Richardson named EMS associate dean for undergraduate education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Yvette Richardson, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, has been named associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), effective July 1.

She will succeed Nels Shirer, who served as associate dean for education since 2012.

“I’m very excited to be named associate dean,” said Richardson. “This position will give me the opportunity to continue to support, nurture and build upon the great programs in EMS and interact with our students every day.”

“I am very pleased that Dr. Richardson has accepted this important position in our college,” said William Easterling, dean of EMS. “She brings a vast amount of experience both in research and teaching to bear and she is committed to helping students in EMS achieve their full potential.”

The path to associate dean

Richardson’s interest in atmospheric science was first sparked by a poster she came across at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she studied physics as an undergraduate. The poster advertised the opportunity to spend a summer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, a chance Richardson could not pass up.

The summer experience at NASA led Richardson to study meteorology in graduate school.

As a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma, where she earned both her master of science and doctorate in meteorology, Richardson researched severe storms and their environments. After graduating, she stayed on as a visiting professor before joining Penn State’s faculty in 2002.

Richardson has taught numerous courses in atmospheric science — including courses in radar analysis and mesoscale meteorology, as well as first-year seminars — during her 14 years at Penn State.

“I enjoy working with and mentoring students through teaching,” said Richardson. “First-year seminars, in particular, allow me to help students set goals and think about their futures.”

Richardson is also heavily involved in her research, which focuses on the dynamics of severe storms and tornadoes over their entire life cycle.

“I’m fascinated by the behavior of severe storms and tornadoes, and the motivation for my research is to increase our understanding of them to lessen their societal impacts,” Richardson said.

She participated in two Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment projects known as VORTEX (1994-95) and VORTEX 2 (2009-10). These field experiments brought together atmospheric scientists from across the country to research the evolution of tornadoes in the central United States.

Richardson analyzed the results from the VORTEX projects, along with her graduate students, and examined forecaster skill in issuing tornado warnings as a function of the atmospheric conditions.

She has also authored or co-authored close to 50 peer-reviewed publications, as well as a textbook on mesoscale meteorology, which she worked on with Paul Markowski, professor of meteorology at Penn State. In addition, Richardson served as chair of Meteorology Undergraduate Academic Programs and has held numerous positions within the American Meteorology Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.  

Richardson’s vision for undergraduate education

In her new role, Richardson hopes to achieve several goals as associate dean, such as furthering engaged scholarship opportunities.

“EMS has many good programs already taking place, and I’d like to build upon these and ensure they fulfill the University’s larger goals,” she said.

Richardson also plans to promote a culture of excellence in teaching.

“One of the longstanding hallmarks in EMS has been a commitment to a great education, and I want to do everything I can to support our faculty in achieving this mission,” said Richardson.

Richardson’s most important goal as associate dean might simply be to emphasize the importance of education.

“One of my core values is that education is an integral part of a democracy and an important avenue of upward mobility in our society,” she said, “and I look forward to contributing to the educational mission.”

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Last Updated June 21, 2016