Astronaut encourages Pearl River Honors Institute shoot for the stars

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River Community College got lost in space Tuesday with astronaut Col. Catherine “Cady” Coleman in the Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Arts.

The stellar event was part of the William Lewis Honors Institute Lyceum Lecture Series and was made possible through a grant funded by the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.

“The foundation supports the efforts of the Honors Institute to provide additional opportunities for both the students and community at large,” CEO/President of the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation Clyde Dease Jr. said. “This program provides an important educational building block that is expecting to allow our students to soar higher and travel farther in their pursuit of success. Our community will also be able to participate in these activities and enjoy their benefits.”

PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood, Colonel Cady Coleman, PRCC President Emeritus Dr. William Lewis

“We are very appreciative of the experiences this lecture series affords our students,” Dean of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute Dr. Jennifer Seal said. “Without the support of the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation our students and surrounding communities would not receive these fantastic experiences. Allowing our students, especially our young women, to see that there are opportunities for them to become the next astronauts, engineers, telecommunicators, and satellite technicians is so important.”


Coleman was selected by NASA in March 1992 and reported to the Johnson Space Center five months later. Initially assigned to the Astronaut Office Mission Support Branch and detailed to flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, Coleman subsequently served as the special assistant to the Center Director, Johnson Space Center. She served in the Astronaut Office Payloads and Habitability Branch, working with experiment designers to ensure that payloads can be operated successfully in the microgravity environment of low Earth orbit. As the lead astronaut for long-term habitability issues, she led the effort to label the Russian segments of the International Space Station in English and also tracked issues, such as acoustics and living accommodations aboard the station.

Dr. Tom Clark, LPRVF Board member, Dr. Becky Askew, LPRVF Board member, Colonel Cady Coleman, Clyde Dease Jr. , President Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, Ms. Barbara Alexander

She represented the astronaut office on the Tile Repair Team for NASA’s Return to Flight after the Columbia accident. Coleman also served as the Chief of Robotics for the Astronaut Office, tasked with overseeing astronaut robotics training and the integration of crew interfaces into new robotics systems. Coleman led supply ship operations for the Astronaut Office and pioneered efforts to integrate supply operations across NASA and the international and commercial and partners, including Space X, Orbital ATK. As her final assignment at NASA, Coleman led open-innovation and public-private partnership efforts for the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters.


In addition to sharing information about space, Coleman spoke about attributes of a good team member. She encouraged the audience of over 500 attendees to remember to always be sharing their stories, be open to changing their perspective on situations and people, and to find those within their lives that supported them and their dreams.

Coleman spoke about the journey she made as a woman trying to make it to space.

“It’s important to find your place on the spectrum of being yourself and being what you need to be to reach your goals,” she said. “You have to be willing to stand up for yourself and say ‘I’m different and you should appreciate me the way I am’ while still understanding that you need to make yourself an obvious asset to the end goal.”

Honors institute students enjoyed a meet and greet before the main event and asked Coleman questions about her time in space and the path she took to get there. Coleman also spoke about the importance of goal setting and what it takes to reach those aspirations — whether they take you to space or not.

“It’s great to meet a successful woman in STEM who advocates for inclusion and diversity in a male-dominated industry,” honors institute student Alyssa Rogers said. “As an aspiring woman engineer, it was very inspirational.”

The next speaker in this lecture series has not yet been announced. Check back at for updates as they become available.

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