The Innovative Weather program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee (UWM) is a weather service provider, staffed 24 hours per day and seven days per week by paid upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, a fulltime academic staff member as director of operations, one other full-time-equivalent academic staff member, and one faculty member to oversee the program and manage research activities. Innovative Weather coordinates the needs of a select group of community clients exposed to weather-related risks with the research and operational expertise that exists at the university. Through the program, students broaden their academic studies into the realm of operational and applied research meteorology. Students provide key input to client decisions worth thousands of dollars and learn how to communicate credibly this high-value information.
The program, initiated with fiscal backing from the UWM College of Letters and Sciences, has in two years developed a paying client list that includes major representatives in energy, metropolitan sewage treatment, education, transportation, and the media. By partnering with community clients, new research opportunities and resources become available that leverage traditional funding sources and ensure ongoing student involvement with demonstrated positive impact on student education and students' subsequent career choices. The direct use of the operational tools and products by clients provides important feedback that benefits the research. In addition to the many benefits of the program, the challenges to developing and maintaining such an entity within the fiscal and bureaucratic constraints of a public university are discussed.
University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin