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Student Awarded Four-Year MC Lyte Scholarship Becomes First Black Woman to Earn Degree In Astrophysics from UW

Miona Short

Miona Short, an aspiring astronomer, said she also has dreams of launching her own hair care and beauty brand. (Image courtesy of Madison365)

It’s been exactly 100 years since the first Black woman graduated with a degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but another student made history last month when she became the first Black woman to earn a BS in astrophysics from the university.

Miona Short said she had dreams of traveling among the stars ever since she was a young girl growing up on the South Side of Chicago. Her diploma from UW-Madison has launched her that much closer to her goals of one day exploring the planets, stars and everything in between. The fact that it happened when it did has made the achievement that much more special, she said.

“Timing is everything and I had no idea until I started looking up the history of some of the first Black students at the university,” Short told Madison365. “… When I saw that the first black woman graduated exactly 100 years ago, it sent a shiver up my spine. It’s just one of those things that bring tears to your eyes. The numerical alignment is so beautiful but the fact that it would take 100 years is very telling of the culture in the United States.”

“I’m very happy. I feel very honored to have done this,” she continued. “It’s a field I’ve known I wanted to study all my life.”

Short recalled the moment she wanted to be an astronomer, telling her mother at two years old that she wanted to go to the moon after seeing Kraft cheese commercial on TV, the one featuring the cow who jumped over the moon. She said her mom told her she would have to become an astronaut first — a challenge that didn’t deter her in the least.

“I said, ‘OK, cool. That’s going to happen,’ ” Short remembered. “That evolved into wanting to study the stars. I think there are things that get written in our book of life early on. I’ve had this passion for all of science – particularly for astronomy and astrophysics.”

Thanks to the Hip Hip Sisters Network, founded by female hip-hop legend MC Lyte, Short was chosen to receive UW’s First Wave scholarship, which covered her tuition. The coveted scholarship is awarded to student artists who prepare for college while continuing to hone and develop their artistic skills, according to Madison365. Without it, Short said she likely would have had to attend a city college.

She would go on to become a member of the seventh cohort of UW–Madison’s First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community.

“Lots of stress went away,” the recent grad said of the scholarship. “It was a blessing.”

After spending a summer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), meeting her all-time hero, famed astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson, and securing her historic graduation in the history books, Short said she’s now looking to future. The aspiring astronomer says she also has dreams of launching her own hair care and beauty brand called “Shukrah.”

“I am coming up with a whole line of products. Shukrah is a hair tool company right now and we are probably going to move into the beauty space later,” Short told the news site. “Our flagship product is a comb that will make it easier to de-tangle and shampoo or condition the hair in fewer steps.”

The young woman said she’s since learned to code and is in the process of building a website for her forthcoming brand. Short says she’s “really excited” for what’s to come.

Can you say #BlackGirlMagic?

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