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Broadcast Meteorology Program

Broadcast Meteorology: An Exceptional Model of Integrative Learning at EIU

Michael Cornebise, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Geology/Geography

While the Geology/Geography (G/G) Department prides itself in offering high impact experiences that are integrative in many areas, I have chosen to focus on activities within the Broadcast Meteorology minor because I believe they illustrate the integrative values embraced by G/G and serve as a model for further development of integrative learning (IL) in the department. Indeed, the success of integrative initiatives throughout our programs has led to cross-fertilization of integrative activities within the department. I will first outline IL as it applies to the G/G Department, and then showcase the Broadcast Meteorology minor to illustrate how IL serves as a key column in the success of that program and, more importantly, to the students who complete it.

High impact experiences do not necessarily qualify as intrinsically “integrative experiences.” The experiences must be purposeful and incorporated into a larger thematic whole in order to be considered truly integrative. However, for an academic unit to develop a truly integrative curriculum, there must be a foundation to build upon. The G/G Department possesses integrative “DNA” in several ways including, but not limited to, a strong dedication to field experiences and “outside-of-the classroom learning” at all levels (including support of faculty-led and semester-long study abroad programs), a focus on undergraduate research and internship opportunities, and a truly multi-disciplinary focus. G/G participates in many multidisciplinary programs including the Minor in Geographic Information Sciences, the Broadcast Meteorology Minor, the proposed Geographic Information Sciences Center, the Professional Science Masters program in GIS, the Master of Science in Natural Science, and many others. Experience in these endeavors has energized the department faculty and has led to the continuing success of programs such as the Broadcast Meteorology Minor, which incorporates coursework in G/G and Communication Studies.

Within the Broadcast Meteorology Minor, “high impact” experiences are not only central to the theme of the program; they have been purposely built into the curriculum. The goal of the program is to prepare students to work in the field of broadcasting, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. However, learning the nuts and bolts of the trade is not sufficient. The aim is to create practitioners who have the ability to translate the science of weather and climate to a general audience. Indeed, I hold that connecting the need to simultaneously create and present knowledge is at the integrative core of the program. To sum up the desired learning outcomes, students must learn the science behind meteorology and then be able to gather and analyze weather and climate-related data. They then must convey the “science” (data) to the general public through a variety of media including television, radio and the internet. Above and beyond this, students must become well-versed in a variety of areas that cross multiple disciplines and content areas. For example, students must not only learn the earth science and geographic aspects (weather and climate, geomorphology, hydrology, cultural and regional geography, etc.), but also the art of communication (speaking, writing and even theater arts).

While the pursuit of the above mentioned outcomes is important, the “reflective” piece of the program is perhaps the key to its success. This is due to the fact that reflection occurs at several different levels. In the course Broadcast Meteorology Practicum (ESC/GEG 3400), for example, students prepare DVDs of their broadcasts including both practice attempts as well as live presentations conducted on the air at WEIU. Students are responsible for researching and analyzing the weather data and creating their own slides prior to presenting the material. The recordings are not simply a means to convey the “art” of the broadcast (fluency, presentation style, body language, etc.), but also the “science,” or data-driven analysis.

According to ESC/GEG 3400 instructor Cameron Craig, the DVDs are critiqued at several levels. First, students submit written reports of each broadcast where they are directed to reflect on their performance and explain ways to improve future broadcasts and practice sessions. Embedded in the critique is reflection on their “positionality” in the process, i.e., their relationship vis-à-vis the perspective audience. Are they effectively communicating the message and correctly representing the data? Are they using the correct frames of reference in order to reach the audience? Secondly, the instructor provides feedback at two levels: immediate critique during practice sessions and following on-air broadcasts, as well as an end of semester overall critique of performance. Lastly, professionals in the field (including EIU alumni who have completed the program) are asked to provide feedback based on the content submitted by DVD. Students also have the opportunity to attend the National Weather Association annual meeting where they receive feedback from NWA professionals. These feedback loops are critical to the overall assessment of the students and the program, but perhaps the most telling outcome is the success in finding employment upon graduation. Including students who have graduated through fall 2011, 90% have found employment in the broadcasting arena including nearby television markets (Champaign & Decatur) as well as those further afield (Richmond, VA & Milwaukee, WI).

Another key component of the integrative learning experience in the Broadcast Meteorology Minor is related to service learning and contributions to the local and professional community. This experience has been developed in three main ways. To begin, the program stresses the need to prepare students to conduct “severe weather break-ins” on WEIU, thereby informing the community of potentially dangerous weather conditions. Students in the program are on-call during periods of weather alerts and must be able to convey up-to-the-minute coverage of breaking events. Another means for contributing to the community is in the collection of weather data that is utilized by the National Weather Service. EIU students are responsible for collecting and reporting daily weather data (even during vacations!). A third component is via out-reach in area schools where EIU students share their knowledge in an effort to spur interest in weather and climate-related topics to area elementary, middle and high school students.

