“The Knowledge You Gain Here Lasts a Lifetime.” Meteorologist Geoff Bansen ’10 Gives SoMAS Convocation Keynote Address

Many know Geoff Bansen ’10 from his weather reports on their local news channels. But those at Stony Brook University will always know him as a Seawolf for life. In fact, some Stony Brook students may even recognize him as a face on some of the buses on campus!

President Maurie McInnis with Geoff Bansen at the 40 Under Forty Awards in 2022.
President Maurie McInnis with Geoff Bansen at the 40 Under Forty Awards in 2022 on the Tribeca Rooftop. (Photo courtesy of John Griffin)

An alumnus of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), Bansen often participates in alumni events, including the Stony Brook Annual Scholarship Golf Classic. Most recently, he returned to deliver the keynote address at the 2023 SoMAS convocation.

Bansen was among the first SoMAS alumni to be named a Stony Brook 40 Under Forty honoree and was recognized at an awards celebration in New York City in 2022. He also won a New York Emmy Award and numerous Long Island Press Club awards. Now the chief meteorologist at WLNE ABC6 in Rhode Island, Bansen has had a successful career at FOX Weather, News 12, CBS, and PIX11.

How often do you come back to campus? And how did it feel to be back on campus for commencement?

Geoff Bansen and Wolfie at the annual Golf Classic.
Geoff Bansen and Wolfie at the annual Golf Classic in 2022 at the Nissequogue Golf Club. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Advancement)

Since graduating in 2010, I’ve tried to come back for as many events as possible. I’ve attended some homecomings, basketball games, and marching band showcases. It’s a little harder now with my job in Rhode Island. I still love being involved in the golf classic, though! I’m on the board this year, so I’m helping coordinate that and raise some funds. I also used to do a radio show at WUSB from 2019–2021. I used to host a radio show as a student, so it was fun to come back as an alumnus for that.

To be back on graduation day, though. There was such a different energy. To see everyone walking around in their caps and gowns, taking photos. It brought me back to my college days. And the weather was oddly reminiscent of my graduation day, too.

How did it feel to speak to SoMAS graduates?

It was surreal. It was something I never really thought I’d be doing. The graduating classes seem to get bigger and bigger. In my graduating class, there were only four of us who had studied meteorology. I’m proud to see what the program has become, and it was such an honor to speak to the Class of 2023. I didn’t think anything could top being a 40 Under Forty honoree. But this opportunity was right up there with that honor.

Geoff Bansen at his commencement in 2010.
Alumnus Geoff Bansen at his commencement in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University)

What advice do you have for the Class of 2023?

Looking back at my career so far, I can’t believe everything I’ve accomplished in just 13 years. I achieved what I went to school to do, which is a cool thing to be able to say.

So, for those graduating, I gave a few pieces of advice.

Patience is truly a virtue. It’s important to understand that things aren’t going to happen overnight.

Some people’s careers start right out of college, while for others, it could take years. Don’t give up right away if you’re in the latter group. Don’t compare yourself to others in your field; find the path that works best for you. Always keep your options open and try new things.

You might fail sometimes, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to fail. If I had been afraid to fail as a student and early in my career, I would have stayed in my comfort zone, but that would have kept me from getting my dream job as a chief meteorologist. Sure, there were missteps along the way, and I made some sacrifices.

But now is the time, as a college graduate, to explore different options to attain your dreams.

What advice would you give a freshman just starting their college career?

Explore the campus and all that it has to offer. In the beginning, you will be focused on your classes, making friends, and adjusting to college life. When ready, speak to classmates or advisors about different campus recreation activities. It can be scary when you first step on such a big campus, so try to burst out of your bubble to explore the new opportunities Stony Brook offers.

What was your time like at Stony Brook? Do you have any standout professors?

Geoff Bansen with the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band.
Alumnus Geoff Bansen with the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University)

I got involved in a bunch of rec sports, the radio station, and, of course, the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band. I was one of the founding members of the band! I had just moved into the dorms as a freshman and got a crash course on putting a band together in one weekend. Our first gig was performing at the freshman convocation at LaValle Stadium. At the time, there were just 15 of us out there. Because of how big the band has grown, I feel intimidated by them now!

It was nice to be a part of something starting from the ground up. It was very cool to see the band grow year after year and eventually step into a leadership role. I never saw myself as a leader when I started at Stony Brook, but I gained the skills to achieve that during my time there.

