20 students at Henderson State University, a small liberal arts college in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, are competing for the Miss HSU crown this year.
Pageants are a big money maker for college students. Prizes awarded from competitions usually go toward college education or furthering higher education pursuits.
Henderson State has undergone a number of challenges since 2010. The Board of Trustees hired a young president, one of the youngest college presidents in the nation, to head the school. That president left for a larger public institution in the northern part of the state.
The second go round, the Board selected Dr. Glenn Jones to lead the university that's home to more than 3,000 undergraduate students. HSU has been featured in US News and World Report's top liberal arts colleges with a graduate program (regionally), (2007). Dr. Jones is the first African American president of the university. He is also the first AA president of a predominantly white university in the state of Arkansas.
Like a number of colleges and universities throughout Arkansas, HSU doesn't boast a strong women's study or minority study program. One component to look for in any pageant is whether or not contestants are advancing women's rights and advancing the space of typically marginalized groups versus maintaining the a sometimes adversial, patriarchal status quo.
When universities and college campus don't offer programs that speak to minority cultures or empowerments, that university likely endorses an intergrationist and equal rights philosophy that works in theory, but not in fact as evidenced by low minority graduation rates in colleges and universities throughout the state.
With sequestration cuts, the numbers of women with children who do not finish their four year degrees are likely to increase as budget cuts for college programs that help with daycare and its cost threaten to keep moms at home and out of the classroom.
Henderson State was once considered a institution for first generation college students, but a number of Reddies (the school mascot, of sorts) are childrens and grandchildren of HSU alum. Participants in the pageant are often the pride of the hometowns.
Here is a list of the 20 contestants vying to shine in 2013 Homecoming events, one of HSU's largest annual gatherings and celebrations.
• Mary Allison Andrews, a sophomore from Hattiesburg, Miss.
• Sarah Williams, a sophomore from Conroe, Texas
• Kyeisha Soils, a sophomore from Ashdown
• Colbie McCloud, a junior from Prattsville
• Kendreka Myles, a freshman from Fort Smith
• Paige Martin, a junior from Fulton
• Alyson Morrison, a sophomore from Springdale
• Asha Cunningham, a sophomore from Hot Springs
• Whitney McIntyre, a freshman from Hughes Springs, Texas
• Mariah Brown, a junior from Little Rock
• Kourtney Kellar, a senior from Argyle, Texas
• Emily Bell, a sophomore from Malvern
• Kayla Langley, a freshman from Fordyce
• April Walker, a junior from Camden
• Shawna Henderson, a junior from Weatherford, Texas
• Lauren Sutton, a sophomore from Katy, Texas
• Kyra Bell, a junior from Maumelle
• Courtney Kemp, a senior from Benton
• Erin Nichole Harris, a sophomore from Ashdown
• Breanna Coakley, a sophomore from Little Rock
The pageant (Thursday, March 28, at 7 p.m. in Arkansas Hall at HSU) is free and open to the public.