For some, space may not be the final frontier.

Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut, gave the keynote lecture for the 32nd annual Women of Color Task Force Career Conference at Hill Auditorium on Friday. Jemison, a physician and former Peace Corps participant, became the first woman of color to travel to space when she joined the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992.

Marlanna Landeros, a member of the WCTF executive team, said the event was the largest professional development conference hosted at the University. Open to all University staff and students as well as to the general public, it was designed to promote the career and personal development of women of color working at the University.

Jemison, a visiting professor at the University, left NASA a year after her space mission. She went on to found her own technology consulting company, The Jemison Group, Inc., teach at Dartmouth College and become a professor-at-large at Cornell University.

During her speech, Jemison focused on the importance of diversity in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“We’re building and defining a path with less than a third of the intellectual capacity, the experience, the ambitions, the visions, the perspectives given to us,” Jemison said.

Since scientists and mathematicians choose the topics to be researched, the data sets to be analyzed and the standards through which scientific observations are measured, Jemison said it is necessary to encourage a diverse workforce in STEM fields.

Jemison noted examples of how breast cancer in women and testicular cancer were treated differently. She said it was not until women were more involved in the field that alternatives to mastectomies were considered.

After the event, Jemison discussed her current project, 100 Year Starship, and her role as its principal. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency- and NASA-funded project is working toward making interstellar travel possible within the next 100 years.

100 Year Starship seeks to include a variety of individuals from across all disciplines in its development.

“The capabilities that are needed for successful human travel beyond another star, they’re the very same capabilities that are required for us to live successfully here on Earth,” Jemison said.

The project would not only push for the discovery of other alternative energy sources, but could also transform the way materials such as clothing are produced and lead to a greater insight into human behavior, Jemison said.

“I was absolutely amazed by her commentary — the integration of what’s happening in space and here is something I never thought about,” said Tracey Taylor, a lecture attendee and employee of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

Jemison concluded her lecture by telling women to begin setting the standards of achievements instead of following the ones already in place.

“Be bold. Be brave. Push on things and don’t hold yourself back. Don’t limit yourself because someone else is limited,” Jemison said after the address. “You have every right to be here and to change things around the world. You don’t have to wait for permission.”

Before Jemison’s address, University President Mary Sue Coleman lauded the task force’s success over her tenure as a University administrator, complimenting the group on recently co-piloting a new career development program.

Dubbed “Women’s Reproductive Health Research,” the initiative’s goal is to “increase the number and effectiveness of obstetrics and gynecology scientists,” according to the University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology website.

“We have traveled this road together, celebrating victories (and) commiserating about challenges,” Coleman said. “Through the decades, the taskforce has been committed to creating professional development opportunities for all staff.”

Along with the keynote, the event included more than 30 workshop sessions held at the Modern Languages Building and the Michigan League. All of the sessions were centered on this year’s conference theme, “Transforming the Face of Leadership.” The event closed with a recreational ballroom dance demonstration and other short dancing lessons.

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