As far as standout professors go, Brian Colle was my main weather professor. He was an admirable person to learn from and knew his weather. I also enjoyed classes with Daniel Knopf, particularly his air pollution class.

What impact did Stony Brook have on your career as a meteorologist?

When I heard about SoMAS, I couldn’t wait to start my college career. I call SoMAS the hidden gem of Stony Brook, tucked away on the south campus. There are just so many opportunities for SoMAS students that extend far beyond meteorology and marine biology.

For others with the same goal of being broadcast meteorologists, they often study journalism first and then science. I chose to do the opposite, and I think having a science background laid the groundwork for my career path. I learned every aspect of the science of weather at Stony Brook, which prepared me for my various positions before landing a job on television. In fact, I worked my way up from behind the scenes at a small forecasting company. It took me three years after I graduated before I landed a full-time job in broadcast meteorology.

Geoff Bansen '10 is a 40 Under Forty honoree.
Geoff Bansen ’10 is a 40 Under Forty honoree. (Photo Courtesy of Geoff Bansen)

What have been some of the most memorable moments in your career?

Obviously, it was winning the New York Emmy. But looking back, getting my first full-time on-air gig was a huge deal. It did involve some travel from Long Island, but it was so fulfilling to be living out my dream.

Another highlight was being able to forecast the weather on News 12 Long Island. It was amazing to grow up on Long Island and then be able to live out my dream of giving the weather to my friends and family at home. And most recently, a big moment for me was becoming a chief meteorologist. The leadership skills I learned at Stony Brook and from mentors over the years definitely prepared me for this role. I am the captain of the weather ship at the station, which is a great feeling.

Stony Brook has been selected as the anchor institution for the New York Climate Exchange on Governors Island. What should researchers be focusing on first to make an impact on climate change?

I am proud that Stony Brook was selected for this amazing opportunity. But I’m also not surprised. With its world-class research and flagship status, Stony Brook is made for this.

As far as what researchers should focus on first, there are so many areas of climate that need our attention. A good start could be to focus on the rising sea level based on projections that some scientific models have made. Another area could be tackling emissions, specifically in big, industrial cities. Wherever they start, though, I know that Stony Brook researchers and their partners are definitely up for the challenge.

What is your advice for a student or an alumnus who wants to get involved in the New York Climate Exchange?

Geoff Bansen with the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band.
Alumnus Geoff Bansen with the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University)

This is an exciting time for Stony Brook students and alumni, specifically with the need to focus on the planet and environment. Look into different career paths where you can apply your studies, such as research and development, teaching, government, politics, legal avenues, and more. With the changing climate, rising seas, efforts to curb pollution, and an increasing reliance on renewable energies, there are many options for people to get involved. Ask questions, and then just jump in and know that you’ll be helping to make a difference.

The smoke from the Canadian wildfires was recently felt in the tri-state area, making the air dangerous for a few days. As a meteorologist, how do you explain what happened?

Wildfires are by no means abnormal, but several factors came together to create such a unique situation in our area. On June 1, storms producing copious amounts of lightning moved over southern Canada. The spring thaw was complete, so there was a lot of dry brush on the ground, which became lit. Then, gusty winds and bone-dry air behind the storms ignited the flames. At the same time, a low-pressure system over Maine became almost stationary, sending the winds over the fires and carrying large amounts of smoke down to major East Coast cities.

Now that you are the chief meteorologist at your TV station, what was it like to oversee coverage of dramatic weather changes like this, which took everyone by surprise?

As chief, you need to always be one step ahead. The weather does not take a day off, so I must watch the weather patterns at all times. Controlling how a story is covered has many responsibilities, but I enjoy that challenge. It was great to be able to cover this particular situation in depth. Not only does this happen in our area every few decades, but now we have social media, and everyone is sharing photos and videos. While it was so eerie and wild visually, there was also a considerable health risk.

Our job in the media and as meteorologists is to make sure people are alerted about those risks and how to protect themselves, which I don’t take lightly. At the end of the day, that is the most important part of our job.

-Written by Christine McGrath

The Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band on a school bus.
Geoff Bansen was one of the founders of the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Advancement)

Watch Bansen’s keynote address at the 2023 SoMAS Convocation below.

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