Caitlin Uriarte, a School of Public Health graduate student, is representing New Jersey in the National U.S. Scholarship Pageant. As Miss New Jersey Collegiate USA, she discussed her journey to the pageant stage, her thoughts on competing for the national title and the influence that Rutgers has had on her.
After being inspired by one of her friends who had competed in the environment-focused Miss Earth pageant, she said she wanted to compete in a pageant that similarly focused on social responsibility.
Uriarte said she discovered the National U.S. Scholarship Pageant on social media and applied to be New Jersey’s representative. After being appointed Miss New Jersey Collegiate USA, she said she hoped to make service a central element in her work.
“It is about service … It’s about going out into different communities and making an impact to better the lives of others while representing New Jersey,” she said.
Uriarte said her platform as Miss New Jersey Collegiate USA has provided her the opportunity to travel all over the state to support underserved communities.
Influenced by her background in public health and her undergraduate experience as a health outreach, promotion and education peer educator at Rutgers, she said her official platform is breast cancer awareness.
“As an aspiring public health professional … I really do believe education and outreach can help reduce the number of people affected by this disease,” Uriarte said.
In support of her cause, she said she recently planned a live-stream fundraiser concert with the band Green Knuckle Material to support the breast cancer awareness organizations Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Bright Pink.
Morgan Ulrich, Rutgers Class of 2020 alumna and a friend of Uriarte since 2018, said that Uriarte’s talent for event planning has always been apparent, especially in her time as a resident assistant (RA) at the University.
She said she remembers becoming friends with Uriarte after attending a successful concert event that Uriarte had planned as an RA. Since then, Ulrich has seen Uriarte’s confidence in her events and speaking skills improve greatly, she said.
Uriarte said she credits her student involvement at Rutgers as well as her experiences with pageantry for setting her on a path to discovering herself and improving her confidence.
“I feel comfortable in my own skin and that’s how I felt at Rutgers,” she said. “And it’s kind of interesting to find something like that and I guess I was trying to find that after college, and I found it in pageantry.”
Uriarte said she knows the stereotypes of superficiality that people associate with pageants and has even previously fallen for them herself. She said she has since learned about the wide range of pageant systems that exist and found one that was a good match for her.
Overall, Uriarte said she hopes to inspire people to step out of their comfort zones, try something new and to “trust in the process," just like she said she has. Ulrich said she thinks her friend’s service and character make her most deserving of the national title.
“She clearly deserves Miss Collegiate United States because I don’t think she’s in it for the title, she’s in it as something she’s always wanted to do,” Ulrich said. “And she’s helping so many people and being a fantastic leader throughout this whole process.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated Ulrich met Uriarte in 2019.