Written by Rachael Kroot for GradSchools.com, January 2014
Is seems to me like there is an organization and a conference for everything these days. In weather, the two big players are the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the National Weather Association (NWA). As a graduate student, I am a member of both national organizations and Treasurer of our local NWA/AMS chapter. The national NWA conference this fall was held in Charleston, SC, and I had the opportunity to attend with 18 other Mississippi State students and present at the student poster session.
Going to a conference as a student is great, because the fees are traditionally cheaper than for professionals. Some university programs will even cover the cost for their students. As Treasurer of our chapter, I arranged for a student group discount, getting everybody an additional 20% off the student rate. You can’t beat that!
Going to a conference as a student is also a great opportunity to network. While I met a lot of great meteorologists at the conference, let me tell you a quick story about my night at the “Broadcaster’s Dinner.”
The Broadcaster’s Dinner is an annual tradition at the NWA conference, but my friend Brittney and I had originally decided not to attend because of the cost. Through a series of fluke events the afternoon before the dinner, though, we ended up getting last minute tickets. The point of the dinner was to be able to mingle with other broadcasters from around the country. Since we had such large student group, we all agreed to sit at separate tables rather than staying in a Mississippi State bubble.
Brittney and I paired up and picked an empty table in the middle of the room. We waited patiently to get our food from the buffet line until somebody sat with us… but nobody sat down! Slowly, the tables around us started to fill up. Meteorologists would walk over, look around, and sit somewhere else. At one point, a friend at a neighboring table even turned around and said, “What are you two doing to scare people off?”
After a sufficiently awkward waiting period, somebody finally did walk up to our table. It was Mike Bettes from the Weather Channel. For those of you who are unfamiliar, he is the meteorologist who was thrown in the Weather Channel storm chase vehicle in El Reno this past summer. He said, “Is anybody sitting here?” Brittney responded, “No, please join us!” to which I added, “Nobody else wants to sit with us, we were starting to worry we were doing something wrong!” As he sat down, he reached his hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Mike.”
Two other meteorologists and a meteorology student from a different school also joined us in the end... I guess having Mike Bettes at our table made Brittney and I look like more attractive dinner companions. Mike and the other meteorologists were all friendly and easy to talk to. We covered professional topics like storm chasing, resume tapes, first jobs and goals; but we also got to talk about normal things like sports teams and travel. We left at the end of the night with hugs and wonderful new contacts as we get ready to kick-start our careers!
Overall, the conference was a great experience. I would encourage any graduate student to look for opportunities to get to know professionals outside of the typical presentation setting. This could be a dinner like I attended, a smaller topic meeting, or a mentoring session if one is available. You never know who you will meet or what you will learn!
About the Author: Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently attending graduate school for broadcast meteorology.
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