Building Mentoring Relationships Between Alumni and Students of Jackson State University (196)

John Moore, NWS, Jackson, MS

 

Abstract:

The Jackson State University(JSU) Meteorology Program was developed in 1975 through a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) with hopes of educating and training students from underrepresented groups to become apart of the NOAA/NWS workforce. JSU served as the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) with an undergraduate meteorology degree program until 2008. Since the program's inception, nearly 100 students have received degrees in meteorology. Approximately one-fourth of all African Americans with a degree in meteorology hail from JSU, while one-third of all African American meteorologists employed by NWS are graduates of Jackson State. Numerous graduates of JSU's Meteorology Program have progressed to prominent positions within NOAA and the NWS. Many graduates who have not joined the NOAA workforce are employed within state and local government agencies, private industry, academia, and military. The alumni of the program attribute their success to training received while at JSU and taking advantage of internship and volunteer opportunities offered by NOAA and the NWS.

Over the last few years, alumni noted the lack of graduates achieving employment opportunities from NOAA/NWS. Between 2008 and 2013, due to many factors, very few graduates were hired by the NWS and the number of students participating in NOAA/NWS internships declined. To combat this issue and ensure that NOAA continued to receive a steady flow of diverse employees from JSU, several actions were taken by alumni who are employed by NOAA/NWS. These actions were supported by the NOAA Office of Education and the NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS). Various methods were utilized to build trust and motivate students to become interested in careers within the NWS and other NOAA line offices. An alumni/student mentoring initiative was implemented during the meteorology program's 40th Anniversary in 2015. During this program, alumni and NOAA/NWS employees provided students with professional development training with the goal of helping students secure coveted scholarships, internships, and employment opportunities.

During the last two years, the partnership between alumni, students, and NOAA increased student participation in internship opportunities by over 200%. The number of prestigious scholarships awarded to students also increased, resulting in students that are better prepared to join the NOAA's future workforce. Alumni, students, and NOAA/NWS are eager to maintain this partnership through the years to come.