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Black History Month

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A&GS Celebrates: Black History Month

Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, was first recognized nationally in 1976, following President Ford's Message on the Observation of Black History Week.  This historic month, however, can trace its roots all the way back to 1915.

"National African American History Month had its origins in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (“ASALH”). Through this organization Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. Dr. Woodson selected the week in February that included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of African Americans." (excerpt taken from Library of Congress)

For more information about African American History Month, please check out the following links:

To celebrate Black History Month, A&GS has organized several events and resources:

We hope you will join us in acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of African Americans in A&GS and beyond.

Black History Month, OU, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, The University of Oklahoma

 


 

University-Wide Events

OU's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is celebrating Black History Month.  See below for a list of activities and check out their calendar for even more events!

OU's DEI Calendar

Black History Month 2022 month of activities. February 1: Black history month Kickoff Celebration 11am HTCC AND Fireside Chat at 6pm in Beaird Lounge. Feb. 3 Open Mic at 6pm Black Box theater. Feb 4. Movies in Meacham, King Richard at 6pm in Meacham Auditorium. Feb 5 8th annual S.O.U.L. Conference at 10 am VIRTUAL. Feb 12 Valentines day brunch at noon TBA. Feb 16 HUMPDAZE at 7pm in Jim Thorpe Multicultural Center. Feb 18 Movies in Meacham, SCHOOL DAZE at 6pm in MEacham Auditorium. Feb 23 History of Soul Food Event at 6:30pm in the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Auditorium in Gaylor Hall. FEB 24 Ballroom Culture and the Movement for Black Liberation. Feb 25 TEACH OUt on Race from 10am to 3pmn via ZOOM. AND Mclaurin Lewis Leadership Conference - Night at Sarkeys at 7 pm in Sarkey's Fitness Center. Feb 26 Black OU Royalty Pageant at 7pm in Meacham Auditorium.  For More information please visit Link.OU.EDU/BHM
Image: BHM 2022 Events

A&GS African American Stories

The College of A&GS is currently accepting stories. Check back here soon for new stories, which will be updated throughout the month of February!

