Montana State University

MSU student says Miss America pageant is her Olympics

October 1, 2009 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Miss Montana Brittany Wiser. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).    High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- Brittany Wiser used to watch beauty pageants on TV and tell herself, "I could do this."

Evidently right, the Montana State University student who saw pageants as a channel for her interests became Miss Montana 2009 and is now preparing for the Miss America pageant in January.

"This is kind of like my Olympics," Wiser said. "It's kind of an end goal, something to work toward."

Wiser had never competed in a pageant before the June event that named her Miss Montana, but pageants are just one of many interests for the Bozeman resident. She wants to become a doctor and loves singing, community service, jazz, broadway tunes, interior decorating, event planning and "Porkchop," her Bernese mountain dog. Other passions are school and science.

"I have always loved school. I'm obsessed with school," Wiser commented.

The daughter of Lee and Betty Wiser, Wiser attended Heritage Christian School in Bozeman through sixth grade, Headwaters Academy through eighth grade and Bozeman High School for 1 1/2 years. At age 14, she switched to MSU and used her MSU credits to earn a diploma from the University of Oklahoma High School. She then enrolled at the University of Denver where she majored in mass communication, minored in organic chemistry and leadership and gained a reputation for elaborately-designed dorm rooms. During that time, she also traveled to India on a service learning project that involved teaching English to first graders at a charity school and a former political prisoner from Tibet.

She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2009, then returned to Bozeman where she submitted her resume for the Miss Montana Scholarship Program and entered the pre-medical post-baccalaureate program at MSU. The program is designed for students who didn't earn their undergraduate degree in the sciences, but have since decided to pursue health care, mostly medical school, said Sheila Nielsen-Preiss, director of Health Professions Advising at MSU. The one-year program helps them earn their science prerequisites.

Wiser said she originally thought she'd like to be a surgeon, but after shadowing doctors at Bozeman Deaconess, she is now leaning toward general practitioner.

"I really don't think I'm smart," Wiser commented. "I think I work 10 times harder than the next person."

If that assessment is true, Wiser's work ethic will be invaluable during her one-year term as Miss Montana. Although she's temporarily on leave from MSU, Wiser said she spends almost every day on royal duties. During the summer, for example, she rode in Bozeman's Sweet Pea parade, then sang and emceed events at the Sweet Pea Festival. She sang "God Bless America" at the Big Sky Games in Billings and appeared at several county fairs in eastern Montana. In between appearances, she drove to Missoula for voice lessons, consulted with two former Miss Montanas, kept up with current events, trained her dog to become a therapy dog and immersed herself in activities related to suicide prevention.

Miss Montana is charged with promoting the Miss America and Miss Montana programs and the Children's Miracle Network, Wiser said. At the same time, she champions her own cause. In Wiser's case, motivated by two deaths in particular, it was suicide prevention.

"This is such a huge public health issue that's so preventable. I just want to spread awareness for it," Wiser said.

Whether or not Wiser can take her platform further won't be known until the Miss America pageant airs Jan. 30 on the TLC network. Wiser admitted that being new to the pageant world could be "beneficial and hurtful at the same."

To prepare for the national stage, Julie Reil, Miss Montana 1987, is coaching Wiser on her presentation and runway skills. Sue Stanaway, Miss Montana 1977, is concentrating on her singing.

Wiser also takes voice lessons from Stanaway's mentor -- Esther England, professor emeritus of music at the University of Montana. Working with Wiser on projecting her voice, selling her song and having fun on stage, England said Wiser has a lovely voice, nice sense of style and incredible intelligence.

"She's not a cookie cutter type of beauty," England said. "She has character in her face, a twinkle in her eye, and she's smart.

"I'm proud of her," England continued. "She's got a strong will. She sets her mind to something, and she does it."

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu