Beyond the Degree
Dave Seibert teaches the northernmost psychology class in the world—where he also reports the weather
By Andrea Minarcek
PREDICTING WEATHER PATTERNS at the U.S. Air Force base in Thule, Greenland—located some 900 miles north of the Arctic Circle, at 76 degrees 45 minutes north latitude—is no easy task. “You’ve heard of the northern lights?” Seibert asks. “We can’t even see those because we’re so far north.”
Storms whip across the vast tundra here quickly, with winds as fast as 50 knots and visibility less than 100 yards. Even during mild weather, the conditions are anything but ordinary. For nearly four months a year, Thule is shrouded in complete darkness, and temperatures regularly dip below –30° F.
If a blizzard looms, Seibert’s job is to brief the base commander and issue safety recommendations for the 500 personnel at Thule. “We have guys out doing work on elevated platforms; we have scientists from NASA along with civilian and international military units flying in and out of the base,” he says. “They depend on my weather reports to stay safe.”
Seibert’s career has taken a circuitous route. He first learned to read the weather as a young enlistee in the Air Force, and then stayed in the military for 20 years. But attaining an advanced degree was always his ultimate goal. “Most psychologists follow a pretty linear path—from undergraduate studies right on to graduate school and beyond,” he says. “But I needed the free education that the GI Bill provided to be able to afford college, so I had to serve in the military, and that experience really shaped my life and perspective.”
When he accepted the meteorology post at Thule, the Walden University graduate didn’t expect to use his master’s degree. But now he teaches an introductory psychology course—and has become a de facto counselor on base. “After duty, soldiers and commanders will come speak with me to get their mind off things,” he says. “It can be tough up here, and having served overseas in the military myself,
I identify with the struggles they’re coping with.”
Seibert’s Walden degree gives him a greater appreciation for meteorology, too.
“I’ve been observing the weather most of my life, but it’s only now, having the right tools to understand the human brain, that I recognize the link between all things, and that is balance,” he says.
“Most people’s problems arise because they’re struggling to find balance within themselves. The same goes for the weather. The atmosphere is in a constant struggle, between cold air and hot air, to even out. That struggle is what creates weather. And that struggle is what makes life so interesting, too.”