Ball State University’s Storm Chaser Class gives students hands-on opportunities to study the atmosphere, forecast severe storms, use radars, and chase storms in the Great Plains. 

Talk about the weather to Ball State University student Ky’lie Garland-Yates, and it’ll quickly cease being a mere topic of chit-chat in casual conversation. 

Clouds, sunshine, light rains, big storms, wind, temperature, humidity—Ms. Garland-Yates is fascinated by these, and all things in the realm of meteorology and climatology. It’s a passion she’s had since she was a young child delighted by simply gazing at the sky. 

“If you were to ask my mother, she would say that I wanted to be a meteorologist before I could even walk. And, when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, my mother bought me my first camera and a journal. She and I would sit outside and do weather blogs,” said Ms. Garland-Yates, a senior majoring in Geography, with a concentration in Meteorological Studies, and Geographical Information Science (GIS) 

So, when Ms. Garland-Yates got the chance to participate in Ball State’s out-in-the field, Storm Chasing Class in late Spring, she jumped at the opportunity. This Storm Chaser Class offers hands-on opportunities to study the atmosphere, forecast severe storms, use radars, and chase storms. During this class, usually held in the Summer, students spend four days in the classroom and about 18 days in America’s Great Plains chasing storms.  

“Being out in the elements, getting real-world experience and seeing weather phenomenon up close—that was one of the greatest experiences of my life!” Ms. Garland-Yates said, noting that this hands-on learning opportunity augmented her classroom education. “There was one day where the storm was moving a lot faster than we thought it was. We got out the car to take pictures and we quickly got back into the car. We were safe and never in danger; the storm was a really good distance away. We were able to see this storm almost taking over the sky way behind us, while in front of us was a beautiful sunny sky. It was breathtaking! 

“But you also realize that something so beautiful, like weather, can cause so much chaos, havoc, damage, injury to people, and sometimes, death.” 

Case in point: two of Ms. Garland-Yates’ storm-chasing classmates captured video of an EF-1 tornado that hit Selden, Kansas, in May. 

Watch the video:

With the students’ permission, the footage was aired on television stations in a few states, including Kansas, Washington, and Indiana. Those two students, and David Call, associate professor of Geography and Meteorology, were featured on news report that aired on WTHR-13 Indianapolis. 

Along with the excitement and real-life education that come with the University’s hands-on learning opportunities, such as the Storm Chasing Class, Ms. Garland-Yates says her professors are another highlight of her Ball State experience. 

“When I decided to go to Ball State, I looked into their [meteorology-related] program—and Ball State’s program in this study area stood out to me as being high quality. I knew that Ball State was the right choice for me. When I actually got here and I got more acquainted, I realized how passionate the teachers in the department are about the topics they teach. You can see it in their eyes,” she said. “As students and professors, we have a shared passion about the topic—in this case, meteorology and climatology. When teachers are passionate about what they teach, they go beyond being professors. That’s what I saw at Ball State.” 

Once Ms. Garland-Yates graduates, she envisions her fulfilling career as one involving behind-the-scenes, in-the-field meteorology or climatology research—or helping communities with planning ahead for potential weather-related natural disasters. 

“We chase storms so we can learn more about them and so that, when we get into our careers, we can warn people about storms,” Ms. Garland-Yates explained. “We can let them know when to take shelter and ways to protect themselves during dangerous weather.” 

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