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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA grad student is Miss America hopeful

    “”I’ve always wanted to dance on the Miss America stage, and it’s crazy to think that in six months I’m going to have that opportunity,”” said Erin Nurss, a UA graduate student who recently won the title of Miss Arizona 2008.

    For Nurss, the journey to Miss America only took three tries once she decided to go for the crown. Nurss was Miss Southeast Arizona 2006, Miss Sierra Vista 2007 and Miss Tucson Valley 2008.

    Receiving her bachelor’s degree in nutrition from the UA in 2007, Nurss completed her first year of graduate studies in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health this past spring.

    While at the UA, Nurss was on the UA Pom Line from 2003 to 2007, serving as the captain for two years. Nurss will use her dancing skills when she performs in the Miss America pageant on January 24, 2009, in Las Vegas.

    Having the title of Miss Arizona means that Nurss will spend the next year marketing the Miss Arizona organization and recruiting new contestants. She will also spend her time raising money and awareness in Arizona for the pageant’s national platform, the Children’s Miracle Network.

    In addition to supporting the pageant’s national platform, Nurss will promote her personal platform, a cause which every participant is asked to select. Nurss’ personal platform is promoting health and wellness in youth, so she will also spend part of her reign as Miss Arizona traveling around the state while talking to the youth about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

    Nurss also has aspirations to become a spokeswoman for the State Health Department.

    “”It’s tough. I do have a never-ending to-do list, because once you finish e-mailing everybody, then you have to return all the phone calls. Then you have to write the speeches and then make the appearances,”” she said. “”So really it’s a great learning opportunity and an incredible networking opportunity.””

    Nurss credits her UA studies with giving her the essentials to compete in the Miss Arizona pageant. Being in college and demonstrating a commitment to higher education was important to the competition, because Miss Arizona is a scholarship organization and much of the prizes earned are college scholarships, Nurss said.

    Nurss used her nutrition degree and public health graduate studies to build her platform off her passion for health and wellness.

    “”For me, to go out and speak about my platform – it was just using everything that I’ve learned at the U of A,”” she said. “”It really just gave me the tools that I needed to build my platform.””

    Nurss also took what she learned at the UA to create a program through her own messages called, “”Be fit, fueled and fabulous,”” which she uses in her work with local Girl Scouts, she said.

    “”It gives me a chance to talk about being physically active, having a healthy diet and . . . when (I talk) about what it means to be fabulous, it encompasses the general self-image and overall well-being – kind of dispelling the myth that you have to be skinny to be beautiful and that being skinny means you’re healthy,”” Nurss said.

    She will continue to work with the Girl Scouts throughout the year and will also continue her internship with the Arizona Nutrition Network, evaluating the impact of health and wellness education for youth. She will take a year off from school to fulfill her duties as Miss Arizona.

    “”My internship is basically the equivalent of my master’s thesis, and I will continue doing that this year,”” Nurss said. “”That will probably be about the extent of my scholastic involvement this year.””

    In the future, Nurss hopes to work in community outreach and public education concerning nutrition and physical activity and would like to be a spokeswoman for a major health agency or campaign.

    The best part about competing in pageants is the challenges and learning about yourself, she said.

    “”I’ve always said that the success comes in the journey,”” Nurss said. “”You just learn so much about yourself in the process that even if you don’t win, it’s hard to come out feeling like you lost.””

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