MSU Cinema International presents Nichelle Nichols Biopic, "Woman in Motion" This Week
This week, Murray State's Cinema International presents the 2021 Nichelle Nichols biopic Woman in Motion. Austin Carter speaks to program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul and professor of mathematics Dr. Maeve McCarty about the film and Nichols' impact on the field of STEM and on television ahead of the screenings.
"Biopic detailing the powerful, revealing, and uplifting story of Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek. But the actor, who passed away at the age of 89 on July 30, 2022, also carried with her a lesser-known legacy: playing a foundational role in launching the national blitz recruiting 8,000 of the nation's best and brightest, including the first Black, Asian, and Latino men and women for NASA's Space Shuttle Program and inspiring diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."
"[Nichelle Nichols] went out to colleges all over the country with researchers from NASA, talking to students—science and engineering majors—about opportunities about working in NASA and recruiting them into internship programs, summer programs, that led to jobs for those students in the future," McCarty says. "She made sure that there were opportunities for under-represented minorities of all sorts."
"I don't think that she realized when she started on Star Trek what an impact she could have. She was one of the first interracial kisses on television. It was a really big deal at the time," she says. "She wanted to leave because her character wasn't being well-developed, but Martin Luther King, Jr. talked her into staying. That's a really big deal. I think having that impact in media to an impact in the science community was a really great shift, and it shows a great dedication on her part to the needs of society."
Woman in Motion's screenings are also sponsored by Murray State's ADVANCE program, which McCarty says has been operating on campus since 2016 with funding from the National Science Foundation. "We do things like mentoring programs and writing retreats for women faculty in STEM. We've done some climate surveys and things like that to address the recruitment and retention issues of getting women and under-represented minorities in the STEM faculty so that will increase their visibility for our students."
"ADVANCE is really thrilled to sponsor this movie Woman in Motion. We're working with Sigma Xi, which is the scientific honors society, to co-sponsor the movie this week. It's a great film. It tells the story of Nichelle Nichols and her impact on science and space in the United States and really throughout the world. [She got] people talking about how science and space research doesn't have to be the domain of the majority of the stereotype. There are opportunities [for minorities] to propel, to participate, and be active."
"It really comes back to what our students need," McCarty continues. "They really need people who look like them doing the things that they're interested in doing. My impact in the math department has been to mentor many female students over the years. I think that having representation in all areas is really important. Providing our students with those kinds of role models is really important. It's one of the priorities that we have with the ADVANCE program. I think that this movie shows us that increasing representation gives all of us opportunities to feel like we belong."
Murray State's Cinema International presents Woman in Motion on Thursday, March 2nd, and Saturday, March 4th, at 7:30 pm in Faculty Hall, room 208. For more information on the Cinema International program, including upcoming screenings and how to donate, visit its website.