Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a
stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Pat
Parrish, managing instructional designer in UCAR's Cooperative
Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training
Pat Parrish. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)
What can you do with a background in English lit and film
Pat grew up in Hamilton, a small town in southwest Ohio, just
north of Cincinnati. After high school he headed to Kent State
University, in the northeast corner of the state. "This was a few
years after the  National Guard shootings, but it was partly
the school's rebellious reputation that drew me there," he says.
When his family moved to Colorado, Pat transferred to CU-Boulder
to finish his bachelor's in English literature and film studies.
After graduation, "It took me a while to decide what I wanted to
do." In the mid-1980s Pat enrolled at Metropolitan State College
of Denver and earned a second bachelor's in communications,
focusing on technical writing and audiovisual media production.
After a stint in the corporate training department of King
Soopers, Pat's second student internship brought him to Front
Range Community College, where he worked on a grant-funded
demonstration project to produce interactive videos for
instruction. The finished products ran on a dedicated computer
that offered text and questions while controlling a separate
videodisc system that played both still and moving images through
When two B.A.s are not enough:
His internship experiences helped Pat home in on career goals.
"CU-Denver had just started a good program with top-notch people
in instructional technology." So Pat continued working at Front
Range while earning a master's degree in that specialty. With his
wife, Terri, and their son, Addison (then 3 and now 13 years old)
Pat took a semester off in Spain, "to broaden my cultural
experience and learn to speak Spanish a little better."
What drew Pat to UCAR?
Pat joined COMET in September 1992, during its third year of
operation. "I was the second [professional] instructional designer
to be hired. . . . The opportunity to come here,
where COMET was doing cutting-edge work in producing multimedia
training, in a content area that I found really excitingthat
was a real challenge for an instructional designer." Pat now
supervises the instructional design group and the instructional
media development groupfour people who, among other things,
create the audio, video, and visual imagery that enliven the
The changes he's seen:
In the early days of interactive videodisc systems, "If [people]
used their systems for any other computer applicationwhich
they always didit could mess up the configuration, creating
a support nightmare." Next came CD-ROMs, which allowed people to
study on "pretty much any computer platform" anywhere, including
at home. Today, most COMET products are designed for the Web. "We
have a huge audience now. . . . It's not just the
sponsor agencies. We have private forecasters and people all over
the world in different weather services using our materials." With
the benefits of the Web has come a new challenge: maintaining
cross-platform compatibility for both Netscape Navigator and
Internet Explorer within finite bandwidth.
How to learn meteorology on the job:
"I've worked with some really top-notch scientific experts, such
as Ralph Peterson [NWS] and Fred Carr [University of Oklahoma] on
the numerical weather prediction module. I've also collaborated
with Morris Weisman [MMM] on three major projects; we worked
together pretty closely for almost four years. . . .I
feel like I've gotten a good understanding of the basics of
meteorology. And in certain areas, like the severe-convection work
with Morris, I've gotten in-depth knowledge. That helps a lot down
the road as you approach other content."
Has his work changed the way he looks at the sky?
"It is exciting sometimes to watch a storm come in, look at the
structure of the clouds, feel how the wind patterns change, and
understand why that's happening. That does add to an appreciation
of weather. But, on the other hand, I don't really follow the
weather like a lot of meteorologists do around here."
Pat's getting ready to return to school for a Ph.D. at UC-Denver
while continuing his work at COMET. "It feels like a good time to
do it. I'm interested in looking more closely at the theoretical
aspects of learning and taking a fresh look at my ideas about
learning from some different perspectives." Pat is also about to
sign a contract with a publisher to bring out a book he's working
on, Information Is Not Instruction, that draws on material
he presented last year in Lima, Peru, for the World Meteorological
Organization. That three-day workshop was attended by university
educators and meteorological trainers from Central and South
America and the Caribbean.
How to stay occupied in your spare time:
"I have a 100-year-old house in Denver, a Victorian, so I keep
busy with lots of projects there to make it more livable. None of
them are finished," he laughs. Pat also watches lots of movies.
"Film's still a real passion for me. I watch all kinds, because
I'm very interested in film history and in film as cultural
representation." Travel is another enthusiasm. After the Lima
workshop, Pat and his family visited Cuzco and Machu Picchu and
took a guided boat trip in the Amazon basin.
What he likes about his work:
"I enjoy the whole process of creating these instruction products.
That's why I'm here. . . . Part of it is just the
whole joy of learning in itself. Another [part] is the joy of
creating the materials, whether it's writing, creating a highly
interactive product, creating visual materials. . . .
I think I speak for all the instructional designers when I say
this." Later, Pat adds, "From day one it's been a joy being a part
of this community. I feel it's a real privilege to work with UCAR,
because it's an organization with such quality people who are so
excited about what they do."
In this issue...
Other issues of Staff Notes Monthly
Edited by Bob Henson,
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Thu Jun 21 11:00:53 MDT 2001