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2017 Commencement Speaker

Mae Jemison

Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space, is the speaker for this year's ceremony.

Dr. Mae C. Jemison, an engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut who became the first woman of color in the world to go into space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992, will be the speaker at Caltech's 123rd annual commencement ceremony. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 16, on Beckman Mall on Caltech's campus and will also be live-streamed online.

After serving six years as a NASA astronaut, Jemison has become an icon of both the women's rights and civil rights movements as well as a strong, committed global voice for science literacy.

In 1994, Jemison founded the international science camp The Earth We Share (TEWS) for students 12–16 years old from around the world. In 2011, Jemison also launched the TEWS-Space Race, with the goal of improving science achievement for underserved Los Angeles-area students who are underrepresented in the sciences. Jemison continues to be a vocal advocate for improving education access and advocating for greater inclusion of girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. Jemison's book, Find Where the Wind Goes, is geared for teenagers and explores her experiences growing up on the South Side of Chicago, cultivating her aspirations to be a scientist, and her history-making journey into space.

Following her time with NASA, Jemison founded both The Jemison Group and BioSentient Corporation. A technology consulting firm, The Jemison Group explores and develops stand-alone science and technology programs, integrating sociocultural issues with revolutionary technologies. Among The Jemison Group's work is a project to use satellite technology for health care delivery in West Africa and another to use solar dish Stirling engines for electricity generation in developing countries.

Currently, Jemison leads The 100 Year Starship (100YSS), a joint initiative by NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that is focused on assuring the capability for human interstellar space travel to another star within the next century.

Jemison is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and was inducted into both the National Women's Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame. Her numerous honors and awards include being a recipient of the National Organization for Women's Intrepid Award and the Kilby Science Award as well as many honorary degrees.

Prior to NASA, Jemison was a Peace Corps Medical Officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia for two and a half years, overseeing the health care system. Jemison earned a BS degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University and her MD from Cornell University.


A complete list of Caltech's past commencement speakers can be found in our archive.