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WKU Storm Chase students prepare for annual trip with new SpiritFunder campaign

WKU Storm Chase students prepare for annual trip with new SpiritFunder campaign

Since its inception in 2007, climbing interest in the B.S. Meteorology Program at WKU has resulted in the fastest-growing and largest program in the Department of Geography and Geology.

The Meteorology Program emphasizes professional learning experiences with research, broadcast journalism, emergency management and forecasting with its entities such as the College Heights Atmospheric Observatory Students (CHAOS) and its operational group, White Squirrel Weather. One innovative learning experience is Dr. Josh Durkee’s Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting course, whereby students participate in an intensive learning environment with the task to forecast, analyze, document and study severe convective storms across the Great Plains.

The course, which won the “Creativity and Innovation Award” from the North American Association for Summer Programs in 2010, runs for four weeks, including two spent traveling across the Plains tracking severe storms. In its eighth year, the group heads out May 15 with the anticipation of gaining important forecast skills in the face of a variety of severe weather phenomena, including damaging hail and wind events, dangerous lightning, floods and tornadoes.

Since the group spends two weeks traveling the U.S. in search of the world’s most dangerous weather events, the travel portion of the class (van rental, hotel, gas, food, etc.) costs each student around $1,000. While students have raised or collected private funds over the years to help offset these travel costs, this year the WKU Storm Chase has latched on to a new opportunity, the WKU SpiritFunder.

The WKU SpiritFunder is a crowdsource funding approach with the intent to support exciting and robust initiatives at WKU, such as the WKU Storm Chase.

“We are very excited that WKU selected the WKU Storm Chase to participate in its inaugural SpiritFunder initiative,” Dr. Durkee said. “Travel-based education experiences such this do require additional costs to participate. I would love nothing more than to find a way to reduce or alleviate any financial burden on students who want to go the extra mile for their education.”

The goal for the Storm Chase SpiritFunder is $8,000, which covers the travel cost for the eight students participating in the trip this year. After one week, the group has already raised more than $2,100. The campaign ends May 17.

“If we meet our goal, students will then have the $700 travel fee removed from their bill, and food will be fully covered for the two weeks on the road,” Dr. Durkee added. “That’s a mission goal I think many can support.”

Students who were selected to participate in the 2017 course are Jessica Dobson of Louisville; Justin Hobbs of Irvington; Paige Noël of Friendsville, Tennessee; Pierce Larkin of Lawrenceburg; Kelli McShane of Orland Park, Illinois; Jonathan Oglesby of Greenville; Thomas Giebel of Germantown, Maryland; and Tori Hampton of Knob Lick.

You can follow Dr. Durkee’s storm chase group as they document each day at on Twitter and at for daily blog entries and live tracking. To keep up with the fundraising effort, visit the WKU Storm Chase SpiritFunder.

More: WKU Meteorology Program; White Squirrel Weather on Twitter

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777

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 Last Modified 5/2/17