Aisha Owusu, Assistant Dean of Student Services
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • At eight years old, my father bought me a book about meteorology and I was hooked. From that moment forward and if I had a project or assignment for class, I tried to find a meteorological link to incorporate.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • As the newly appointed Assistant Dean of the College of A&GS, I have the wonderful opportunity to support any and all student services, initiatives and goals spanning from recruitment and outreach to JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion).
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/African American.
    • "Not for us, without us." I STILL struggle for my and my communities' voices and opinions to be taken into consideration with decision-making efforts OR decisions that are supposed to benefit African American/Black people. Things ARE changing, but the majority of the team, BIG international and national decisions for Black people are made without our representation, acknowledgement and approval because non-Black people believe they have the privilege, the right and/or the vicarious experience to make those decisions for us.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • As as Black child, you are often told by your family or community that you ALWAYS have to give 150-200% in your work or career for acknowledgement, let alone respect and achievement. Although this may seem like an insurmountable amount of pressure for any young child, it is very much engrained into my being. Thus and in my career, I have a tendency to analyze my work and what it could look like at the 100%, 150%, and 200% level... anything less is unacceptable.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • In addition to obtaining my PhD in an interdisciplinary field involving applied climate science, I also strive to become a Dean and President of a US university or college AND a climate advisor (or run for office) AND a seamstress/designer on Project Runway.
Dr. Cassandra Shivers-Williams
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • Personally, I was motivated to understand the "why" of protective decision-making after so many personal experiences with dangerous severe weather (i.e., tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, winter storms, and an earthquake). I was in Baton Rouge during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and I didn't have the choice to leave campus. I witnessed a lot of people make the best decisions they could, but that decision wasn't to evacuate the city. Our campus housed many displaced students and Baton Rouge became a haven for many from New Orleans. That entire experience left quite an impression on me and really set my current research path in motion.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/African American.
    • For me, one barrier has been not seeing very many people who look like me in particular spaces, especially early on in my career. Now, I know that there are many prominent Black/African American scientists and leaders within academia and NOAA, as an example. However, between not seeing many people that look like me, not many people as young as me, and not many people with training in disciplines like me, it can feel very isolating and unwelcome as well as intimidating. I've also had to manage various microaggressions throughout my life and navigating the National Weather Center is no different.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • My experiences as "the only one" or "one of very few" in the room has forced me to try to open up more and speak up more to make sure a different, and sometimes counter, point of view is heard. Also, my experiences lend anecdotal insight to some of the reasonings behind decisions made by various populations I study, which I find helpful in driving my work. These experiences have also encouraged me to keep striving for what I want and to give back to others when I can.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • We as scientists study very multi-faceted problems. "One size fits all" solutions are rare and far between. We have to take very diverse approaches to solving the problems faced to us and society and that includes needing diverse people around the table generating research, products, and policies. Also, diversity, equity, and inclusion during the education process matter (to me) because those lay the ground work for not only bringing new people in, but also keeping the playing field level for all. We need our future leaders to have the experiences that encourage them to stay in the field and help it grow.
Arianna Jordan, CIWRO Graduate Research Assistant
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • I was fortunate to have a mother that has always instilled in me the importance of a good education, whatever it may be in. I may not have made it this far in a difficult field like meteorology if I haven't had her support, so I have her to thank for that.
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • I lived in Houston, Texas in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. I recall watching the devastation unfold on our antenna-based tv only a state away. Then, less than a month later, Hurricane Rita was looking to hit us, so my mom and I were part of one of the worst hurricane evacuations in history. I believe I was in love with studying the weather even before these events, but seeing the social impacts firsthand really solidified my decision.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • A graduate research assistant studying the impact of wind farms on components of boundary layer meteorology, including height detection, convection, and the nocturnal low-level jet.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • It facilitates a sense of belonging! I know this from learning in environments with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. There is less of a worry about feeling isolated, which is beneficial for the individual's mental health and the institution they work for. I'm glad there are training workshops that stress the importance of diversity and inclusion, but I believe more can be done, such as recruiting students from historically black colleges and universities that would otherwise be apprehensive about the lack of diversity.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • I attended the HBCU of Howard University as a master's student, something I doubt I would have done if I was not of African-American descent. It definitely made me realize just how much potential there is among the black community for the meteorology field. There were a couple of opportunities for research and fieldwork, but not nearly as much as here at OU, and it's a shame that many like-minded students in this HBCU program didn't have the same opportunities available to them within the school. That's one reason why I believe recruitment and encouragement of HBCU students is super important for diversity in the field.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • As the meteorology community begins to shift more and more towards numerical modeling, I currently have an interest in preserving the observations side of the science, be it through fieldwork and/or the upkeep and development of instrumentation often used in fieldwork.
Taylor Stephenson, OU Meteorology Senior
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • One person that has inspired me is Katherine Johnson. Mrs. Johnson was the sole reason that the Friendship 7 landed safely and why NASA was integrated. Even in a room full of doubters (they only doubted her because of her race and gender), she persevered! She is also my sorority sister so we are connected in that way too.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • My discipline is broadcast meteorology because not only do I love to communicate science and the weather, but there needs to be more Black women represented in meteorology.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/African American.
