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First black woman in space offers message to Madison

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MADISON (WKOW) -- “Persevere,” a message that trailblazing astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison shared with hundreds of people at Union South on the UW-Madison campus Tuesday night.

Jemison who served six years in NASA and is the founder of two medical technology companies shared her experiences in the math and science field and how she overcame barriers.

“I had professors who were not thrilled to see me in class. It was the first time anyone questioned my intellectual capacity,” Jemison said.

Her message to students and community members who are questioning their belonging in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields is quite simple, keep going and never hold yourself back.

“My biggest thing is knowing that you should be there, and we need you, and the world needs your contributions,” Jemison said. 

Additionally, Jemison mentioned the number of women in computer science has gone down.

There is a recent study that shows black and Latinx students enrolled in STEM programs are switching their majors at much higher rates than their white peers.

Jemison believes in order to retain women in these fields, it's important to help and advance those already in it.

“The job is not to wear people out, it’s to develop the talent that is already with you,” Jemison said.

In advocating for these messages, Jemison also told the audience to “look up,” words that always bring some kind of hope, reminding everyone that we are all connected.

Today, Jemison works as an activist and educator for women of color in STEM fields.

Alyssa Hui

WKOW News

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