129 The Views of an "Adjunct" Teaching Upper Division Meteorology

Monday, 8 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
George Frederick Jr., Univ. of the Incarnate Word, Georgetown, TX

In the spring of 2012, I was called by a Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM) colleague to recommend someone to take over an Atmospheric Dynamics course at a private university in south central Texas. I could not find anyone interested and having a lifelong interest in education, volunteered to make the 120 mile roundtrip to teach this class—but restricted to one day a week. This began a three month odyssey of preparation where I kept asking myself “WHY, WHY, WHY, did I do this. My background had been 30 years in the Air Force as an operational meteorologist forecasting weather, helping aircraft designers and testers, and leading units of fellow meteorologists to do a myriad of things. I also spent 20 years in the private sector managing projects and producing meteorological instruments. My undergraduate degree was in Engineering Science and thanks to the Air Force I received one year of “Basic Meteorology Training” and a masters degree in Meteorology as I went along. I loved dynamics in college and thought I would have no problem teaching it to the current generation. But, I first needed to find a text that suited my style. Holton had been recommended but I found Martin laid out a nice two semester program that I understood and could teach. I consulted several friends and colleagues who had gone through this process and one of them even gave me all of his first semester notes with lots of mathematical derivations and expansions. A great gift that got me started.

Now, five years later, I have taught the course four times. In so doing I have transformed it from a two semester course to one semester course and have transitioned from Martin to Holton as the primary text. In addition I have developed and taught additional upper division courses in Synoptic Meteorology, Thermodynamics, Atmospheric Physics, Tropical Meteorology, Micrometeorology, and Air Pollution Meteorology. It seemed like every time I turned around I was either developing a new course or converting an existing one.

The classes at our University have been small and very manageable—ranging from three to ten students at a time. I found all of the students to be highly motivated to succeed and they worked hard to learn the topics and become proficient in the science. There were some impediments along the way. Math—math—math—preparation is insufficient. I had to spend the first three to four weeks in Dynamics teaching or re-teaching vector analysis and calculus through partial differential equations. With the small department size and changes in administration, many prerequisites were waived or ignored. This limited the time available to cover the meat of the course. I found the best technique for driving home the principles was the “triple play”. Play one—homework/lab assignment. Play two—cover on an open book quiz. Play three—include important points on a closed book periodic exam. Review and repeat was the best solution.

Our program included some who were majoring in Broadcast Meteorology. Those students performed well in oral presentations in class. But others needed lots of practice in this area and I always had several assignments requiring presentations before the class. Writing as well. Both of these areas could use a lot of work in our K-12 and early undergraduate courses.

I had a great five years as an “adjunct” professor and watched a lot of excellent students progress from neophyte to professional meteorologists by the time they graduated. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. This paper will reflect on my time at the University, my perspective of student preparation and my thoughts for the future of undergraduate education in our field.

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