Competing for the Crown


Fifty-three candidates from across the state participated in the Miss Utah Scholarship competition in June. More than 25% share something else in common.  They are Wolverines. Each was contending for a $10,000 scholarship to assist them in their pursuit of an education.

The 14 Utah Valley University students are among the first to compete in Miss America 2.0, an effort by the National Miss America competition to evolve. It places less emphasis on a woman's outward appearance and focuses on candidates' voices. UVU students took advantage of the opportunity to advocate for their social impact initiatives.

Austri Ekker, a communication student, said being Miss Hobble Creek was a fantastic experience. The arts are her lifelong passion. She was able to serve her community because of her platform to share a social impact initiative, promoting the benefits of different forms of art in everyday life, ("Enrichment through the Arts").

Ekker is grateful to be involved with an organization that encourages earning an education and involvement through service in communities.

"It really was such an empowering experience to be surrounded by so many kind, successful, smart, and talented women. This experience is certainly not one I am soon to forget," she said.

Miss UVU, Addison Black, also a communication major, enjoys being part of the Miss Utah Organization because it encourages young women to develop their talents and articulation, along with their education and knowledge of the world while promoting grace, kindness, and poise.

Competing as Miss UVU was especially exciting for Black because it allowed her to interact directly with her fellow students. "I have met so many new people and have gotten involved on a level I never would've been able to if not for Miss UVU," she said.

Studying communication has gone hand in hand with Black's duties as Miss UVU. "Miss UVU requires communication with clubs and departments within UVU, and outside organizations such as Miss Utah," she said. Her education in public relations has helped her to elevate the university as she communicates publicly as Miss UVU.

"UVU has a large impact on young women competing for this scholarship program. UVU is more than generous in providing scholarships for those competing in the program. I have benefitted from serving as Miss UVU, and that is entirely attributed to the scholarships UVU provides."

Angelica Thomas, who competed as Miss Orem, is a junior at UVU studying violin performance. Thomas has always had a passion for music and is working toward becoming a professional performer.

"As a violin performance major, visual art student, and ballroom dancer, studying at UVU has largely impacted my ability to improve myself as a creative communicator. I'm grateful for the incredible professors who've guided and pushed me to strive to be my best," Thomas said.

She made more than 200 public appearances over the past year, including service opportunities. Using her passion for the arts, she helped raise thousands of dollars for Primary Children's Hospital by hosting large-scale community benefit concerts, selling locally crafted merchandise at festivals, and by producing commissioned portraiture.

Miss Riverton, Gabby Hindoian, a sophomore studying dance, learned to balance her responsibilities.

"Being a student and a titleholder at the same time means that you can take what you've studied and learned at the university and apply it where you can as a titleholder. Whether it is information about current events and situations happening now in our society or learning how to get your point across in the most effective way possible while speaking in public, you can use it to best benefit your year of service."

Makayla Conner, a senior studying theatre arts education, says competing and serving is transformative for those who give of themselves.

"It was challenging at first because being a part of a program where you're asked to be 100% yourself is intimidating. It asks for a lot of vulnerability. But it also is amazing because you have 50 other girls who are discovering the same thing about themselves and you help each other," she said.

Conner said programs like the Miss America Scholarship Organization should be valued in our community because of the type of young women that they produce. "Every woman I interacted with at Miss Utah week had a goal for their community and wanted to make the world a better place."

Having so many service and education-minded students, who also wear crowns, at one university is rare but not unusual. The campus culture supports engagement in learning and community service.

"I really like UVU and have had great experiences with all of my professors. UVU has a great staff and a very welcoming environment from professors as well as fellow students. It is a great university to study at and expand my knowledge," Hindoian said.