A Badger wins the crown: Students and professors share joys over Miss America competition victory

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Miss America Organization, the nation’s oldest women’s competition and leading provider of scholarships for women in the United States, has a Badger as its 2023 winner.

Miss Wisconsin Grace Stanke won the 2023 Miss America Pageant on Thursday night.

RELATED: Miss Wisconsin Grace Stanke wins 2023 Miss America competition

When she’s not winning the Miss America competition, you can find her at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s engineering school.

“I always knew I wanted to go into engineering,” Stanke said in an interview with News 3 Now on Friday morning. “My dad is a civil engineer. When I told him I wanted to go into nuclear or aerospace he said, ‘Nuclear doesn’t have a future,’ So, 15-year-old me flipped my hair and said, ‘Watch me.'”

Now the ones looking at her include her mentors.

“We had a watch party here last night about it all happening,” said Paul Wilson, Stanke’s academic advisor. He worked closely with Stanke throughout her time at UW-Madison.

Wilson said this victory is inspiring for people who may want to pursue STEM fields.

“She gets to interact with a community of people who is a very different community of people looking to STEM fields,” said Wilson. “Her work out in the community is really going to cast a light and inspire young girls and women to go into STEM fields.”

Stanke beat out finalists from New York, Texas, West Virginia and Georgia. She is the second Miss Wisconsin in ten years to become Miss America, and the third in history.

The students on campus agree: a victory on Miss America’s stage is what was destined for this Badger.

“It’s really awesome to see someone who is academically successful to succeed in their personal things too,” said Cade Fink, an electrical engineering major at UW-Madison. “It’s really exciting.”

It’s that message that Stanke wants the people watching her at home to remember as well.

“It goes to show that anyone can do it and anyone is capable,” she said. “The Miss America organization is a scholarship competition first and foremost, but also a professional development organization that enhances women to be the best versions of themselves.”

As for what’s next for the newly-crowned Miss America, this year will be dedicated to advocacy for her chosen social impact initiative. It’s the hope of Wilson as her advisor that after her reign is over, she’ll be back in Madison to finish her degree.

Each year, the Miss America Organization awards more than $5 million in cash scholarships and millions more in-kind through its national, state, and local programs. Stanke will also earn a six-figure salary, benefits and will travel approximately 20,000 miles a month during her reign as a representative of the Miss America Organization.

Stanke, who earned a cumulative total of $68,900 in scholarship assistance through her state and Miss America competitions, will use her national platform to continue advocating for Clean Energy, Cleaner Future. She believes that America needs to convert to zero-carbon energy sources and her social impact focuses on breaking down misconceptions surrounding nuclear power.