I graduated from the Atmospheric Sciences and Mathematics Departments in December 2012. I had been interested in weather since we learned about the water cycle in second grade; I knew through middle and high school that I would someday be a meteorologist. I decided to pursue that dream when I applied to UNC Asheville and later declared my major in atmospheric sciences.
Freshman year, I was enrolled in the Liberal Studies Introductory Colloquium titled “Weather & Society” taught by Dr. Christopher Godfrey. At the time, this course opened my eyes to the world of emergency management and other opportunities for atmospheric scientists. In my pursuit of a meteorology degree, I became passionate with the impacts of weather and disasters, more than the actual science of weather or natural disasters. I can now say that Dr. Godfrey’s class was the ignition of my passion; that freshman course has profoundly changed my career, future aspirations, and consequently, my life.
This newfound passion directed me towards 4 wonderful internships that I pursued over a 2 year period with the state and local governments. The leadership and guidance I received from the many emergency managers I encountered during that time has contributed to my change in career path. After graduation, I applied for a variety of jobs, including: emergency management coordinator, natural hazards planner, continuity planner, statistician, hydrologic technician, among many others.
I accepted a position at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, in June 2013. I was hired as the Emergency and Continuity Planner within the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Here, I have many responsibilities, including: emergency notification, hazardous materials response, business continuity planning, crisis communication, emergency operations planning, as well as disaster planning and preparedness. I still utilize my meteorology degree, almost every day, in making decisions for the safety of our students, employees, patients, and visitors.
Within the world of emergency management, I have learned more about my majors (especially atmospheric sciences) and the connection between the disciplines. Meteorology impacts everyone’s lives; weather may impact how you dress, what vehicle you drive, outdoor events, and even your mood. My position looks at the impacts of weather on people and a society, and determines ways to mitigate the effects, prepare for the disruption, respond to a disaster, and recover from crises.
While I get to utilize my atmospheric sciences degree, emergency management deals with other types of hazards, including man-made and technological disasters. This is where my liberal arts degree comes into the picture. While I sometimes grumbled about going to the humanities and general education courses, these disciplines taught me patience, humility, compassion, and creative/critical thinking. Those attributes have proven to given me the peace of mind and confidence I need to make decisions that may affect thousands of lives on campus.
I would have never imagined 6 years ago, when I graduated high school, that I would be where I am today. It is with hard work, dedication, and guidance that I was able to make it this far. At this time I would like to present you with a few things that I learned during this experience:
- Talk with your advisor on a regular basis, not just when you need to register for classes. This person is knowledgeable and has many contacts that can help you find the right graduate school or job. Don’t like your advisor? Choose someone else within the department as your advisor, or consult with someone at the career center.
- Join student organizations and honor societies on campus, especially those related to your major. Not only do these look great on your resume, but they can be a ton of fun and you could meet your lifetime best friend. Make sure you go to the special events and activities. Take advantage of the freebies!
- Start building your resume your freshman year, and edit it after each semester. If you do not have a job, you should be listing extracurricular activities and related course work. Visit the career center; those folks are amazing at fixing resumes and assisting with letters of intent.
- Get a job, internship, or complete an undergraduate research project that interests you. Whether it’s working for Campus Recreation, interning with a local company downtown, or doing research out in the field (or in the mountains rather), getting that hands-on experience will give you invaluable intel to your future wanderings.
- Step out of your comfort zone! Go to a conference within your discipline, and present your research poster or talk with other undergraduate/graduate students who are presenting their posters. I cannot say this enough: network, network, network! Through networking you will meet new friends, find your future employer, or interest you in a new career path.
- Go exploring Asheville and the surrounding area. Walk downtown and enjoy the music, art, and restaurants. Go drive the Blue Ridge Parkway on a beautiful fall afternoon. Take your friends and go camping (Campus Recreation rents out the equipment!). Rent a bike and ride around the city. Asheville is a beautiful place, so make beautiful memories!
Good luck in your future endeavors, bulldogs!