Kyle Pittman believes students are a product of their environment. That makes him especially grateful for the environment in which he is now studying.
Pittman and his fellow students in NIU’s meteorology program received a boost this semester when their lab space was renovated thanks to a bequest from one of the program’s founding faculty members.
David Changnon, chair of the Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences, said he was aware Alan Staver planned to leave a bequest to the department. But he had no idea the donation would total around $150,000.
“He told me he had always wanted students to have the best lab experience they could have,” Changnon said. “We wanted to build a lab that would attract students to this institution, where they could do things they could do at any institution. We built a lab that can rival U of I or Valparaiso or Penn State or anywhere.”
Pittman said the new lab is opening doors for students. There is room for collaboration, he said, as well as new computers and new software.
“You’ve got to put in the work here, but they’ve given us the tools to be successful if we’re willing to work for it,” he said. “The faculty is top notch. They’re well connected. I’ve had incredible experiences here; if you work hard you can be connected with anybody in the atmospheric sciences field.”
Fellow student Brent Brock said it was the enthusiasm of Changnon and other NIU faculty that drew him to DeKalb. Having already completed a degree that didn’t fulfill his passions, he said he was prepared to be very selective when choosing a school to chase his dream of studying weather. He was already impressed with the education he was receiving, he said. He was humbled and touched to learn a donor cared enough about him and his fellow students to build them a better space to learn.
“When I meet alumni, they’re so passionate and so willing to help it inspires me,” fellow senior Logan Bundy said. “I want to be successful like them, and with the skills NIU is giving us, we can all be successful if we work for it. I want to come back later in my career, like them, to speak to students and help them to be successful, too.”