Former astronaut, first woman of color in space to visit WMU

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A former astronaut, who became the first woman of color in space, will explore the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education later this month when she visits the Western Michigan University campus.

Mae Jemison, who flew into space Sept. 12-20, 1992, as part of a cooperative mission between the U.S. and Japan, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, March  23, in Miller Auditorium. She will present a talk titled "Exploring the Frontiers of Science and Human Potential" as the keynote at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation's 2017 community meeting. The meeting is open to the public, but attendees are asked to register in advance by visiting the foundation's website at

Photo of Mae Jemison in space.

Mae Jemison, who flew into space Sept. 12-20, 1992, will speak at WMU March 23.


Jemison was trained as an engineer, then became a physician, serving as a doctor in in the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Inspired by the actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek," and Sally Ride's flight into space in 1983, Jemison applied to the astronaut program and served six years as a NASA astronaut, eventually becoming a mission specialist on Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992.

After leaving NASA, she started The Jemison Group, which integrates the critical impact of socio-cultural issues when designing and implementing technologies, such as their projects using satellite technology for health care delivery in West Africa and solar dish Stirling engines for electricity generation in developing countries. She also appeared in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Jemison is currently leading 100 Year Starship, an initiative funded by the Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, to assure the capability for human interstellar space travel to another star within the next 100 years.

ABOUT Jemison's TALK

Jemison will talk about the importance of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—education, as well as her dreams of becoming an astronaut as a youngster growing up on the south side of Chicago. She'll also highlight the importance of women and minorities pursuing science and technology careers.

Sponsored by PNC Bank, Jemison's talk is also part of the WMU University Center for the Humanities' 2016-17 speaker series, "Science and the Human Endeavor."

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