Experiential learning is another high impact, integrative component in the program. Students are encouraged to participate in the production of documentaries and short films related to a variety of topics and are involved at every stage of development, including data collection, conducting interviews where appropriate, shooting the film, and final production. Through this process, students learn both the art of production and hone critical data collection and analytical skills. To cite a few examples, students have assisted in the production of documentaries such as the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill, a documentary on the Great Plains Dust Bowl, and “Expedition: Nature’s Realm” which focused on human impacts on the environment. In all, since 2005, students in the G/G program in general and the Broadcast Meteorology program more specifically, have had a hand in creating over 100 videos of various lengths and topics.

In sum, the G/G Department is actively involved in IL. One example of integrative learning in the department involves activities associated with the Broadcast Meteorology Minor. High impact activities include meaningful reflection and critique, service learning, and experiential learning in the form of film and video production. IL activities embedded in the curriculum have been successful in producing well-rounded students equipped for success beyond EIU, both at a personal and professional level.


More About the Program

The Broadcast Meteorology Minor is a combined program between the departments of Geology/Geography and Communication Studies at Eastern Illinois University. Since its inception in the fall of 2005, the minor has attracted regional and national attention. By merging both the science and the principles of communication into the program, students will understand the importance of being a broadcast meteorologist at any level. At Eastern Illinois University we take great pride in providing students a strong and everlasting foundation in whatever career path they pursue. In the departments of Geology/Geography and Communication Studies we work to provide students an exceptional Integrative Learning experience that puts the industry in their hands everyday throughout their four years at EIU. Broadcasting courses offered in the Communication Studies department focus on the production and delivery with a multitude of hands-on experiences while in the classroom. Enhancing that experience, the atmospheric science and physical geography courses offered through the Department of Geology/Geography fulfill the reason a student desires to be a broadcast meteorologist.

While both departments work parallel to provide a firm foundation, the Broadcast Meteorology Practicum, offered through the Department of Geology/Geography, merges the scientific process with the principles of communication into one single track allowing the student to focus on his/her methods of forecasting and broadcasting. This course has been designed to provide broadcast meteorology students daily practice in broadcasting and forecasting. Students enrolled in the course learn advanced meteorological concepts (i.e. synoptic meteorology and thermodynamics), research and determine a forecast, and deliver their findings in front of a camera and green wall in the instructor's office in the Department of Geology/Geography every day. "You cannot be a concert pianist if you do not practice your art on a daily basis," says Cameron Craig, Geography instructor. Once the students complete the course, they will be evaluated to fill open forecast positions for the EMMY Award Winning NewsWatch program at WEIU-TV. Once students graduate having gone through the required courses, completing the practicum, and working at WEIU, their career path is an easy one.

We have former students currently broadcasting the weather at the following stations around the nation.

In the Media

Caitlin Napoleoni :: Former EIU Runner Weathers Change :: JG-TC 2014

Former EIUWC and WEIU Students

Former students and current employment (EIU Graduation Date)

Chief Meteorologists

  • Kevin Jeanes, Chief Meteorologist, KOLD, Tucson, Arizona (2010)
  • Cameron Hopman, Chief Meteorologist, WLFI, Lafayette, Indiana (2010)
  • J.C. Fultz, Chief Meteorologist, WAND, Decatur, Illinois (2008)
  • Chad Evans, Chief Meteorologist, WLFI, Lafayette, Indiana (Mr. Craig's former Indiana State University student) (2005)


  • Derrick Jackson, KWES, Midland, Texas (2015)
  • Joseph Dames, KOIN, Portland, Oregon (2011/2012)
  • Nicholas Patrick, WCHS, Charleston, West Virginia (2013)
  • Lauren Jerkowitz, Peoria, Illinois (2013)
  • Caitlin Napoleoni, WPTZ, Plattsburgh, New York (2012)
  • Darren Leeds, KEVN, Rapid City, South Dakota (2011)
  • Mike Gismondi, WCJB, Gainesville, Florida (2011)
  • Laine Sylvester, [Former] WAND, Decatur, Illinois (2009)
  • Brittney Sager, [Former] WITI, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2009)
  • Jennifer Ketchmark, WCPO, Cincinnati, Ohio (2006)

University Catalog Listing

Local, regional, and national weather conditions are the most significant environmental factors affecting our activities. Current short and long-range weather information is an integral part of modern electronic media. This interdisciplinary minor prepares students to effectively communicate complex weather information to multiple audiences utilizing the electronic media.

View the Required Coursework and Electives.

For more information about the Broadcast Meteorology Minor at Eastern Illinois University, contact Cameron Craig.