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Spreading the Word
  • Spreading the Word: timeline
  • In their own words: Denise Stephenson-Hawk
  • UCAR at 40
    Who We Are
    Introduction
    One Planet, One Atmosphere
    Between Sun and Earth
    Measuring and Modeling
    When Weather Matters Most
    Spreading the Word
    Knowledge for All
    Looking toward the Future
    UCAR at a Glance
    List of acronyms

    In 1999 Denise Stephenson-Hawk became the provost of Spelman College. While at Clark Atlanta University, she served as a representative in UCAR's Academic Affiliates Program. A specialist in satellite observation of the atmosphere, Stephenson-Hawk is co-principal investigator for the Urban Systemic Initiative, whose goal is enhancing math and science achievement in Atlanta's public school system. (Photo courtesy Spelman College)

    UCAR, through its education and outreach programs, has been instrumental in guiding the direction of my career for over 20 years. As an undergraduate student at Spelman College, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by NCAR scientist Warren Washington. He focused on the dynamics of climate change and the ways that the traditional disciplines of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology contributed to our understanding of weather and climate. As a result of that talk, I decided to pursue graduate studies, not in mathematics (my undergraduate major), but in environmental modeling. Because UCAR decided to expose traditionally underrepresented students to the study of the atmosphere, a new vista appeared to me.

    NCAR scientists further guided my career path in the late 1970s. While employed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Langley Research Center, I witnessed the acumen of Robert Dickinson and Veerabhadran Ramanathan (both based at NCAR at the time) as they discussed computer-based studies of radiative transfer. It was then that I decided to attend graduate school at Princeton University, where I studied geophysical fluid dynamics.

    UCAR continues to support programs that motivate minority students to pursue careers in atmospheric sciences. UCAR's Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) program is one strategy to build a corps of minority scientists. UCAR president Rick Anthes and [then] NCAR director Bob Serafin recognized this need and the opportunity to build this diverse corps. They also assisted me in garnering support for the Earth systems science program at Clark Atlanta University.

    Another leadership role still awaits fulfillment. In the mid-1800s, James Pollard Espy called for individuals to report daily temperatures and rainfall to the National Naval Observatory. Espy engaged the common citizenry in a campaign that ultimately grew into the National Weather Service. Hailing from an era when average citizens read scientific papers, attended lectures, and debated scientists on the implications of their work, Espy might be surprised at the distance that now separates the professionals from the citizens. As we face dramatic shifts from global warming, rapacious stripping of forests, and the ravaging of ocean ecosystems, a broad engagement of the U.S. populace in the discussion of what to do next is critical. UCAR has a central role in this task, for the study of climate change bears on human ecology, politics, and social sciences as much as on the Earth and its systems.

    The science of weather has no political, geographic, racial, or economic boundaries. Dust from the dry Sahel fertilizes the Amazon Valley. Hurricanes striking the U.S. East Coast are spawned off the coast of West Africa. As UCAR addresses the needs of the "global nation," it must not only boost the corps of interdisciplinary investigators. It also must ensure that more representatives of the diverse communities that lie in the path of rising seas and severe storms are integrally involved in the discussions and solutions.

    Just as Espy managed to engage 19th-century citizens in scientific discussion, UCAR can succeed in reengaging a diverse population in the quest to enhance our understanding of global climate change. The debates to come require a vastly better informed citizenry, led by a broadened corps of research scientists who represent the diversity of global cultures. It is a challenge, to be sure, but UCAR was built to face challenges and advance opportunities in support of the global nation.

    UCAR at 40
    Who We Are
    Introduction
    One Planet, One Atmosphere
    Between Sun and Earth
    Measuring and Modeling
    When Weather Matters Most
    Spreading the Word
    Knowledge for All
    Looking toward the Future
    UCAR at a Glance
    List of acronyms


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    Executive editor Lucy Warner, lwarner@ucar.edu
    Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
    Last revised: Fri Jan 26 17:18:32 MST 2001