    • Since attending OU, a predominately white institution (PWI), I haven't seen people who look like me reflected in my major or field of interest. This created a lot of self-doubt, and I carry that burden with me to most of my meteorology classes. I try to avoid answering questions because I don't want to be seen as dumb or "behind." I will probably struggle with this for the rest of my college career, but luckily, I have had some School of Meteorology faculty reassure me that it's okay not to know all the answers and that I belong here in OU's meteorology program.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • As Black woman, I always have to work 4 times as hard as a white man to even be recognized for my work (I am just using white men as an example because meteorology is dominated by white men). I feel like the strength, perseverance, and hard work that I've had to put in just because I start at an advantage in life has served me well. I can see all of my hard work displayed in my accomplishments, from Honor Roll to being selected for prestigious internships.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • I have two career aspirations. The first one is that I hope to be a well-known and well-respected meteorologist in Atlanta one day. If the broadcast meteorology dream dies, I would want to go back to school, get a Master's of Science in Climate Change and Policy, and then work for a local or the federal government to advocate for climate change policies, especially in minority and underserved communities.
Ariam Alemayehu, Environmental Sustainability Undergraduate
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • I am an undergraduate student studying Environmental Sustainability!
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • Being Black has shaped my view on environmentalism significantly. I approach issues from a more global standpoint rather than a Western standpoint. I like to study how climate change will impact people globally, not just here in the United States.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • I would love to work at a research institute that studies climate change in Ethiopia!
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give you?
    • No matter how it seems, there will always be space for you and your ideas! Don’t let anyone dim your light.
Dolly Na-Yemeh, GRA with OU CIWRO
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • I hope to work with an institution that focuses on community outreach and actionable science. I also hope to inspire others and find ways to create an environment that presents opportunities to support underrepresented minorities, groups, and underprivileged students.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give you?
    • Always think to yourself when you are going through a rough time; will this matter in five years? Whatever the response is, give it your best, ask for help, and do not stress over it. Things have a way of working out for your good if you work hard, are patient, kind and honest. Remember no situation is permanent.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • There is a lack of awareness of the plight of individuals who are different from us in all sorts of ways. As a result, we do not realize when we exclude others, are unfair to them, or even discriminate against them. DEI is important to me because there is still much work to be done. I have been fortunate and blessed, yet there are times I have felt powerless. I would like to contribute to bring to light the voices of those who do not have a voice or an opportunity to be heard or to speak up for whatever reason.
  • Write a fun fact about yourself:
    • My dad dedicated one of his poems to me "Have faith Dolly"
Erin Phillips, DGES Undergraduate
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • A learner, trying to understand the intersectionality of the environment and human development.
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or other related disciplines.
    • I think David Attenborough inspired many children to care more about the environment, specifically animals. When I faced the realization that working in any part of the animal field meant studying the hard sciences in college, I knew it just would not work out for me. So instead, I moved to my second passion, the environment.
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • My mum really encouraged me to take up studying geography because she knew about my passion. Children of minorities are often encouraged to enter fields that are known to make their money, but my mum was supportive. She told me I might never be a millionaire, but at least I will be contributing a net good to the world.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/ African American.
    • I feel like oftentimes being the only Black person in the room, you end up becoming the "spokesperson" for Black people and the Black experience. Not only is this wrong because Black people are not a monolith, but also because I do not know everything about the struggles Black individuals face. This becomes even more awkward when looking at the field of Geography (and environmental sustainability I would argue) where there are very few Black individuals in the field.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
    • Get in trouble a little. When I was younger I think I spent too much time stressing about breaking the rules and facing punishment, when I should have spent more time trying to push the boundaries.
Ebone Smith, Graduate Research Assistant, DGES / CIWRO / SC CASC
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • I am a master's graduate student training in geography and environmental sustainability to understand how heat waves impact communities of color in Oklahoma City.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • Recently, I have been very interested in becoming a community resilience manager or researcher to develop more inclusive policies and procedures that respond to environmental threats.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • I think being a Black student and early career researcher has influenced my research interests to build community resilience to severe weather for Black people and other communities of color. Partly due to the lack of representation of Black scholars in academic institutions, my research interests have taken a while to shape; however, as I learned more about Black and African American leaders in the fields of climate and environment.
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • My mum really encouraged me to take up studying geography because she knew about my passion. Children of minorities are often encouraged to enter fields that are known to make their money, but my mum was supportive. She told me I might never be a millionaire, but at least I will be contributing a net good to the world.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/ African American.
    • As a Black, first-generation student, I often find it challenging to find the right tools and strategies to cope with the daily stressors, such as classes, research, extracurricular activities, and personal goals.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
    • If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell myself about the importance of mental health, self-care, and maintaining a work-life balance.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • People of color have been historically and are presently disadvantaged by policies and systems which have resulted in negative consequences such as lack of resources, disparate health concerns, and in some cases loss of life. I think to reach a place where communities of color have equal access to medical services, emergency supplies, housing, food, employment, education, etc., it is vital to include diverse perspectives at the table making decisions for communities to achieve social/environmental justice by creating more equitable systems.

