Kenneth Alexander Swan

Alex Swan, pictured playing a bass drum before an MSU football game
Photo by Megan Bean

Starkville native Kenneth Alexander Swan grew up with one of the nation’s most prominent meteorology programs in his backyard, but it was the TV show “Storm Chasers” that sparked his interest in the field, landing him at MSU.

Swan said “Storm Chasers” taught him how unpredictable and uncontrollable tornadoes and other severe weather can be, “which is concerning to think about considering how much of an impact it can have on our lives.”

“While controlling the weather is not feasible, studying and understanding why severe weather happens allows us to become better at predicting where and when it will happen to ensure the safety of those caught in it,” Swan said.

Now a junior majoring in meteorology with a concentration in professional meteorology —and a member of the Famous Maroon Band playing bass drum in the drumline—Swan is quite literally marching to his own beat studying what many fear—severe storms.

“I have a strong interest in the processes behind severe weather, including hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, and getting to go out in the field and study these types of severe weather is a big aspiration,” he said.

Kenneth Swan at Hilbun Hall
Photo submitted

This May, Swan plans to enroll in the Severe Storms Methods class an MSU faculty member leads each spring in the midwest—“tornado alley”—that allows students to travel alongside experienced chasers, getting firsthand experience following and observing threatening weather, with the possibility of spotting tornadoes.

A fan of traveling for education, Swan joined 45 MSU student this summer for a study-abroad trip to Scandinavia, escorted by MSU faculty members Deb Mlsna and Todd Mlsna, to study alternative energy sources that Scandinavian countries use for a large share of their electricity production, specifically studying carbon-neutral and renewable energy sources like wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power.

“I had wanted an opportunity to travel abroad for a while and I especially wanted to visit Scandinavia, both for the fantastic scenery and unique cultural elements,” Swan said.

“One night we stayed in the town of Djupivogur, and after dinner a group of us went to the park and found locals playing soccer. After a friendly competition between the Americans and the Icelanders (our team was no match), we spent over an hour talking with them about various aspects of their culture and experiences. It was especially interesting to hear about how they watched many of the same shows, played the same games, and in general had a lot of  connections with our culture, despite being very far away.”

A recipient of the prestigious Betty and Ralph Alewine Endowed Scholarship, Swan plans to graduate in 2025 and become a professional meteorologist.

“A professional meteorologist is somebody who works ‘behind the scenes’ as an operational forecaster, essentially collecting and/or interpreting meteorological data to create weather forecasts or reports for the public,” Swan said.

 Although Swan likes working behind the scenes academically, he performs in front of crowds with the Famous Maroon Band during sporting events.

“Football games are also a lot of fun, especially as a band student. One of my favorite parts of football gamedays is the Junction Show where the drumline performs for the public, as well as marching into the stadium,” he said. He who also participates in the basketball prep band each spring. “In the stadium, I like that the band always aims to give people a good time, regardless of how the game is going.”

Swan said MSU emphasizes more than “just academic success,” but also other important characteristics such as leadership, responsibility, work ethic and pride.

“If you come to this university with everything you have to offer, the university will provide everything you need to achieve who you want to be.”