From NASA to NASCAR, speaker series promises to be inspirational


Baldwin Wallace University’s speaker series kicked off on Sep. 21 with a presentation from Dr. Mae Carol Jemison, a history-making NASA astronaut.

The series for the 2019-2020 school year focuses around the theme “Voices of Inspiration.” The speakers are “trailblazers, who changed the face of success,” said Dan Karp, assistant vice president and director of University Relations, “including women in male-dominated industries.”

The goal of the series is “to fill the seats with BW students,” said Karp. “The speakers are forthcoming and honest about their journeys.” He hopes students who attend are inspired to find uncommon success, but also realize these pathways have hurdles.

The theme of the series allows the school to “market [the speakers] together and elevate them,” said Karp. Having a looser theme also allows the school to bring in speakers that can connect to more than one area of expertise to maximize student interest, said Karp.

The first speaker in the series was Dr. Mae Carol Jemison, the first African American woman in space. The live interview, conducted by Dr. Jodi Tims, director of Computer Science Programs at Northeastern University, started with Dr. Jemison’s description of what it was like to be in space.

“It was very,” said Jemison, pausing briefly, “impressive.”

Jemison answered questions from Tims on subjects ranging from what it is like having a LEGO figurine of yourself to her relationship with her parents and siblings. She also spoke very passionately about what it is like to be a woman in a STEM field. According to her, a main problem women face is not “looking” like they belong, because cultural paradigms are being introduced so early. Another is how girls are told to behave from a young age.

“Girls are habituated early on in society like ‘don’t mess up your hair.’ ‘Keep your clothes clean,’” said Jemison. “How can you make mud pies if you have to keep your clothes clean? Because mud pies are the gateway to figuring out drying times and evaporation, consistency of materials…stuff like that.”

Jemison said one of her current projects is the nonprofit initiative 100 Year Starship that works to assure the capabilities exist for human travel to stars beyond our solar system in the next 100 years. She calls this an “inclusive audacious journey” that is “cross-discipline, because… space isn’t just for rocket scientists—space is for everybody.”

Jamison encouraged students to look inside themselves.

“Rise to the potential of your excellence. Don’t measure yourself against others. Find the self that you want to be,” said Jemison.

The Voices of Inspiration speaker series continues with guest Danica Patrick on Sep. 28.