Above: Rita Stockton, senior mathematics major, begins the pursuit of her dream of becoming a meteorologist. Stockton began an internship at Wichita’s ABC station, KAKE, this semester (Tanner Carlson/Staff reporter).
Many of us wake up in the morning with our daily obsession to decide what we will wear and how we go about our day.
Only a select few have the knowledge and the specialization to be able to calculate the ever-changing weather to provide us with our daily forecast. Rita Stockton, mathematics senior, has seemingly always taken great interest in the hourly weather that we base our everyday lives around.
“I’ve always wanted to do meteorology since I was a little kid,” said Stockton.
Rita’s childhood dream stemmed from her interest when looking up at the sky and observing the clouds. Unlike many who lose sight of their first professional aspirations, her dream of being the one who provides the weather is quickly becoming a reality.
Stockton, a Winfield native, started her internship at Wichita’s ABC news station KAKE this spring semester, a good first step towards her goal of becoming meteorologist
Stockton made her decision to follow a path towards forecasting the weather in high school when she decided to attend her hometown college and major in mathematics.
“I decided to go to southwestern and study mathematics because you need to have a heavy mathematics background for meteorology,” explained Stockton.
Meteorologist use mathematical principles, including physics, to comprise everything from weather radar to numerical weather prediction to study the earth’s atmosphere and predict the independent variable that is our climate. Rita has used the last four years to gain an extensive knowledge of mathematics, a tool she can use to create models to be able to quickly determine the speed of storms.
Aspiring meteorologist, such as Rita, are faced with the tall task of having to be both savvy with numbers and equations and being able to perform in front of a camera ad lib. Stockton had the opportunity to learn how tricky presenting the forecast can be after professor Jason Knowles asked her to be the chief meteorologist for the Moundbuilder Newscast this past fall.
“I definitely didn’t know exactly what to do, but Jason helped me through it,” said Stockton. “But, you get more comfortable every time you do it, you just start to relax and it just clicks and makes it easier.”
With experience under her belt, and an opportunity ahead of her, Rita is taking full advantage of the experience she is having being a part of a live news broadcast at KAKE
As an intern, Rita has worked closely with meteorologist Cat Taylor inputting data for graphics and discussing which computer models to forecast the daily weather.
With the expertise Stockton is gaining working with these models, she will have a head start on her peers in graduate school, along with having hands on experience in the area she plans to aim her focus.
“You can (study) anything specific from working with clouds to radar technology,” said Stockton. “But I really want to work with the forecasting models, developing new models and improving the ones that they have to get data to predict what will happen based on past weather.”
Rita has narrowed her prospective graduate schools to Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Florida State, and Plymouth State in New Hampshire.
The University of Oklahoma College of Atmospheric & Geographic sciences has become internationally renowned for their program, producing meteorologist’s Charles A. Doswell III and Paul Markowski, two men who have been influential in atmospheric sciences.
Along with the University of Oklahoma’s impressive alumni and track record for turning out leaders in meteorology, the city of Norman is also the home of the National Weather Center located on the university’s campus, giving Rita a unique opportunity to work with the best technology in weather forecasting.
“I really want to work for NASA at some point in my life,” said Stockton. “For NASA, it would be the upper levels of the atmosphere, and they do a little climate change research as well, but it would mostly deal with launching stuff into space.”
Rita’s internship at KAKE has provided her with the first step towards providing atmospheric information for NASA, but also provided her with a strong role model within the meteorology field. Cat Taylor has been easily approachable for Stockton, mentoring her and preparing her for the profession itself, as well as being in the profession as a woman.
“She’s a woman in the market so she knows what women have to go through versus what men have to go to,” Rita explained. “She had to grow really thick skin… the most difficult part to get used to is the small things that most people don’t get criticized over with their jobs.”
With all the talent and hard work that goes into becoming a meteorologist, Rita is more than prepared to block out any noise and focus on her future.
“This has always been my dream,” said Stockton.
Rita Stockton is making her dream come true one day at a time, starting with her first small step interning at KAKE, that may one day lead to her helping NASA towards one giant step for mankind. But perhaps even better than helping mankind into space, Rita hasn’t had to grab anyone’s coffee yet.
Cale Eirich is a junior majoring in Communication. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.