Laura (Eikermann) Furgione, who earned her Bachelor’s degree in atmospheric sciences from Mizzou in 1993, was named the Acting Assistant Administrator for the National Weather Service (NWS) in May.
Furgione has been involved in weather forecasting for almost 20 years, most recently serving as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for NWS and the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Program Planning and Integration. After graduation, she spent several years in Alaska, where she was the director of the Alaska Region. In this position, she was responsible for all operational and scientific climatological, meteorological, hydrological, volcanic ash and tsunami warning programs for the state and its surrounding waters.
“Laura has been instrumental in advancing a comprehensive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) strategy in the Arctic, examining ways to improve workforce planning, and spearheading the complete redesign of how NOAA does strategic planning agency wide,” said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. “As I have come to know Laura, I have appreciated her thoughtfulness, her dedication to the NOAA mission, and her ability to get things done. I think she will be a strong leader and skilled steward of the NWS organization.”
Furgione, a graduate of Bourbon, Mo., High School, had an early aspiration to study math. However, after talking with the personnel in the CAFNR Career Services Office, she went in a new direction. "I fell in love with meteorology," Furgione said. "With that, I was one of those unique individuals that never changed majors."
Furgione worked her way through college as an usher for MU Athletics, in the CAFNR Dean's Office and at a small national weather office at the Columbia Regional Airport.
A summer internship between her junior and senior years gave her insight for her future career path. "I worked as a summer hire for the NWS station in Honolulu," Furgione says. "It allowed me to gain insight on how to get a position with the National Weather Service."
Furgione is not the only Mizzou weather graduate recognized for achievement. Eric Wise, class of 2002 and weather forecaster for the NWS in Springfield, Mo., was responsible for Joplin’s weather warnings when that city was struck by an EF-5 tornado in 2011. He provided more than 20 minutes of warning time. Wise was awarded the Operational Achievement Individual Award by the National Weather Association for his expert analysis.
Meteorology has been taught at MU since 1948. “We’ve been part of Soil and Atmospheric Science since about 1992,” said Tony Lupo, chair of the department. “We added Environmental around 2005.”
In the late ‘90s there were about 40 students in the program. Today, more than 100 students are enrolled. “I attribute the growth to issues such as climate change, severe weather and environmental concerns,” Lupo said. “Movies like Twister helped. Also, I like to think our great teaching had something to do with it.”
According to Campus Explorer, an organization matching students to their most appropriate colleges, the University of Missouri meteorology program is the sixth most popular in the nation out of 77.
PhDs.org, which recommends graduate schools to students, stated that 94 percent of MU PhD graduates either obtained a job immediately after graduating or were negotiating with a specific organization.