Notable African American Stories in Meteorology, Geography and Related Disciplines

June Bacon-Bercey, Meteorologist

June Bacon-Bercey was born in Wichita, Kansas and earned her bachelor’s degree in meteorology from UCLA in 1954. After stints working for the National Meteorological Center in Washington, DC, and Sperry Rand Corp, she became a television broadcaster for NBC in Buffalo, New York, in 1970. When the weatherman was fired, Bacon-Bercey stepped in and quickly gained recognition for her work.

In 1972 Bacon-Bercey was awarded the American Meteorological Society’s “seal of approval” for excellence in television weathercasting—the first woman and the first African American ever to achieve that distinction. After four years at NBC, she spent the next decade and a half working for the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. Among her many advocacy roles, she helped found the American Meteorological Society’s Board on Women and Minorities in 1975. She also received a Master of Public Administration from USC in 1979. 

After retiring from government service in 1989, Bacon-Bercey continued to be involved in consulting and educational work. She established a meteorology laboratory at Jackson State University in Mississippi. She created an annual scholarship, administered by the American Geophysical Union, that was awarded to female students in the atmospheric sciences; originally funded from prize money she won as a contestant on a TV quiz show, the scholarship will be re-established in 2021.

Bacon-Bercey was recognized by NASA as a Minority Pioneer for Achievement in Atmospheric Sciences and is the subject of a book: June Bacon-Bercey: A Meteorologist Talks about the Weather (2006). She died on 3 July 2019 at age 90. (Bio credit. Photo credit: American Geophysical Union, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives)

In addition to serving on several professional committees dedicated to supporting minorities and women in meteorology, Bacon-Bercey established the June Bacon-Bercey Scholarship in Atmospheric Sciences for Women. Many who knew or worked with Bacon-Bercey were not only familiar with her education and work ethic but were aware of her passion and efforts to help those women and minorities that followed in her footsteps.

“She was what we’d call a science reporter today,” said Steve Cichon, a Buffalo broadcasting historian. But in the 1970s, she was considered just another “weather girl,” a pretty face presenting the forecast. Although viewers didn’t know that she had a degree in meteorology, her training didn’t go unnoticed by her peers.

In December 1972, Bacon-Bercey was recognized by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) with its Seal of Approval, which honored “on-air meteorologists for their sound delivery of weather information to the general public.” Bacon-Bercey was the 96th awardee for television since the prize’s inception in 1957 and the first female winner.

Bacon-Bercey’s work ethic was reflected in that honor and others that followed.

Dr. Wangari Maathai holding a potted plant

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan social, environmental, and political activist and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai studied in the United States, earning a bachelor's degree from Mount St. Scholastica and a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She went on to become the first woman in East and Central Africa to become a Doctor of Philosophy, receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

Maathai is most famous for founding the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. In 1984, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for "converting the Kenyan ecological debate into mass action for reforestation". Maathai was an elected member of the Parliament of Kenya and between January 2003 and November 2005 served as assistant minister for environment and natural resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki. She was an Honorary Councilor of the World Future Council.

As an academic and the author of several books, Maathai was not only an activist but also an intellectual who has made significant contributions to thinking about ecology, development, gender, and African cultures and religions. 

 

The title we have chosen to highlight is The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience. This book tells the story of how an organization grew from one woman’s idea to a network of hundreds of thousands of men and women who have planted tens of millions of trees throughout Kenya. Professor Maathai explores the challenges of grassroots organizing and campaigning, and elucidates the key principles and practical concerns involved in running an environmental non-governmental organization.

This book is available for check out at Bizzell Memorial Library on OU’s main campus (call number SB 435.6 .K4 M33 2004) as well as online at the Open Library. You can learn more about the Green Belt Movement and the impact they are making on the world today at greenbeltmovement.org.

