Is it a bird? A plane? A flying saucer? No, it's retired astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman ever to go to space, preparing for landing right here in Bozeman next week.

She’s scheduled to touch down on campus in the SUB Ballrooms on Monday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. for a lecture organized by the MSU Leadership Institute.

Jemison is a highly accomplished doctor, engineer and U.S. astronaut from Decatur, Alabama. She trekked to the stars in 1992, when she orbited Earth in the space shuttle Endeavour. The crew spent eight days conducting 44 life science and materials processing experiments. Currently, Jemison runs a technology consulting group, called The Jemison Group, as well as the Dorothy Jemison Foundation, through which Jemison is now leading the 100-year starship project.

The 100-year starship project works to make sure that human travel beyond our solar system, to another star, is possible within the next 100 years.

Two years ago – back down in earth's orbit – coordinators at the institute organized an event with Jemison. But the threat of COVID-19 loomed over campus and forced the institute to reschedule the event.

“This event was actually, originally, supposed to take place in Feb. of last year… but this was one of a couple of events that had to be postponed,” said Lorelei Michael-Owens, a student associate at the Leadership Institute organizing the event. “And I know that it was really hard because trying to make sure those dates still worked for Mae Jemison, and trying to figure out all of these things was really difficult.”

Like many people, the institute and its coordinators were disappointed.

“It's hard to have something that you’re working towards, and then to have that moved on or postponed,” said Michael-Owens.

Thankfully, the Leadership Institute was able to successfully reschedule with Jemison for Nov. 14.

This evening with Jemison is not only a lecture but also an opportunity for the community to have an important conversation about women and women of color in STEM, Michael-Owens said. As a kid, Jemison was inspired by Black actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the “Star Trek” television show. From a young age, she was determined to get to space – just like Uhura. Having been represented in the media by someone she could identify with played a critical role in the values and goals which Jemison later adopted.

“I think that there's a really interesting, really important conversation that she's been bringing up for a long time. About women, and specifically women of color, in STEM,” Michael-Owens said. “And I think that since this university is so STEM-focused, having that conversation about what it means to be a woman in STEM, and how it feels…is super valuable and super inspirational.”

Bringing a prominent name in the STEM field to campus may offer inspiration to MSU’s community of women engineers, scientists and doctors alike.

“My goal is that we have more things like this in the future. That this sets a tone for the kind of conversations that we're having at MSU on that big, public stage,” Michael-Owens said.

Tickets for “An Evening With Mae Jemison: First African American Woman in Space” are available for purchase at montana.evenue.net for $15 to the general public and $8 for students.