What does it mean to be cyber smart? Why is it important to know how to carry yourself confidently in an interview room, on a stage, in the community and on campus? Is it all about the crown and sash in the Miss America Organization, or is there more to it?
On Oct. 24th, 28 contestants blazed the stage for the annual Miss Utah Tech scholarship competition. After six weeks of preparation, every contestant went through an interview, answered an onstage question, modeled in a health and fitness walk, performed a talent, and graced the stage in an evening gown. After the panelists tallied up the scores for each contestant, Marie Sewell came out on top taking home the title.
“It feels really special to be a titleholder because it’s a university title, and I love this university,” Marie Sewell said. “There are so many people on campus who do so much for our community and for our students, so I’m really excited and eager to have the opportunity to do the same.”
Having the title of Miss Utah Tech means a great deal to Marie Sewell, but it’s not just about the glamour and the crown. It’s about the journey that brought her here to the university.
At the age of 17, Marie Sewell left the small rural town of Lytle, Texas, to live in southern Utah after family members had told her about Dixie State University.
“I really wanted to go to a new state and try something different,” Marie Sewell said. “I moved here as a freshman, and I just fell in love with southern Utah and the university and the culture here.”
Since being at the university, Marie Sewell has competed in various scholarship competitions and won titles including:
- 2019 Miss Dixie State University contestant
- 2021 Miss Dixie State University first attendant
- 2023 Miss Utah Tech University
Marie Sewell’s sister, Zoe Sewell, a sophomore criminal justice major from Hurricane, is the former Miss Utah Tech University and said: “I am really excited for Marie because she was able to accomplish something she’s been looking forward to for the last four years. I think a lot of times people get discouraged, and I’m grateful that she didn’t.”
Over the years of competing, Marie Sewell was able to refine her community service initiative into something she was passionate and knowledgeable about.
For the Miss America Organization, a CSI is a way that titleholders can showcase their interests and creativity by outlining a plan to engage with the community in service. For Marie Sewell, her CSI is called BE CyberSmart: Safe Connection in Digital World.
“My CSI is really important to me because as a software engineering student, I am exposed constantly to the really cool potential of technology, but with that potential is other potential risks,” Marie Sewell said. “We’re digital natives, and we’re so good with technology, but I don’t think people are really aware of what can happen with the risks.”
To carry out her initiative, Marie Sewell hopes to work with different age groups including children, her peers and the elderly. As she continually brainstorms ways to give back to the university with her CSI, she has a vision of what she wants to do.
She previously worked at the Utah Tech STEM Outreach Center for about a year where she helped connect the university to the community with programs and classes for children. She plans to reach out to them in hopes of having a class in the spring about being cyber smart. To pitch her idea to the center, she created a presentation and game called Cyber Squad: Protectors of the Digital Realm.
In relation to Marie Sewell’s CSI, Zoe Sewell said one of the things she admires about her sister is that she is intelligent.
“I think a lot of times people think ‘Oh, she’s just a crown and sash,’” Zoe Sewell said. “She is more than that. Marie is a software engineering major, and I think that people tend to overlook that it’s one of the harder majors that the university offers. Not only to be a minority in her field of study, but also to be a successful minority in her field of study and also a girl who competes in the Miss America Organization is incredible.”
As one of the 48 Miss America titles in Utah, Marie Sewell will go on to compete in the Miss Utah Scholarship competition in June.
“I’ve watched Miss Utah a couple of times, so from that perspective, you see these women have done so much, accomplished so much and look so confident,” Marie Sewell said. “I have a lot of nerves going into it, but I’m really excited to compete.”
Some of the challenges Marie Sewell has faced since beginning her journey in the Miss America Organization is getting past the mentality of being unable to picture herself in the role of Miss Utah Tech. Now with that title, she hopes to push past her mental block.
Zoe Sewell said she experienced the same challenge in her time of being a titleholder, but she said the best advice she can give to her sister is: “You won the title for a reason. Whether that was because you prepared the most or because you deserved it or the crown needed you and you needed the crown, it’s you and you can take on this role however you want.”
Since beginning her journey, Marie Sewell has gained support from many different avenues with one being her mother, Josephine Sewell. Despite being about 1,000 miles away, she still encourages and supports her daughters through everything. Marie Sewell’s mom was able to attend the competition and said that watching her daughters on the stage made her very proud.
“I want others to know Marie is very sincere, honest and quiet in a sense, but yet loud in her presence,” Josephine Sewell said. “When she says something, it is because she means that straight from her heart, and I want people to know that she is just genuine, she is generous with her time, and above all, she has a beautiful heart.”
As Marie Sewell continues to show others who she is throughout this upcoming year as Miss Utah Tech University, she is excited for her journey that is far from over and the goals she will get to accomplish throughout her experience.
“I believe the role of Miss Tech University is about service, and it’s about bringing the campus and community together,” Marie Sewell said. “Although I’m doing that in this role as Miss Utah Tech, there’s a place on campus for everyone to do that, so I intend to spend my year just pushing my peers in the direction of service.”