Popular meteorologist teaches Kennesaw State students
KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 13, 2017) — WXIA-TV’s popular weather personality Chesley McNeil wakes up Atlanta with his forecasts, starting at 4:30 a.m., weekdays on “Wake Up with Chesley,” using a blend of humor and specific weather information to impart the important elements about what to expect during the day.
In much the same way, beginning at noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the part-time instructor of atmospheric sciences teaches Kennesaw State University students in his Science, Society and the Environment II course what they need to learn. Working all corners of the large Birla Carbon Auditorium, McNeil poses rapid-fire questions and makes jokes to engage the 200 students in his environmental science class and keep things interesting and fun.
“I tell my classes there is no dumb question,” McNeil said, following a lively class that delved into the origins of smog and its effects on people and the environment. “I often tell them, ‘Google it,’ if they’re curious about something. That’s what millennials do!”
Having been 11Alive’s morning and noon news meteorologist since joining WXIA-TV in 2009, the Philadelphia native previously spent several years in the same role with WGRZ in Buffalo, N.Y.
McNeil began his television career in 1994 as a photojournalist for WBOC in Dover, Del., moving on a year later to WRIC-TV in Richmond, Va., where he would produce two weekly shows: a teen show called “Richtalk” and “This Week in Richmond,” a public affairs show. While there, his curiosity and later training in meteorology led him to become the station’s weekend weather anchor. He remained there for eight years before leaving for Buffalo’s WGRZ.
Having lived in freezing Buffalo during the winter and blazing hot Atlanta during the summer, he’s done some thinking about the country’s best weather. After briefly mentioning San Diego, he quickly gives the edge to the Mid-Atlantic states. “They may have the best weather overall,” he said, “because there you have four true seasons, and they generally start and end on their assigned calendar dates.”
McNeil, who has an undergraduate degree in mass communications from Wesley College in Dover and a master’s degree in geosciences from Mississippi State University, has taught as an adjunct at several colleges during his TV career that began in 1994 at WRIC-TV in Richmond. He has temporarily shelved his work toward a Ph.D. for now, but said he hopes to return to his own academic studies after two of his younger sons complete their education.
“I think I have a gift for teaching and have always thought that when I retire I would like to become a college professor,” said McNeil. “I like the feedback from the students. The thing about working on television is that you never get instant feedback like you do when you’re teaching in front of a class.”
His students apparently agree, giving him high ratings for his good-natured approach to the complexities of science. They also like that he has a “day job” related to the subject matter that helps him interject current events topics into the day’s discussions, which can include everything from charting the potential track of Hurricane Irma to safely observing last month’s solar eclipse.
The course he is currently teaching, SCI 1102, covers environmental issues. Specifically designed for non-science majors to fulfill the general education science requirement, it provides the basic skills and scientific understandings to make informed decisions about scientific issues. It is the second in a two-part sequence in the College of Science and Mathematics.
– Robert S. Godlewski
Photos by Lauren Kress; Video by Robert Witzel
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.