With the 100-year anniversary of the Miss America Pageant around the corner, Rowan University held a panel discussing the pageant organization. The university also discussed its efforts with digitizing and publicizing Miss America archives as part of its historical project that began earlier this year.
The panelists included Chairperson of the Miss America organization Shantel Krebs, 2020 Rowan alumna and Miss New Jersey 2021 Alyssa Sullivan and Professor Katherine Turner, director of the Miss America Archives Project at Rowan and coordinator of the American studies program.
The President’s Chief of Staff and Board of Trustees Liaison, Joanne Connor, served as the moderator for the discussion.
The panel focused on the background of Miss America, the monumental changes that the pageant took over the years, where it is now and where it will be in the future. Krebs and Sullivan both took turns sharing stories and memories of the pageant organization.
“Even if you are not a young woman who could compete in the Miss America organization, if you’re a young man, embrace the journey because that’s what makes it all worth it,” Sullivan said. “I walked away not becoming Miss New Jersey because the door slammed in my face and that people told me no. That’s where I grew as a person.”
The discussion concluded with the sharing of the Miss America artifacts.
What most people might not know is that the pageant started in New Jersey, so the Miss America pageant has a special connection to the state. Through a unique partnership with the Miss America Organization, Rowan University students had the opportunity to go through the expansive archives to digitize and publicize artifacts.
Deemed the “Miss America Archives Project,” these artifacts include the classic four-point crowns, program booklets, photographs, judges’ books and films. The students’ work would become the cornerstone of the new Rowan Digital Collections.
Students involved in the project were encouraged at the end of the discussion to share their digital contributions. Those physically in attendance had the opportunity to look at other artifacts from the pageant organization.
“As a student, everything we encounter here, it’s not easy, and college is a very formative process,” Sullivan said. “I owe so much of who I am to Rowan, so I would encourage them to take risks, try new things and watch yourself blossom and grow into someone that you may not even recognize in the very, very best of ways.”
Miss New Jersey 2021, Alyssa Sullivan, will compete for the title of Miss America over the course of three nights at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. The final night of the competition will be televised live on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.
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