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Tracy Frank, Published May 28 2013

Her Voice: Erickson divides time between pageants, engineering studies

FARGO – Miss North Dakota USA 2013, Stephanie Erickson, has a bit of an unusual background for a beauty queen.

The Fargo woman recently graduated from North Dakota State University with an electrical engineering degree and was one of only a few women in her graduating class.

“I’ve always really loved math,” she said. “Engineering interested me because you’re always working on something new.”

One of the projects she worked on was a mini solar-power station that adjusts to the position of the sun.

“With the energy crisis and everyone talking about renewable energy, it’s very interesting to think that something just like this project might be produced in the near future,” she said.

Erickson, 23, started entering pageants when she was 16 years old after a friend’s mom suggested she give it a try.

Erickson won the state title after her second time competing in the Miss North Dakota USA pageant.

As Miss North Dakota, she’s been making appearances at events like Mr. Red River High School, a mock, male beauty pageant and the North Dakota State Science Olympiad.

The Miss USA competition is scored on three categories equally: swimsuit, evening gown, and interview.

To prepare, she’s been keeping up-to-date on current events so she’s prepared for the interview, she said.

She keeps in shape for the swimsuit portion of the competition by watching what she eats and exercising by walking and doing sit-ups and push-ups.

“I’m not on any crazy diet,” she said. “I’m not on any insane exercise regime.”

She focuses more on portion control and doing what she can to stay active, she said.

“The swimsuit competition for me is just another part of the competition,” Erickson said. “The judges are looking for the total package, so for me to be able to prove that I’ve been working out and keeping my body healthy is just as important as being able to prove that I’m intelligent and I can hold my own in a conversation.”

Erickson is one of only two engineers competing in the Miss USA pageant, which she thinks will help her stand out.

“I think in general, pageant stereotypes are very wrong,” she said. “I’ve already met 16 of the other contestants, and I’ve gotten along with all of them, which kind of surprised me, too. Sometimes I fall into thinking that pageant stereotypes might be true, but it’s very interesting to see how intelligent and driven all of the girls are.”

As someone who is both smart and beautiful, Erickson has been judged by others based on her appearance.

When she started taking her engineering classes, some of her classmates didn’t think she’d last more than a couple of weeks, she said.

“But after a couple of weeks I was still there and then I was in study groups with them and then I was helping teach them stuff we were learning in class,” Erickson said. “It makes me even more proud that I can prove to people that women can make just as good electrical engineers as men can.”

Participating in pageants and pursuing a career in a male-dominated field has taught Erickson to be more spontaneous and embrace new opportunities, she said.

“My advice for anyone thinking about doing something is to not hesitate,” she said. “The worst thing that can happen is that you didn’t like that class or you don’t want to do another pageant, but at least you’d know that’s not for you.”

Erickson heads to Las Vegas on Thursday for this year’s Miss USA pageant. The pageant will air live June 16 at 8 p.m. on NBC. Fans can help Erickson make it into the semifinals by voting for her through June 15 at missusa.com or through Facebook and Twitter.

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in Her Voice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526