Broadcast meteorology class taught by UTM alum

Shaley Dawson is a 2021 University of Tennessee at Martin alumna who has been co-teaching a meteorology course this semester through the College of Agriculture, Geoscience and Natural Resources with Tim Wallace, geoscience lecturer at UT Martin.

The new class is a part of the meteorology program at UT Martin which is the only meteorology program in the state of Tennessee and has allowed graduates from the program to get jobs in many different areas like Dawson.

Dawson earned a bachelor’s degree in geoscience with a concentration in meteorology.

After graduating, she started as a broadcast meteorologist at WBBJ-TV in Jackson before beginning her freelancing and contracting work as a meteorologist in West Tennessee.

The idea of teaching a broadcast meteorology class had been discussed in the past but it was never the right time, until fall 2023, when the plans started to fall into place.

Dawson and Wallace secured 5 to 8 p.m. in the Paul Meek Library for their class and began teaching broadcast meteorology in the spring 2024 semester.

“The broadcast class is the first of its kind at UTM. We were fortunate that Shaley was available, and willing, to offer the class,” said Wallace.

The class has access to spaces in the media center of the library with a classroom for lectures and a recording studio with a green screen for them to practice their broadcasting skills.

“While most classes in college are set up to learn material, I really wanted this class to be more focused on skills,” said Dawson.

Having access to the green screen ensured that the students were going to have the opportunity to put what they are learning to use and be able to practice these skills.

“Our class was set up with a short lecture in the beginning with open discussion and then the remaining two hours were spent in the ‘lab’ on the green screen,” said Dawson. “Developing the skills in front of the green screen was the most important thing in my opinion, so we spent more time on it than others.”

Not only did the students gain valuable experiences in class and in the lab, but they were also given the opportunity to network with meteorology professionals.

“Shaley is doing the heavy lifting with the class, delivering lectures and arranging job-shadowing opportunities at local television stations,” said Wallace.

“Each of the students was paired with a current broadcast meteorologist to help answer questions, learn how to network and build relationships, get advice on their reel, and anything else they may need,” said Dawson.

The class also visited WPSD-TV in Paducah where they met chief meteorologist Trent Okerson and got to watch a newscast, learn more about how graphics systems work and more.

“I know this class has been beneficial in helping students understand the hard work it takes, the time it takes, and the mindset it takes to succeed in this field,” said Dawson. “They have grown so much in just a few months of working on the green screen, and I genuinely cannot wait to see their hard work in a few years.”

“Teaching this class, getting to know these students, and helping them excel in these skills has been a feeling unlike any other.”

Dawson and Wallace hope to continue the class in the future and one day develop an advanced course that builds on the current one.

Along with teaching the broadcast meteorology class, Dawson has also been growing her business “StormSmarts”, where she teaches severe weather awareness and intro to meteorology to public schools.

“I believe that weather is a knowledge that is helpful for everyone to know and I plan to do my best to educate those around me about it,” said Dawson.

Dawson plans to continue educating and giving back in the community.

“This was my favorite part about working in broadcast and is why I went on to get my master’s with a plan of teaching, whether that is in high school, college or just by being contracted to come to schools,” she said. “As long as I can continue to educate and serve my community, I will be forever fulfilled in my career.”

PHOTO: Broadcast meteorology instructor Shaley Dawson (left) goes over weather graphics with freshman Christian Bryson of Jackson to make sure there are no errors and they are aligned properly before going on the green screen. Bryson is a geoscience major with an emphasis on meteorology.

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