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Storm chasers course wins award

A WKU summer geography course on severe storm chasing was recently recognized with a “Creative and Innovative Program” award.

Eight WKU students traveled across 14 states and witnessed 17 tornado touchdowns during a May term course. Dr. Josh Durkee, who taught the course, took this photograph just east of Sheridan Lake, Colo. Back row (left to right): Sam Roberts, Sarah McCann, Dustin Jordan; middle row (left to right): Brittney Whitehead, T.J. Malone, Kyle Berry, Olivia Payne; front row: Landon Hampton.

The award, presented at the North American Association of Summer Sessions (NAASS) annual conference in Portland, Maine, was awarded to WKU for the Geography 475 course “Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting.” Beth Laves, Interim Associate Vice President for Extended Learning & Outreach, and Alicia Bingham, WKU Summer Sessions Specialist, accepted the award.

Dr. Josh Durkee, assistant professor of Meteorology in the Department of Geography and Geology, led the course, taking eight meteorology students to 14 states in 14 days to study and predict severe storms throughout the Great Plains. Students analyzed storm data, pinpointed locations for severe weather and patiently waited for storms to form. The course resulted in students witnessing 17 tornadoes and receiving more hands-on experience than they ever expected.

“Once I saw the massive storm in person, everything I had studied in the classroom made sense,” said Olivia Payne, an Owensboro junior in the meteorology program. “I learned more on that one trip than I could learn in just the classroom.”

According to Durkee, meteorology is difficult to teach without getting out of the classroom and into the elements. “We can’t replicate the true atmosphere in a lab,” he said. “This unique course took students out of the classroom and in to the real world of forecasting.”

WKU Summer Sessions allows students to maximize their learning opportunities by offering a variety of courses during the summer. These include travel courses, online classes and course offerings on all WKU campuses. Courses scheduled for summer 2011 include an English workshop in creative fiction, a Study Away course called “Literature in New York City” and more.

For information about WKU Summer Sessions, visit www.wku.edu/summer or contact Alicia Bingham at alicia.bingham@wku.edu or (270) 745-2478.

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