Jemison, First Woman of Color in Space, Will Address UA Graduates

Dr. Mae C. Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut and was the first woman of color in the world to go into space, aboard a joint space shuttle mission with the Japanese space agency.
April 8, 2019
Mae Jemison
Mae Jemison

Dr. Mae C. Jemison, engineer, physician, entrepreneur, educator and the first woman of color to travel into space, will give the keynote address at the University of Arizona's 155th Commencement on May 10.

"I am so thrilled that Dr. Jemison will be sharing her wisdom with our graduates this year," said UA President Robert C. Robbins. "She is a true inspiration; her career, entrepreneurship and innovative spirit makes her an amazing person to help celebrate our Class of 2019. I am looking forward to her speech, and I am honored that she is joining us for such an important evening in our students' lives."

Jemison is at the forefront of integrating the physical and social sciences with art and culture to solve problems and foster innovation. Among other projects, Jemison currently leads 100 Year Starship, a bold, far-reaching nonprofit initiative to assure the capabilities exist for human travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next 100 years. Jemison is building a multi-faceted global community to foster committed cultural, scientific, social, financial and technical engagement, as well as the framework to accomplish the 100 Year Starship vision – "An Inclusive, Audacious Journey (that) Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond."

"Today we have more material wealth than at any other point in human history," Jemison said. "We have more capacity, more capability to include everyone in the bounty of this planet. The most important task of the university is to prepare their graduates to recognize these opportunities and act positively upon them."

Jemison enrolled at Stanford University at age 16, earning a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and fulfilling requirements for a bachelor's degree in African and Afro-American studies. She went on to earn her medical degree from Cornell University.

Trained as an engineer, social scientist and dancer, Jemison was the Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut and was the first woman of color in the world to go into space, aboard a joint space shuttle mission with the Japanese space agency. After leaving NASA, Jemison founded two companies, including The Jemison Group, Inc., a technology consulting firm integrating critical sociocultural issues into the design of engineering and science initiatives. As a professor at Dartmouth College, Jemison focused on technologies' designs for sustainability for both industrialized and developing nations. 

Jemison started the nonprofit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which designs and implements STEM education experiences impacting students and teachers worldwide. One such program, begun in 1994, is the international science camp The Earth We Share, for 12-16-year-old students from around the world. The program builds science literacy while tasking students with solving global dilemmas. From 2011 to 2014, the TEWS-Space Race, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District, trained hundreds of middle school teachers and thousands of middle school students in experiential science education.

Jemison is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Women's Hall of Fame, the Texas Science Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame, and is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is the recipient of the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service, National Organization for Women's Intrepid Award, the Kilby Science Award and National Association of Corporate Directors' Directorship 100 most influential people in the boardroom in 2014. 

Jemison is chairwoman of the National Academies' Study on Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science Engineering and Medicine. In October 2018, Jemison spearheaded Look Up, an international movement to galvanize people worldwide, on a single day, to acknowledge that we are earthlings. Jemison authored "Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from My Life" for teenagers, as well as the True Books series on space exploration.

She is Bayer Corporation USA's national science literacy ambassador. She is one of the series hosts for National Geographic's "One Strange Rock" and the space operations advisor for its global miniseries "MARS." She was the first actual astronaut to appear on the "Star Trek" TV series and is a LEGO figurine in the LEGO Women of NASA kit.