After nearly 10 years in the TV weather business, meteorologist and environmental reporter Vicki Graf (’07) has grown used to the bright lights and cameras of broadcast news. When she’s on the air, she likes to believe that she’s presenting to just the handful of crew members in the studio with her, rather than the thousands of people watching at home. That’s how she beats the nerves, she said, and it works. That’s how she feels comfortable and even natural in front of the camera — but it wasn’t always like this.
“I’ve always loved weather,” she said. “But growing up, I was so shy and quiet.”
That all changed when she came to Embry-Riddle. An Applied Meteorology major/Communication and Broadcast Media minor, Graf credits much of her growth to diving headfirst into campus life: joining and leading clubs, meeting new people, forcing herself out of her comfort zone. Just as important, though, was the Broadcast Meteorology program.
“Being in media, the biggest part of this job is just being comfortable, knowing how to present,” she said. “So to have had a lab on campus, and to be able to practice whenever I wanted, it let me get my jitters out.”
Having supportive faculty mentors helped, too — faculty members like Rob Eicher who, as an adjunct professor back then, was Graf’s first broadcast meteorology teacher, and recently joined the university full-time to lead a major studio renovation.
“He was so experienced that he was able to pass along things that you can’t really learn just from a class,” she said — things like how broadcast meteorologists tend to advance through the industry, and what to expect from their first jobs. More importantly, though, he stressed that being successful in this field has as much to do with understanding the science as it does with knowing how to “tell the weather story.”
“He talked to us like we were on his level,” she remembered. “He was honest with us. He went above and beyond and helped us to get started in the business.”
He also encouraged her to embrace all available opportunities, whether they came in the form of networking with classmates or in less likely places such as actual weather events: Namely, a tornado that struck Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus on Christmas Day 2006 offered a rare opportunity to cover breaking news and learn by doing.
“Daytona Beach was such a big weather market,” Graf said. “We learned a lot about the weather, hands on.”
Inspiration came in another unlikely place when, after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Graf realized that she wanted to move back to Massachusetts, where she grew up, to be closer to family. She got that opportunity earlier this year and, today, works as a weather personality and news anchor for Boston 25 News. Before that, she worked at WSOC in Charlotte, N.C. where she was part of an Emmy-nominated weather team; she worked for a station in Augusta, Ga., where she won “Best Weather Reporting” by the Georgia Associated Press; and she has spent time as the Chief Meteorologist for WDHN in Dothan, AL, as well as worked for Weather Services International, in Andover, Mass.
Graf sometimes still feels anxious presenting to large groups, but thanks to her training at Embry-Riddle, she always feels prepared — and that is the message she wants students to learn most as they advance through their own academic careers.
“Make the most of the time you’re at Embry-Riddle,” she said. “The program has just blossomed, which is wonderful, so use your resources. Don’t be afraid to reach out: Whatever job you want when you graduate, contact somebody in that field. Do your research. And try to find a mentor.”
Assistant Professor of Meteorology Rob Eicher is currently formalizing a new Broadcast Meteorology study track for Communication majors at the Daytona Beach Campus, as well as leading a major renovation of the broadcast meteorology studio, which will offer exciting career options for students. The study track will be available to students in the fall semester of 2019. Read more about the program.