Other notable titles written by Maathai include:

  • The Canopy of Hope: My Life Campaigning for Africa, Women, and the Environment
  • Replenishing the Earth
  • Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril
  • The bottom is heavy too: even with the Green Belt Movement : the Fifth Edinburgh Medal Address
Dr. Brian J Jefferson

Research areas: Cities, Space, and Society. Geographic Information Science. GIS and Society. Space-time analysis.

His work explores information and communication technology, capitalism, and the stated. His recent publications look at the history of digital technology in the criminal justice system in the United States. Jefferson earned his bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his master's degree from the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster and received his Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research. He is currently an associate professor and the associate head of the Geography and Geographic Information Science department at the University of Illinois. Some of the courses he teaches are Geospatial Technology and Society, The Digital Earth, Geographies of Global Conflict, and Spaces of Marxism.

The title of Jefferson’s that we have chosen to highlight is Computerizing carceral space: Coded geographies of criminalization and capture in New York City (available here).

 

Other notable titles by Jefferson include,  Policing, data, and power-geometry: intersections of crime analytics and race during urban restructuring (available here) and Predictable Policing: Predictive Crime Mapping and Geographies of Policing and Race (available here).

To learn more about Dr. Brian J Jefferson, please visit his Illinois Expert profile here.


“Salomé Buglass is a Project Scientist at the Charles Darwin Foundation, a geography Ph.D. Student at the University of British Columbia, and a National Geographic Explorer. She is engaged in several applied research projects that support the management of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. These include undertaking the first comprehensive characterization of deep-sea ecosystems in the Galapagos, supporting the Galapagos National Parks in evaluating the effectiveness of the no-take reserves, monitoring the sub-tidal coastal ecosystems, and assessing the spatial and temporal distribution of shark populations within the reserve.

Salomé has a background in biogeography with a strong focus on climate change and has worked with marine ecosystems and fisheries in the Caribbean, Canada. and most recently in Ecuador. She believes healthy ocean and land resources are the foundation for human wellbeing, and her professional and personal goal is to work towards researching and implementing solutions that can counter the degradation of our natural environments, support their conservation and sustainable use, and improve community resilience.” (Charles Darwin Foundation, 2022).


The article Buglass contributed to that we have chosen to highlight is titled Characterization of deep-sea benthic invertebrate megafauna of the Galapagos Islands (available online here).

Buglass also creates detailed blog posts about her findings and experiences out in the field. Some of her most notable post follow…

 

To learn more about Salomé Burglass please visit her website here.

Louise E. Jefferson sitting

"Louise E. Jefferson, the daughter of a calligrapher for the United States Treasury Department, was encouraged to draw from a young age. Her father taught her his craft at home and she later studied fine and commercial art in private lessons and at Howard University. She moved to New York to continue her education at the School of Fine Arts at Hunter College.

In Harlem, Jefferson came in contact with other African-American artists, and in 1935 she was a founding member of the Harlem Artists Guild, a program sponsored by the Works Progress Administration. Other members of the Guild included Augusta Savage, Aaron Douglas, Selma Burke, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Jacob Lawrence.

During her early years in New York City, Jefferson struggled financially. She earned money by taking free-lance drawing work, including posters for the YWCA for seventy-five cents. A freelance job with the National Council of Churches’ publishing operation, Friendship Press, led to a full-time position. Jefferson eventually became the press’s art director. Jefferson was perhaps the first African-American woman to hold such a position in the publishing industry.

In addition to her work with Friendship Press, Jefferson freelanced for major publishing houses, such as Viking and Doubleday, throughout her career. She was known as a designer of both skill and artistry. Jefferson designed pieces for a number of African-American publications, including covers for Opportunity and The Crisis. For many years, she created publicity materials for the National Urban League Guild’s Beaux-Arts Ball and NAACP programs. Her success did not shield her from racist attitudes, however; in 1936, We Sing America, a song book Jefferson illustrated with images of black and white children, was banned in Georgia and that state’s governor, Eugene Talmadge, ordered that copies of the book be burned.

Jefferson was an accomplished photographer as well as a designer. Carrying a camera with her at all times enabled her to photograph many notable African Americans of her day. Her body of work includes images of a diverse group of individuals—from Thurgood Marshall to Lena Horne.

