Many college students balance a full load of classes and activities, but it’s pretty rare to juggle all that plus the crown of Miss Washington 2016. Alicia Cooper, a senior at Washington State University Vancouver, works as a real estate broker as she studies personnel psychology and human resources—and she was third runner-up for Miss America in 2016 after winning the Miss Washington competition.

Cooper credits her grandmother with inspiring her. When she passed away after a 13-year battle with breast cancer, “I realized how significantly she impacted every person who knew her,” says Cooper. She took her grandmother’s lessons to heart, volunteering as a mentor at Rocksolid Community Teen Center and encouraging youth to be more positive, especially on social media.

Alicia Cooper
Alicia Cooper, Miss Washington 2016 (Photo Janet Lin Andersen)

WSU Vancouver also helped her succeed as Miss Washington. As a member of the WSU Vancouver HR Society and taking classes, “I have learned how to not only market an organization, but also market what I personally bring to the table. It’s greatly benefited me throughout my year of service, helping secure future events and speaking engagements,” says Cooper.

The location also was perfect for the 22-year-old, since she works with her mother selling real estate in southwest Washington. “I’ve always wanted to be a Coug and attending WSUV allowed me to accomplish that goal while still being able to work full time and stay local,” she says. In addition to her main degree, Cooper is working toward a double minor in psychology and communications. She’d eventually like to open her own real estate firm.

Since she works and won over $40,000 in scholarships through the Miss America program, Cooper says she’ll be able to graduate in the spring of 2018 debt free.

The last year has flown by since Cooper took on the Miss Washington crown.

“I feel like it was just yesterday when I won Miss Washington and started my preparation for Miss America. I have loved how close-knit the organization is because it has allowed me to feel supported throughout this special year in my life.”