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USI to celebrate total solar eclipse with Solarpalooza April 7-8, 2024, on campus

Multi-day event to include speakers, science exploration, education, entertainment and eats

May 30, 2023

The University of Southern Indiana is excited to announce a free and open to the public multi-day event, Solarpalooza, culminating with the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. The event will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 7 with a talk by trailblazing electrical engineer and retired NASA astronaut Joan Higginbotham in the Screaming Eagles Arena as part of the Romain College of Business Innovative Speaker Series, followed by a full day of experiential learning and engagement on Monday, April 8—the day of the eclipse. USI will be in the direct path of the moon passing between the sun and Earth, darkening skies in totality for over three minutes around 2:02 p.m. 

With more than 1,400 acres of campus, USI will offer unobstructed sky views and access to educators and exploration that uniquely position the University as the prime location for viewing the eclipse and a day of solar system excitement. Activities will appeal to current and prospective students, alumni, and the broader community, with music, food trucks, expert presentations from the 16th annual Interdisciplinary Colloquium, “Eclipse,” and hands-on learning opportunities.  

“Our campus will provide space for science and celestial enthusiasts, along with casual observers, to spread out and enjoy this historic event in a festival atmosphere,” said Dr. Kent Scheller, USI Professor of Physics and event organizer. “For the second time in seven years, our campus will be at the center of one of the most unique and awe-inspiring events we'll ever experience” 

During the last solar eclipse in 2017, when Evansville experienced 99.04% totality, more than 700 students from elementary and middle schools across the region viewed the event from campus and participated in educational programming. “What we’re planning for the 2024 total eclipse is going to be so much bigger,” said Scheller. “You’re going to want to save the date.” 

A full event lineup and agenda will be released over the summer. For more information and updates on Solarpalooza at USI, visit 

Astronaut Joan Higginbotham, Sunday, April 7 

Joan Higginbotham will take the stage at the Screaming Eagles Arena at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 7, for her presentation, “Breaking Barriers: An Astronaut’s Inspiring & Winding Road to Space,” followed by a moderated Q&A. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The presentation is open to the public at no charge. 

Higginbotham’s presentation will take the audience aboard her STS-116 space shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and will explore how preparation, passion and perseverance were key to her successful voyage into space. She will also reveal lessons learned along her inspiring journey. 

In 2006, Higginbotham flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the third African American woman to travel in space. On the 13-day mission, the seven-member crew continued construction of the ISS, embarking on four space walks with Higginbotham operating the station’s robotic arm. 

She has been widely recognized for her accomplishments, honored by President George W. Bush at the 81st White House Black History Month Celebration and featured in Alicia Keys’ Superwoman video. Higginbotham is also the recipient of the National Space Medal, the Adler Planetarium Women in Space Award, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and was named one of Savoy Magazine’s Top Influential Women in Corporate America and one of Essence Magazine’s Top 50 Women, among other accolades. 

She began her career at NASA in 1987 as an aerospace technologist at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, where she worked her way through numerous promotions and actively participated in 53 shuttle launches during her nine-year tenure. 

Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996, she reported to the Johnson Space Center and was assigned various technical duties including testing modules of the ISS for operability, compatibility and functionality prior to launch. Higginbotham has logged more than 308 hours in space, retiring in 2007 to pursue opportunities in corporate America. 

Higginbotham will be the sixth speaker in the University's Romain College of Business Innovative Speaker Series. Previous speakers include Steve Wozniak ("The Woz"), General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), former Secretary of State, in 2019, Dr. Oscar Salazar, founding chief technology officer of Uber, in 2017, Dr. Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, in 2015, and T. Boone Pickens, legendary entrepreneur and philanthropist, in 2013.

This presentation, hosted by the Romain College of Business, is made possible through private gifts to the USI Foundation.

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