Meteorology majors, who graduate from Valparaiso University, join thousands of other graduates across the country in becoming meteorologists who work for television stations, private companies, academia and the National Weather Service.
Mike Bardou, Class of 2003, is one of many Valpo meteorology alumni working at the National Weather Service Office in Romeoville, Ill. He is the warning coordination meteorologist responsible for working directly with broadcast media, emergency management departments, first responders and public safety officials at hospitals and universities. He provides direct weather information for public events and helps build the relationship between the weather service and its partners.
“There are several of us [alumni] working at the National Weather Service Office in Romeoville. Several forecasters over the years have come and gone. They have been forecasters, lead forecasters, hydrologists, and other positions in the weather service,” said Bardou.
Other alumni are working at different branches of the National Weather Service surrounding Valpo, such as Lincoln, Illinois, Milwaukee, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Cleveland. Or one of the many other offices throughout the United States.
“The Center Weather Service Unit (CSWU) in Chicago provides direct weather support to the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] in Aurora, Ill. The meteorologist in charge at the CWSU is Jamie Enderlen, Valpo alumni and previously was a forecaster at the National Weather Service at the Romeoville office,” Bardou said.
Bardou expressed how Valpo helps its meteorology students find their respective career paths.
“The focus when I was at Valpo was all aspects of meteorology and helping students to do what they wanted to do in terms of the direction they wanted to go into the field. So there was a pretty good operational or forecasting presence, I thought and emphasis, which was good for me,” Bardou said.
Bardou believes what he learned at Valpo set him up well for his career.
“It helped reinforce my career path and set me up to be able to go into it and have a career in forecasting between the skills and knowledge,” Bardou said. “The experiences we gain in outside experience, internships, and the storm chase helped me to be well-positioned to get a job.”
For current students interested in working for the National Weather Service, Bardou recommended that they talk to their advisors.
“The biggest thing is to sit down with your advisors or professors and talk about your weather interests,” Bardou said. “Think about those things as early as you can...It took me until junior or senior year to figure out that I wanted to. Work with your professors, and they can put you in contact with folks at the National Weather Service, alumni.”
Bardou also encouraged students to seek out career experiences while in college.
“Getting exposed to the weather service in some way and in many cases having to wait between your junior and senior year to intern. At least do a job shadow and apply for volunteer positions, and there are some paid positions for students,” Bardou said.
He also explained different ways for students to get experience in meteorology.
“The application for the weather service looks for your experience relating to communicating and forecasting with some weather service specific things, maybe taking observations,” Bardou said.
Bardou offered some advice for current meteorology students.
“The more experience you get outside of the classroom, the better off you will be getting later opportunities,” Bardou said. “In more general terms, think about research, broadcast, operational side, and something less directly related to the weather but involves meteorology.”