A number of grants from the Ford Foundation enabled Jefferson to travel to Africa where she studied native decorative arts. Her book The Decorative Arts of Africa was the result of her travel and study. The images in this major book on the subject are almost entirely Jefferson’s own drawings and photographs." (Extravagant Crowd, 2003)

 

To learn more about Louise E. Jefferson, please visit the following pages:

"Americans of Negro Lineage" (1946)

"Africa: A Friendship Map" (1945)

"Uprooted People in the U.S.A." (1945)

Dr. Marshall Shepherd
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • Warren Washington and Franco Einaudi, (couldn't name just one).
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • I became interested in 6th grade after doing a science project about weather.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • I am a researcher, instructor, and leader within the field.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/ African American.
    • The assumption that my successes and accomplishments are because of some advantage given because of my race.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • It has made me resilient. To be an African American in this country shapes you and molds you. When career setbacks happen, they are small in comparison to being stopped by the police because you "match" the description of a car thief or being worried about your son when he is walking the mall with his friends.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • At this point, my aspiration is to do what makes me happy and scratches my curiosity itches. I have achieved or been offered very high level opportunities. For me, family, science, and piece of mind are most important.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give you?
    • Wouldn't change a thing. Life is a series of lessons that should not be undone. Embrace everything, adapt, and move forward. Never look back.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • A salad with all types of vegetables in it tastes so much better and is better for you than just a bowl full of lettuce.
  • Write a fun fact about yourself:
    • I hate mustard, mayonnaise and most sauces. I was a multi-sport athlete in school.
Dr. Vernon Morris
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • There were numerous but while in graduate school, William Chameides demonstrated that you could chart your own course and Franco Einaudi challenged me to trust my instincts. Both inspired me while in graduate school.
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • John H. Hall, Jr. and C. S. Kiang offered me the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree at Georgia Tech. Dr. Hall was my undergraduate and graduate advisor for a time Dr. Kiang was. the program Director at Georgia Tech when I entered. Both were committed to my success and encouraged me to stay on course.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • My role is to challenge the status quo, whether they are theoretical shortcomings in our science or cultural shortcomings in our scientific community with the goal of improving both.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/ African American.
    • Racism is a visceral and present in the geosciences (including atmospheric sciences) as it is in American society. The entrenched biases that limit access to advanced education and the professoriate are some of the most persistent. Becoming a professor (while Black) is one such challenge. Tenured Black atmospheric scientists represent less than .1% of all such positions.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • My experiences as a Black man in America have inspired and buttressed my commitment to develop programs, practices, and initiatives that reduce the barriers to access in the Atmospheric Sciences and related fields. I believe that my interest in deploying geoscience for environmental justice work is one manifestation. My work in academic program development and outreach is another example.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • To change how people conceive, understand, and/or think about some aspects of the world. I think that some of my contributions in the field of chemical dynamics and in atmospheric aerosols have done this. I hope to make a few more interesting discoveries before I am done.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give you?
    • Patience is over-rated and (too often offered as a passive-aggressive attempt to resist change), whereas compassionate transgressive action is either undervalued or seen as a threat. Closely related is something my father told me (I will paraphrase): "The world’s definitions are one thing and life’s definitions are another. As long as you are Black and in America, you must challenge yourself to live your life as a distinction between the two. The only way to find your true limits of possibility are to challenge what you are told is impossible. Never lose your ability to dream, explore, and discover."
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • Equity, inclusion, and justice are important because their fulfillment is a reflection of humanity and the full access to human rights and the rights that any citizen should have in the vaunted pursuit of life and liberty. When equity and justice are determined to be privileges and not rights, then the integrity and quality of what we aspire in science is undermined. Moreover, to paraphrase MLK, Jr., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice. everywhere." This includes the scientific community.
  • Write a fun fact about yourself:
    • I welcomed my fourth child in the same month that I a) retired from one university, b) became an emeritus professor, c) started a new job as School Director in a different university, d) moved across the country, and all during a global pandemic.

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