WSU professor contending for Mrs. International in pageant
Meet Kim McDowell, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in Wichita State University’s College of Education. She has a Ph.D., is a mother of seven – and a beauty queen.
She knows what you’re thinking, but it’s for a good cause. McDowell is a long-time advocate for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals, a cause that is as much a passion as it is her profession, and in July she’ll compete for the title of Mrs. International, a beauty pageant for married, professional women who champion important causes.
“When I first decided to do this,” said McDowell, “I was worried that it would reflect negatively on me professionally. A lot of people have misperceptions about pageantry and what it is, especially involving a married woman who is 41, but when they see that this is just an extension of what I already do they’re very supportive.”
McDowell’s area of expertise is elementary and early childhood education, as well as communication sciences and disorders. She’s a graduate of Wichita State, and she attributes her passion to an experience as a 19-year-old undergraduate tutoring for a group called Partnership Assisting Student Success.
“We were going to the homes of at-risk kids in the community,” she said. “Ever since then, my entire professional career and all of my philanthropic activities have revolved around kids who are at risk – kids who need help or assistance – and their families.”
'I was kind of hooked'
McDowell was involved in her first pageant in 2006 when she won the title of Mrs. Kansas. She entered the contest as a way to motivate herself to get back in shape after the birth of her sixth child. She was surprised to win the state title and went on to place in the top 10 at the Mrs. USA pageant.
“After that I was kind of hooked,” she said. “I’m a bit competitive, so this is a nice way to continue to do what I love, which is working with kids and families, but then, occasionally, I get to put on a pretty dress, some fake eyelashes and a big smile.”
McDowell says her involvement with CMN Hospitals started off as a parent in need of services. Her now 10-year-old was born preterm and spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which resulted in developmental delays and a need for speech therapy.
“As we needed less and less help,” she said, “I realized the need for increased advocacy and fundraising was great. I’ve spent several years being an advocate and spokesperson for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. As a mother of a child with exceptionalities and a professor preparing teachers to teach children with exceptionalities, I feel like my work with CMN Hospitals and the pageant is an extension of what I do in the classroom.”
Additionally, McDowell is executive director for Models for Miracles, which is having a fashion show of its own at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Doubletree Hilton in Wichita. Local teens will participate in the event, each raising $50 as part of the community service. The event has already raised $15,000 for CMN Hospitals.
The Mrs. International pageant will take place in Jacksonville, Fla. McDowell says she’ll be in Florida for five days with her husband, doing some sightseeing, lots of rehearsals and the pageant itself. The areas of competition will include an interview, eveningwear and fitness wear – but no swimsuits.
“It will be a great opportunity to talk about my platform and the things I believe strongly in,” said McDowell. “Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has been great in letting me continue to champion them in my crown and sash.”
Of course, McDowell still hasn’t picked out her evening gown for the pageant.
“I tend to wait until the last minute for wardrobe,” she said. “I’m busy doing the things that mean the most to me, which is working with the kids and their families.”