The Mr. and Miss USF Pageant, one of the University’s longest-running traditions, will have a lot more cachet this year as April’s Miss USF crown winner will advance to compete in the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant.
USF’s pageant, which began in the 1970s, will be held Apr. 10 in the Marshall Student Center and features a much wider budget than last year’s event, said Sarah Rasheid, pageant executive director and Student Government (SG) director of Student Life and Traditions. The event budget grew from $6,000 in 2011 to about $20,000 for this year, which will be paid out of Activity and Service (A&S) fees.
“For my vision – for where I really want to take the program – for the caliber of program we really want it to be, it would be in the $50,000s,” she said. “But we obviously had to look at it and take out as much of the fluff as we could and still make it an event on par with other universities.”
The University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida and Florida International University also have franchises under the Miss Florida pageant and send their pageant winners to compete for Miss Florida. The winner of Miss Florida advances to compete for the title of Miss America.
Rasheid said Lynne Dalton, the Miss Florida field director with whom SG has been working, worked as a pageant coordinator for Miss USF in the ’70s.
“We’re really trying to revive the program,” Rasheid said. “Those were very strong programs in the 1980s. She showed us what was done in the 1970s and 1980s and for the time, it looked really phenomenal.”
Mary Sullivan, executive director for the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant, said USF last participated in the Miss Florida Pageant about 15 years ago.
“It’s not the first year, but it’s the first year in quite a while,” she said. “We were happy when USF called to find out if they could be a franchise. They’ve got a tremendous student body and we expect to see a really phenomenal pageant.”
Though Sullivan said UCF in particular has a “huge” budget for its pageant, the only thing the Miss Florida Pageant requires franchises to spend is $500 toward an academic scholarship for the winner. She said USF’s entry was also exciting since 1999’s Miss America, Nicole Johnson, is a USF alumna.
“She actually went to USF and won Miss USF, but she qualified (for Miss America) out of (Miss) Virginia,” Sullivan said. “But she was a USF student.”
Student body President Matt Diaz said the pageant should be “a profound event” this semester, representative of the student body.
“We made it a very high priority to reach out in particular to a very diverse and wide number of student organizations,” he said. “In the past years we’ve always been able to have a full number of contestants, but we’d like to challenge that idea and increase the number of students that can participate.”
Since the pageant’s budget is paid out of A&S fees, SG was restricted from paying for the required $500 scholarship with a fund that only a few students would have a chance to benefit from. Yet Rasheid said the Alumni association stepped in to pay for two $500 scholarships -one for the Miss USF winner and one for Mr. USF, a scholarship that SG was not required to give by the Miss Florida Pageant. The USF bookstore also pitched in, contributing a $500 book scholarship to each of the pageant winners.
Rasheid said she would like to see pageant participants become the pride of USF, representing the University at as many events as possible, from the Florida Strawberry Festival to USF athletics events.
“We want to make them the superstars of USF and make the crown winners the absolute example of what students can strive toward and become at USF,” she said.