Meteorologist-turned-children’s book author Mish Michaels says it was “kismet” to have her first-ever book signing at UMass Lowell.
“I always felt very welcomed and appreciated here,” said Michaels, a former adjunct faculty member who dropped by the River Hawk Shop at University Crossing Jan. 31 to share her just-released book, “Ms. G’s Shadowy Road to Fame,” the (mostly) true story of the official state groundhog of Massachusetts.
Known best around Boston for her two-decade TV career with WHDH, WBZ and The Weather Channel, Michaels has strong ties to the College of Sciences’ Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
program. She created and taught a course called “Meteorological Communications” from 1996-99, something she considers “one of the most gratifying experiences of my professional life.”
Michaels, who majored in atmospheric science at Cornell and earned a master’s in Education from Harvard, says she was inspired to teach the course after feeling a “disconnect” between her education and her work as a young meteorologist.
“My undergrad degree was very theoretical, and when you’re in the working world you’re not deriving equations,” she said. “So I wanted to create a class that was the connector between those two worlds, because if you can’t communicate what it is you learned as an undergraduate, you’re not going to be employable.”
Michaels remains connected to many of the graduates of the university’s renowned meteorology program, particularly Terry Eliasen ’97, who would go on to become her boss as Executive Weather Producer at WBZ.
“It’s just so special to see him be so successful,” said Michaels, who retired from TV meteorology following the birth of her first daughter. “I loved the students. I always got very choked up at the end of the semester because they were like my kids going off into the real world.”
While Michaels was sad to see the MetCom course discontinued when she no longer had time to teach, she was thrilled to learn it had been resurrected this year. The course is now taught by a pair of atmospheric science alumni — Sarah Wroblewski ’04 and Shiri Spear ’07 — both meteorologists for WFXT.
Several of the course’s current students attended Saturday’s event to meet Michaels and solicit some career advice, including junior Ethan Barrows.
“I can’t believe she started the weather communications class I’m in right now. I definitely wanted to meet her,” said Barrows, who is majoring in environmental science with a concentration in atmospheric science.
“I’m happy to see the university is thriving,” Michaels said after signing several dozen copies of “Ms. G” along with the book’s illustrator, watercolorist Kathleen Jameson. “The atmospheric science program is one of the biggest in New England, and it really is a pipeline to jobs in Boston. We need that healthy pipeline of smart, hard-working students, and every UMass Lowell grad that I’ve come across has impressed me.”
Her children’s book, meanwhile, was a seven-year “labor of love” for Michaels, who discovered Ms. G at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln while working for WBZ. Ms. G has delivered an annual Groundhog Day forecast, ala Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, since 2008, with last year’s event attracting 2,000 people.
The story chronicles the efforts of Michaels’ oldest daughter, Nalina Ashlee, and her first-grade classmates at Hunnewell Elementary School in Wellesley to make Ms. G the Official State Groundhog for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Crafted in 2012, the Ms. G Bill was signed into law last summer by then-Gov. Deval Patrick.
This Groundhog Day was supposed to be Ms. G’s official debut, but the Drumlin Farm event was cancelled because of — what else? — the snowy weather.
“It’s this weird, ironic twist that I feel uncomfortable complaining about,” Michaels said with a laugh. “This is awkward, but I’m really annoyed with the weather.”
If it makes Michaels feel any better, Ms. G did not see her shadow, which means an early spring is in the forecast.