologist for the past 20 some odd years now go to school for it… and isn’t the commute to Starkville going to kill me?
It started at my last contract negotiation. Though my boss has a slightly different memory of it that I, the facts are pretty much the same. Our collective boss (The Big WASP Kahuna) thought it would be better, and more promotable if I had the American Meteorological Society Broadcasting Seal of Approval (aka the seal).
At one time, the AMS handed these out like candy on Halloween. That ended about 20 minutes after I entered the weather field when the seal program became the Meteorologists Full Employment Act of 1983. In order to get a seal you would need a core meteorological college level curriculum and then pass a screening.
The station’s offer was, if you invest the time to take the courses (3 years, 17 courses), we will pay your way. So, I’m on a LIN Television scholarship. Interestingly, I will have the seal a few months after the expiration of my current contract.
Mississippi State University developed this distance learning course (what used to be called “correspondence school” ) to scratch an itch. I have recently seen estimates that nearly 30% of all TV meteorologists went through the MSU program.
The lectures are on DVD and videocassette. The textbooks are standard, overpriced, and professor written. Tests and quizzes are given online and are all multiple choice. I guess this opens the program up to cheating, though I have never heard a hint of it.
So far, I’m a straight “A” student. I only mention that because my previous college career (which began in 1968 and is on my permanent record at Mississippi State – and is the reason for the name of this weblog) was a disaster.
I was to college as Gigli was to movies.
This semester my courses are Statistical Climatology and Severe Weather. I actually have enjoyed most of the courses I’ve taken so far, though it is obvious that not every course has the right amount of material for exactly one semester, and not every professor has a flair for lecturing on DVD (It was like chalk on a blackboard to hear one lecturer mispronounce Greenwich, England).
It has been interesting to watch Mississippi State operate. I get lots of emails that are written for students on campus. I found out that cowbells were banned from football games. Who knew? I was invited to seminars to grill perspective administrator candidates.
MSU’s computer system, which is my link to the school, seems rickety. It is constantly down for varying lengths of time. A few semesters ago, during finals, it ran out of space and lost a load of final exams (though not mine). There was no backed up data!
I just went to get an MSU logo to put with this entry… it’s down right now.
A while ago my wife asked, “Have you learned anything?”
The answer is yes.
“But,” she continued, “how important could it be if you haven’t needed it in the last 20 years?”