When you think of pageants, what springs to mind? Decorated crowns, dresses and sashes? “Toddlers and Tiaras”? On campus, it’s much more. The competition promotes the kind of personal and professional growth Boise State students and alumni have been demonstrating for decades.
“I really think that pageantry isn’t highlighted enough,” Jordan Naylor (’22) said. “We are a massive university. There are so many successful women within Boise State that pageantry has supported in some way. I hope it gets highlighted more on campus, and that girls decide to take that leap.”
Boise State has a long history of pageantry. Generations of graduates have taken on the challenge to represent their home states through performance and talent, earning scholarships in the process. The competition’s emphasis on perseverance, presentation and public speaking prepares young women for their future careers, and gives them advantages in leadership. Naylor, for example, who won Miss Alaska USA 2023, is using her experience and skills to get a leg up in life.
The Anchorage, Alaska native came to Boise State for the experience of a Division 1 university. She interned for the athletic department while earning a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. Representing her home state for the first time in 2010 as Miss Alaska Coed Preteen, the title of Miss Alaska was a decade in the making for her. Now, preparing to represent Alaska nationally at Miss USA, she’s raising awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyles. Drawing on her student experience, Naylor advocates balancing work and life to maintain health, especially in education.
With a new career in marketing at San Antonio Winery in California, she said her experience competing for Miss Alaska has been fundamental to her success, from fine-tuning interviewing skills to professional networking. It also nurtured her taste for volunteerism and mentorship. With the experience and benefits from her time as Miss Alaska’s Outstanding Teen in 2012, Naylor has been given the opportunity to pass on her knowledge to the current Miss Alaska Teen USA, who she will see throughout her reign as Miss Alaska.
“Pageant girls are given the opportunity to really thrive in certain professional scenarios. They’re given the opportunity to learn and practice these skills.”Jordan Naylor (’22)
Boise State’s tradition of pageantry continues through students like Sarah Jensen. A full-time middle school teacher at Gem-Prep Meridian North, Jensen is Miss Idaho 2022. Crowned on her fifth and final attempt, she uses her title to represent educators everywhere with her social campaign “Why Math Matters.” Her appearances across the state amount to over 100 — including one at the Idaho State of the State Address. Jensen is on track to complete her Master’s in Educational Leadership at Boise State and has earned around $18,000 in scholarships competing for Miss Idaho.
“As someone who was going to school out of state at that time, and then pursuing graduate school later on in my journey, I felt like I needed that money to continue my education. That’s why I kept doing it, and I think it was very much worth it.”Sarah Jensen
Scholarships are one of the unsung lures of competing. Because of Miss Idaho-based scholarships, Stephanie (Smith) Churchman (’88), graduated debt-free from Boise State with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. Her time as Miss Idaho afforded her rare opportunities. Churchman received her title on live television in 1992 at the Morrison Center and attended events with the governor of Idaho. As a professional harpist, she had the chance to perform for President George H.W. Bush.
For a time, Churchman served as the executive director of the Miss Boise pageant. These experiences have helped her in her professional career, and she is now co-owner of numerous businesses with her husband and fellow Bronco, Kevin Churchman (’88). The Churchmans remain active at Boise State, tailgating together with friends and fellow Broncos, a few seasoned pageant girls among them. Stephanie likened it to “its own sorority.”
Camaraderie is at the heart of pageantry. Even while representing different hometowns and home states, these three agree that each competitor is a distinct “extension” of their national title-holder, to quote the words of Naylor, paraphrasing Miss America Teresa Scanlan.
“It doesn’t matter how tall you are, what color your hair is, or what size you are. You can have this experience of representing a state and giving back to the community, and all while perfecting skills you’re going to use for the rest of your life — and potentially pay for a college education as well.”Jordan Naylor (’22)