Lena Maria Arango ’19, ’20 spent eight years working in retail and hospitality and studying business part-time at Northern Essex Community College before taking an introductory class in meteorology – and falling in love with the science of weather.
Once she made up her mind to pursue it, she also made up for lost time, transferring to UMass Lowell as a sophomore majoring in meteorology and atmospheric science. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years.
Three months after finishing her master’s degree, Arango landed her first television job as a freelance meteorologist at Western Mass News in Springfield, Massachusetts. It quickly turned into a full-time position.
A year later, she was wooed away by KRIV in Houston, Texas, thanks to two advantages: her master’s degree and her fluency in Spanish. It was a big step.
“I went from the Number 114 market in the country to the Number 7 market,” she says.
Arango says she got her first job largely thanks to the UML alumni network and the outside experiences she was encouraged to pursue while a student: a summer research internship with the National Weather Center, followed by a broadcast internship with the weather team at WFXT in Boston. At the time, that team included UML alumnae Shiri Spear ’07 and Sarah Wroblewski ’05, who now works for WBZ-TV.
“From the second I stepped into the newsroom, even though it was 3 o’clock in the morning, the energy was undeniable,” Arango says. “I loved it. I knew that this is where I want to be.”
In Springfield, she developed an educational television show for children called “Weather Wednesdays.” Each week, she presented a science experiment that children could do at home with common household items.
“Part of what I love about science is sharing my passion with others,” she says. “I’m a minority female, so I’m always advocating for underrepresented groups. They often think that STEM is not reachable for them, so my goal is to present it in a way that is approachable and fun.”
At KRIV, Arango, who grew up bilingual, forecasts hurricanes, floods and droughts in English on air and in Spanish for a twice-weekly digital weather program she helped to develop. She also visits schools, where she continues to promote math and science, and appears at public events.
Arango says her master’s studies “expanded my ability to conceptualize the complexities of the atmosphere,” which helped when she moved to Houston. Experience – “pattern recognition” – and knowledgeable colleagues are helping her build on that expertise.
And every day brings a new challenge, she says.
“Although we’ve come such a long way in terms of understanding and predicting the weather, we still have a long way to go, so there’s so much room for growth,” she says. “And it’s never boring or static.”