Lobelville, Tennessee, seems an unlikely starting point for a television meteorologist, but Perry County native Shaley Dawson has seized an unexpected opportunity to join the WBBJ Eyewitness News 7 team and bring professional weather forecasts to thousands of West Tennesseans. Viewers witnessed the debut of the University of Tennessee at Martin senior as the new weekend meteorologist on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Dawson, a senior geoscience major with a concentration in meteorology, says while the experience is unlike anything she expected, she is thankful for the opportunity to receive first-hand experience in the professional field as she finishes her education.
Dawson’s interest in meteorology began with climatology research and continued to grow with every class she took at UT Martin and through the support of the faculty helping her succeed.
“I’m a very hands-on learner, so this is definitely giving me that hands-on experience. I will be taking a few meteorology classes next semester, so I’ll be more easily able to apply what I’m learning since I kind of have to with my job,” Dawson said. “I feel like it’s already popped up some questions like, ‘oh, I’ve learned this, but how do I apply it?’ And then I just run back to my professors, and they explain it to me. So, it’s kind of putting me in a different stance where I’m able to think outside the box.”
While originally looking for an internship with the news station, Dawson took a chance by applying for the weekend meteorologist position knowing she did not meet the requirements and was surprised to receive a phone call inviting her for a meeting. With her knowledge of meteorology and her work ethic, the station was confident they could teach her broadcast style and help her grow into a successful professional meteorologist.
“So, I never wanted to be in broadcast,” Dawson said laughing. “I was actually in the research side of it and then just kind of took a leap of faith and went for the job, so it’s very different than I expected. I’m loving it 100%. I don’t think that there has been a single day where I’ve even considered like, ‘oh, is this the right job for me?’ Ever since I’ve been there, everyone has been super welcoming and really trying to help me understand everything and really prepare me.”
After weeks of training and learning how to be an effective multimedia journalist, Dawson is now on-air every weekend delivering West Tennessee its weekly forecast. On top of her broadcasts, Dawson is also responsible for research, writing articles, updating the website and social media, recording commercial teases and creating weather graphics.
Dawson is still determining which career path she wants to take within the field of meteorology, whether broadcast or research, but she knows her experiences at UT Martin and WBBJ are preparing her to be a successful and confident meteorologist wherever she goes.
“I’m hoping with this experience, I’ll get some hands-on experience, figure out what I know, what I don’t, what I need to work on. And it’ll really help me narrow down what I really want to do so I can proceed after this,” Dawson said. “Over the next few years, I’m sure that I’m eventually going to grow more confident in what I’m learning and how I’m applying it.”
She encourages all students, regardless of whether or not they feel or are qualified, to “take a leap of faith” and apply for the internship or job they want.
“Despite what you are taught, your worth is not determined by your GPA; it is so much deeper than that. It is determined by your work ethic, ambition and passion for what you do,” Dawson said. “Don’t let insecurity hold you back from doing what you want because you do not feel worthy or qualified. Everyone has worth, and the right people will see that in you.”