Senior Spotlight: Tabitha Kloss

The School of Meteorology is extremely proud of the graduates produced each year, knowing that OU Meteorology alumni go on to do amazing things. For the next few weeks, we’re publishing stories of our students who are excited about upcoming jobs, graduate school placements, or overcoming hardships to reach where they are today. Up next is Tabitha Kloss!

Tabitha is a recent graduate of the School of Meteorology who grew up in Doylestown, PA, just north of Philadelphia. She tells us that her “fascination with weather” started when she was just four and saw a National Geographic documentary about extreme weather: “I had seen thunderstorms before, but I was mesmerized by the tornadoes I saw in the documentary. From that point on, I knew I was going to be a meteorologist when I grew up – what better excuse to spend all my time looking at and studying the weather? I checked out all the weather books I could find from my local library to read up on lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, and more… And to see the pictures! I also made sure to give my family weather reports.”

Tabitha’s path into meteorology might seem straightforward, but we were curious to hear how someone from so far away ended up in Norman – Tabitha told us that her mom encouraged her to get serious about college preparation in the 8th grade, and from there she began to do her research. She quickly informed her parents that she would be attending the University of Oklahoma! Of course, she did spend time visiting several institutions, particularly our colleagues in Pennsylvania, but says “…when I flew out to Oklahoma, toured the OU campus, and saw the National Weather Center (NWC) where I’d have all my meteorology classes, I knew immediately that it was the right fit. I was accepted to OU not long after I applied (praise rolling admissions) and had committed before I even heard back from anywhere else. Choosing OU was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Now, moving 1,400 miles from home may sound daunting, but Tabitha approached it with her characteristic optimism:

“As the oldest child in my family, I was the first one to go to college, and as a result, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was moving halfway across the country to a place where I knew a whole zero people – and believe it or not, that didn’t scare me one bit. I was more excited than anything. I showed up with a suitcase, a backpack, and a box of sheets for my dorm room, and thanks to all the activities OU hosted for incoming freshman during those first few days of orientation, I had plenty of friends by the end of Week #1. One of my favorite activities the first week was New Sooner Orientation, hosted by the College of A&GS for incoming freshmen and transfer students. I got the chance to meet all of my meteorology classmates, as well as hear about all the student organizations I could get involved in to learn about forecasting, meet professionals from the field of meteorology, and get to know my peers. I jumped headfirst into all these student organizations, even becoming a Freshmen Representative for OU SCAN (OU Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society & National Weather Association). I highly recommend all new students join student organizations when they start at OU. It’s a great way to get leadership experience right off the bat, get involved in the school (especially when you’re still taking a lot of prerequisite classes on main campus), and even learn a thing or two!”

Her expertise on student organizations is to be trusted – during her time at OU, Tabitha served as “Ice Queen” of the Weather Friends, Outreach Coordinator of the Weather Friends, president of OU SCAN, a SAC representative, a member of the Oklahoma Weather Lab, a Meteorology peer mentor, and a student ambassador. She also volunteered for many other events and community opportunities, making her a familiar and welcome face to many. It could be said that these opportunities assisted her in earning paid opportunities as well:

“As a SoM Student Ambassador, one of my favorite things to tell prospective students was that they cannot graduate from OU without any work experience in meteorology unless they try. One of the benefits of going to school at OU and having classes in the NWC is that there are so many meteorological organizations and companies on South Research Campus, many of whom have student employees and interns. So not only do you have the opportunity to get work experience in the field, but you can probably search around and find something you really like! I was hired as a Student Assistant at the NWC Library in the spring of my freshman year and worked there all the way through the spring of my senior year. I also got to spend a year working on research with Dr. Daphne LaDue from the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms as part of VORTEX SE. And finally (yes, I promise I sleep sometimes), I’ve spent the past two years working as a Student Data Quality Analyst for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility as part of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Moral of the story, there are tons of opportunities in all different areas of meteorology at OU!”

Not surprisingly, all of Tabitha’s hard work paid off – during her time at OU, she began to develop an interest in aviation meteorology. She earned a position as a NOAA Hollings Scholar, and spent the summer after her junior year in Anchorage, AK working with the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit, shadowing daily operations and exploring Alaska in her time off. This experience helped her to land a coveted internship with Southwest Airlines in Dallas, TX this summer – over 30,000 people applied for the program, and less than 200 were hired. Only one of those interns is a meteorologist. In the fall, Tabitha will take her talents to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ; there, she’ll pursue an MS in Safety Science with a focus in Aviation Safety. We appreciate Tabitha’s service to the School of Meteorology and look forward to seeing what she accomplishes next!