Grace Stanke, as the reigning Miss America, has literally changed the face of nuclear power. As a 21-year old nuclear engineering student, she is much more than a pretty face, and is studying to become a nuclear fuels engineer. In her spare time, however, she entered the Miss America contest, was crowned Miss Wisconsin and then, in 2022, won the Miss America pageant. Having the brains to study nuclear engineering is not what distinguishes Miss Stanke, as she serve her year as an ambassador of the Miss America contest. It’s that she’s chosen to use her platform to promote and elevate the nuclear industry and the benefits of nuclear power for addressing climate change.
Much of the press that she has garnered in her travels this past year, has remarked on the changing trends that Miss Stanke’s efforts have aided. Nearly 60% of Americans favor nuclear power plants and believe that the US should protect existing nuclear power and boost nuclear capacity. This represents a big increase from being clocked in at just 43% support as recently as 2020.
Miss Stanke, as Miss America, has an extraordinary platform and she hasn’t been shy about using it to support and extoll the virtues of nuclear energy. She’s bringing nuclear to entirely new constituents at the same time that nuclear power is gaining traction with governments around the world trying to decarbonize, with filmmakers like Oliver Stone, whose documentary “Nuclear Now,” laid the groundwork for more Americans to get educated about the benefits of nuclear power, and with billionaire entrepreneurs and business leaders like OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Elon Musk and Bill Gates, all of whom have been consistently touting the benefits of atomic energy but probably not reaching too many young women.
As the reigning Miss America and soon-to-be nuclear fuels engineer, Miss Stanke’s year-long campaign to promote nuclear power in over 20 states was probably seen by millions of young women students, who now see her as a role model, both highly educated and very elegant and poised, bringing them information that might have been impossible to convey in almost any other way.
Now, combined with the efforts of nuclear social media influencers like Isabelle Boemeke and widely-regarded documentaries, Ms. Stanke is probably sweeping along an entire generation of young women in her wake who may be primed to consider careers in nuclear, where they had previously probably never thought much about nuclear power at all. Now a growing percentage will recognize that nuclear power attracts women like Grace Stanke both for a career but also for its instrumental role in combating climate change and achieving both net-zero goals and sustainable development goals.
Miss Stanke will graduate next year and still has the majority of her professional career ahead of her. But, having accepted a position with Constellation Energy after her graduation, she is sure to continue to have a big impact on the industry.