Mississippi State University is the only school (that I'm aware of) with all-online programs for bachelors (and masters) degrees in meteorology. In 2010, when I decided it was time to change the direction in my life course, this was a perfect fit for a then 37-year-old nobody from a no-name town who wanted to make something of himself, and maybe provide a better life for the family.
Some people derided my decision about online schooling, saying it was a "soft choice," implying that the coursework is somehow easier. I assure you, it's not. There are a myriad different ways it's more difficult. Make no mistake, distance learning is very convenient. I don't have to spend my days in lecture halls and commuting to/from a campus. I can do my homework... "whenever"... as long as it's submitted by the due date and time. That's where the easy part ends.
On the other hand, it's harder because you don't have a professor right in front of you to ask a question, or a classmate, etc. The detractors say, "well you can use your book (or Google) for your tests." While that technically is true, there are time limits on the online tests, and if you think you can look up the answers to multiple essay questions or 100 M/C questions over a 50-minute time limit, you give it a try. You still have to know the material.
A distance-learning program such as this allowed me to continue working my regular job, allowed me to continue being a husband and father, and allowed me the flexibility of doing my coursework at 2 in the morning, as often was the case. It allowed me to pursue the opportunity to take a lifelong hobby and make it (hopefully) a career... or at least open some doors to some other opportunities that were not going to come my way continuing to work in a dying industry. I knew a change needed to be made, but I also knew that I didn't want to just "settle" for working some minimum- or low-wage job somewhere, and being miserable in the process. I was already achieving that particular goal... especially the misery.
But that's not the point of this blog.
I caught wind recently of an individual retiring from the news media who apparently has a pathological hatred for everything Mississippi State stands for. I'm honestly not sure what his claim to fame is. I don't want to give this
"in-duh-vidual" any press by listing his name, but suffice it to say I had never heard of him before today, and I'm already glad he's retiring... the world is a better place. For the sake of this blog, we'll just call him "Dan." "Dan" wrote in his blog that, quote, "we’ve watched a small university in America’s poorest state become an online factory for TV weather guessers."
While "Dan" certainly is entitled to his opinion -- we still do have the First Amendment -- his comment shows a high level of ignorance about the Mississippi State Operational and Applied Meteorology programs. Calling us "weather guessers" is an insult to the years of math and science that we study to earn our degrees. (It's the same level of insult when someone says we're wrong 70% of the time but still keep our job.) I'm sure there are many who have "earned" a watered-down degree, those who developed a sharp command of "how to use Google to answer test questions" -- but I'm sure that occurs everywhere. (I personally watched kids at Southeastern Community College with their phones in their lap during exam times, every few minutes looking up to see where the instructor was, and then quickly thumbing something on that phone. (I always wondered why teachers weren't more suspicious of kids looking down at their crotch during test sessions.)) It's okay, these folks will be exposed the first day they get a job someplace and have no clue what they're doing.
But I digress. You have to put in countless hours of homework and study and test-taking and lecture-viewing to earn the degree from Mississippi State. I can personally attest to the joy and tears that have come on this rollercoaster ride. I have worked very hard over the past several years to earn my degree.
A few tidbits about the Meteorology programs at Mississippi State:
"This program focuses on the study of atmospheric processes and climatic variability. Upon completion of the program (operational emphasis), students will have met the coursework requirements for the National Weather Service, the private meteorology sector, or they may continue their education in graduate school. Students choosing the program with the broadcast emphasis can also work for the National Weather Service and also earn the American Meteorological Society’s Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval.
"The Professional Meteorology Program (PMP) track prepares students for graduate school and/or a career as an operational forecaster. Outside of the core meteorology curriculum, PMP students are encouraged/expected to take courses in advanced mathematics (calculus), statistics, computer programming, Remote Sensing, GIS, and other courses depending upon individual students' interests.
"Recent graduates from the PMP have attended meteorology and climatology graduate programs at the University of Georgia, University of South Carolina, Florida State University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and others. The USDA, the EPA, the Weather Channel, and the National Weather Service also employ our PMP graduates as forecasters." (Miss. State)
Some argue that MSU's program is somehow "subpar" ... or "Meteorology Lite" because it doesn't have the Calculus requirements (at least the program I have enrolled in -- Operational Meteorology) that would be found at OU or Penn. That said, I took Calculus at the community college level, struggled through the course, but ultimately passed the course, so that argument is rendered moot. I understand that the National Weather Service has further calculus course requirements; these courses can be obtained online from various locations, and can also be taken at an accredited community college. Any other coursework needed to obtain the AMS Seal can be acquired via distance learning from various locations. (Broadcast meteorologists use little advanced calculus on a day-to-day basis.)
I don't regret my decision to enroll at Mississippi State University. I regret not being able to be a part of the whole "campus life" experience -- football games, parties, classrooms, etc. -- but the Distance Learning program has served me quite well. I have been able to pursue my dream. In December, I will, to borrow a phrase from Ric Flair, "walk that aisle" at graduation, and my degree will say "Bachelor of Science" .... NOT "weather guesser."
So, "Dan," you can kiss this Bulldog's a**.