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New GS Professor Utilizes Experience
By: Daniel Vieth
JMU prides itself on its diverse faculty that have a special connection to material they teach and, new faculty member in ISAT and Geographic Science, Dr. Mace Bentley, is no exception. Bentley’s field experience as a forecast meteorologist at The Weather Channel and his experience teaching for 12 years at Northern Illinois University as a professor of meteorology and geography lend to his ability to weave the academic and applied. His lessons come through stories and experiences rather than just a textbook.
Bentley was immediately attracted to ISAT because it is a program that promotes a high degree of interaction between the faculty and students. “I was very impressed with the quality of JMU’s students and the faculty in the innovative ISAT department,” Bentley continued. As one of the newest members of the faculty, Bentley is enthusiastic about his teaching and research within climatology and geography. “I have felt comfortable here since day one, and I am excited every time I walk into the classroom and have the pleasure of interacting with JMU students,” said Bentley. “Everyone has been extremely helpful and supportive and has made my first year really invigorating.”
After receiving his Master’s Degree from the University of Nebraska in 1995, Bentley was hired as a forecast meteorologist at The Weather Channel. “These are the individuals who actually perform the forecasting behind the scenes and then brief the on-camera meteorologists every couple of hours on significant weather conditions nationwide,” Bentley said. His time at the Weather Channel began his interest on the effects of human actions in relation to the atmosphere, such as how urbanization imparts substantial changes in weather conditions. “Cities alter the distribution, intensity and frequency of thunderstorms,” said Bentley describing a phenomenon called the ‘Urban Heat Island.’ “This has serious impacts given that thunderstorms are responsible for flash floods, frequent and dangerous lightning, hail and high winds.” Pursuing a career in Geographic Science made sense to him as it is one of the few disciplines that fully embraces this type of holistic viewpoint. “Encompassing knowledge in many fields is encouraged and important [in Geographic Sciences] in attempting to untangle the complexities inherent in these interactions,” said Bentley.
But, Bentley’s passion for teaching and research began at Western Kentucky University during his doctoral work as a teaching assistant and, later, as an Assistant Professor for the university. He has brought his interests in analyzing the complexity of the natural world and how it is shaped by our social communities and infrastructure into his teaching. “Our natural environment does not exist independently of society; it is defined, reshaped and redirected by human actions,” Bentley explains. Furthermore, his background as a climatologist and analyst has certainly influenced the direction of his research. “Much of my past and current research focus is on how we can better predict, anticipate and identify important variables in the atmospheric environment that lead to hazardous weather,” he said.
Bentley is now an Associate Professor within the Geographic Science program of the Department of Integrated Science and Technology. There he teaches a wide range of classes, with a particular focus on climate change and environment hazards, as well as general education courses on human-environment interactions. “I really enjoy the challenge of explaining the complex interplay between [human and natural] processes,” Bentley said. Incorporating technologies into the classroom, Bentley enjoys teaching through films clips and what he calls “visual rich media.”
With his rich background in the subject he teaches, Dr. Bentley is a valuable new member of the Geographic Science program and ISAT Department. Drawing from his experience in teaching and working as a meteorologist, Bentley gives his student a new perspective into the world of a Geographic Scientist. “I love the JMU community,” Bentley said. “I am enthusiastic about forwarding our understanding in these areas through applied research and instruction.”