It’s one of the nation’s biggest public speaking jobs, and two contestants with School of Journalism and New Media ties will be competing for the title of Miss America this week.
Three students and a professor will also be reporting live from the pageant that will air Sunday, Sept. 9, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
They’ll be rooting for Miss Mississippi Asya Branch, a University of Mississippi junior, who is a current student; and Miss Tennessee Christine Williamson, 22, who attended UM as a broadcast journalism major. While at Ole Miss, Williamson was a news anchor for NewsWatch.
Dr. Iveta Imre, a professor of visual storytelling, is taking three students to Atlantic City to cover the event.
“The three students, Brian Barisa, Bryanna Bynum, and Sara Doan, will be working on stories about the girls for The Daily Mississippian, Newswatch, and Hotty Toddy,” Imre said.
The group left on Wednesday, and they will be staying through Saturday covering all activities leading up to the main pageant on Sunday.
“We applied for and received press passes, and we are planning to cover the preliminaries, other activities such as the Shoe Parade on Saturday, as well as create stories about road Rebs who are going to Atlantic City to support Asya,” Imre said.
Imre said she hopes the students learn from the experience.
“I am hoping that the students will experience reporting under pressure and on deadline as we will be Skyping live for Newswatch every night, as well as creating stories to meet DM’s and Newswatch’s daily deadlines,” she said. “We are trying to anticipate and prepare for the events, but many decisions will have to me made once we arrive on location.”
Imre said she hopes the students will create contacts with other journalists covering the pageant, and learn from observing.
“I think that it is phenomenal and pretty unusual, and I am happy this is happening as I am starting my first semester as a professor at the school,” Imre said. “No matter what happens on Sunday, I think this is already a great success for our girls.”
UM leaders are also helping lead a Miss America watch party sponsored by the Student Activities Association. The pageant will air at 8 p.m. CST on ABC. The watch party will be held at the same time inside the Student Union ballroom. All are invited.
Debbie Hall, an instructional assistant professor, said the watch party will give UM students a way to celebrate the school’s two Miss America contestants. Refreshments and games will also be offered.
“When we first started talking about the school sponsoring a watch party, it was to be sure that we honored the two Ole Miss contestants,” Hall said. “However, we did not want to compete with a campus-wide event. Therefore, we are encouraging our students and faculty to attend the SAA event.
“We are especially excited that the two contestants represent the Meek School. Miss Tennessee Christine Williams graduated in May as a broadcast journalism major. Asya Branch is a current IMC major.”
Hall said the school’s Event Planning class will be conducting a fundraiser for the two contestants’ platforms as a way of recognizing and honoring them.
“Asya’s platform is Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents,” Hall said, “and Christine’s is the Alzheimer’s Association. We will be seeking donations to split between the two platforms.”
Hall said the class will use the hashtag: #MeekMissAmerica. Donations can be made for one platform or the other, or both platforms. Donors will be given a “Team Christine” or “Team Asya” sticker to wear.
“What are the odds?” Hall said, that two students are in the pageant. “More seriously, I think this is just a further indication of the quality students we have in our programs.”