In this regular feature, we hear from women academics and professionals about their lives, their faith, and the way it all intersects. Pull up a chair and join us as we chat with meteorologist and professor Casey Davenport.
Welcome, Casey! Tell us about yourself.
Name: Casey Davenport
Current position: Assistant Professor of Meteorology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Schools attended: BS Meteorology, Valparaiso University; MS and PhD, Atmospheric Science, North Carolina State University
A few favorite things: Now that it's springtime, I love to sit outside at the end of the day and watch the sunset or thunderstorms light up the sky.
What was the hardest part of grad school and what kept you sane?
In undergrad, I was always confident of my abilities, as most things came easily to me or were attainable with just a bit of focused effort. Grad school, however, was a completely different environment. Success was not only based on classroom performance, but on a variety of other skills that don't come out of a textbook. It seemed like I was constantly being ranked and evaluated against my peers (even if they were at more advanced stages in the program), and I soon felt like I didn't deserve to be there amongst my colleagues whose success appeared to come easily. The only things that kept pushing me forward were my passion for my discipline and the strong community of support I had.
Ever since I was a young girl, I was always fascinated by the weather, especially thunderstorms. My intense curiosity and desire to learn more always kept my research interesting, even when it was difficult. Putting together the puzzle of how something in the atmosphere works was (and continues to be) immensely satisfying. But even more important than that passion, I found that my community of friends provided the support I needed when things just weren't going well, and acted as cheerleaders to celebrate the successes. I was incredibly lucky to have two groups of friends that I could lean on: one was a small group of young adults at my church (most of whom were not in graduate school and could provide an outside perspective when I needed it), and another was the InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship group (all of whom could empathize and provide support for all things academia). I am incredibly thankful that God provided these friends for my time during graduate school, as I don't think I would be where I am without them!
What do you love most about your job right now?
Getting to work with students as a teacher and mentor is incredibly rewarding. I simply love teaching in a field I am passionate about, and helping students understand more deeply how the atmosphere works! I live for the moments where things suddenly "click" and make sense, and for the times when community is built through shared experiences of "geeking out" over different weather events. Being an advocate and cheerleader for my students (both graduate and undergraduate) and helping them achieve their goals brings me much joy and meaning to what I do every day.
How does your faith inform the way you think about or do your work?
I see God's beauty and creativity in everything that I do. I'm constantly amazed and humbled by how complex, intricate, and interesting the atmosphere is! I love that I get to learn more about His creation every day as part of my job, and to help students explore that. In working with and mentoring students, I'm continually reminded that everyone has their own story, and has been uniquely made in the eyes of God. In that way, I strive to be a witness by loving each student where they're at, treating them with respect, and guiding them along their journey.