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New Science/Math dean looks to the skies

Kevin Cooper talks climate change, his past, future as a meteorologist

By Donald Thomas
On September 26, 2017

Kevin Cooper, new dean of Science/Math Division, settles into his new office.

Climate change is happening, and we now have an expert at MCCC who can document it – Kevin Cooper, new dean of the Science and Mathematics Division.

“All I do is document the facts and chart the progress that the data shows along with documenting the craziness of the weather and then present those facts,” Cooper said. 

Cooper, who took over as dean of the Science/Math Division over the summer, was trained as a meteorologist before moving to higher education administration.

He said the weather is clearly changing. 

More extreme jet stream flows are building up, with more blocking patterns in them.

For example, there are deeper troughs, which are affecting the weather severity. 

With climate change, we will continue to get more ridges and more troughs in the winter, he said. 

“It’s a shame that people make climate change a political issue or a controversial issue since the science supports its reality,” Cooper said.

When you hear about climate change or global warming, some think that means warmer winters, but that isn’t always the case, he said.

Cooper presented a “Cooper-Cast” TV meteorology show at his previous colleges, and he is considering something similar at MCCC. 

The only major issue with setting up a forecast for the week is that forecasts are only good for about five days, he said. 

There are too many factors involved for it to be accurate past that time frame. 

He said the public demand is for an accurate forecast that is stretched far out into the future.

Originally from Toledo, Cooper has followed his career path across the United States. 

“Becoming a teacher wasn’t my original goal, but it was meant to be,” Cooper said.

After finishing his bachelor’s degree at Northland College of Ashland, Wisconsin, he started his teaching career at Owens Community College in Toledo, where he was hired for a one-year lab teaching position.

He completed his master’s degree at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and was hired as a full-time faculty member at the National American University in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he stayed 10 years.

Cooper never planned to go into higher education. 

Growing up, he wanted to work for the National Weather Service as a meteorologist. 

He had gone through school primarily focused on that, and it had never crossed his mind to do college work. 

Instead, his passion focused on reporting the weather; he still performs his own forecasts to this day.

When he started teaching, he loved it right away and knew it was his future.

“Would have never crossed my mind at the time to be a Dean to a college,” Cooper said. “Started being a teacher only as a side gig, but found that I loved being in the classroom.”

From there, he went on to an administrative position with Mountain College, Colorado, as Assistant Dean/Instructional Chair of the Math, Science, and Social Studies Division. 

Though he loved his time there and enjoyed the connectivity that he had with his colleagues, he longed for home.

An opportunity presented itself to Cooper to return to the familiarity of his home town of Toledo and grow his career at his current position as Science/Math dean.

His position also has provided him more opportunity to be hands-on and in the classroom.

“To me, students are number one, they are the reason we are here, and making sure that they succeed and achieving their goals is why we do what we do,” Cooper said.

His new position has provided a change of pace and room to grow while working alongside another amazing staff, he said. 

He joined the staff July 5, and now feels more settled in and better adjusted to the new surroundings. 

Cooper said he has come to love the added responsibility and feels that he can make an impact here, along with tackling bigger challenges and opportunities. 

His original goal of being a meteorologist has provided him with the drive and the desire to add a meteorology course to the MCCC curriculum. He would teach the course, which could be up and running by Winter Semester.

He passed the defense for his doctoral degree in March. Shortly after that, he presented his findings at a conference in Cambridge, England, and is looking forward to submitting journal articles based on his Ph.D. work. 

With all the demands on his schedule, Cooper has specific advice in regard to juggling everything.

He suggested you keep life balanced by finding a way to take some time to yourself and relax. 

Cooper relaxes by taking long walks and hikes. 

Beyond that, he finds time to step away from his educational goals and instead focus on some lifelong learning, such as circuit training or joining a bowling league.

More extravagant ways to relax for Cooper include tropical locations, as he loves nature and spends as much time as he can out in it.

“You have to be willing to step away from things for a while to come back the next day or week to be refreshed to avoid the burnout,” Cooper said.

It’s a lesson that he stresses everyone needs to learn and practice daily.

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