Engineering student to compete in Miss California pageant

Stanford engineering co-term Jacqueline Wibowo was recently crowned Miss San Jose. Next month, she will compete for the title of Miss California.

Jacqueline Wibowo blends in well at Stanford. Dressed-down with a backpack and earbuds, she’s like any other college student jetting between classes, office hours and other activities. While she’s working hard to add the illustrious designation of Stanford alum to her résumé, Wibowo – who will graduate in June with a bachelor’s degree in public policy and a master’s degree in management science and engineering – has her sights set on another title.

Miss California.

Jacqueline Wibowo is crowned Miss San Jose.

Jacqueline Wibowo is crowned Miss San Jose. (Image credit: Larry Sacks)

Next month Wibowo will head to Fresno to compete for the coronation against 52 other contestants from across the state. Although a newcomer to the pageant scene, she won the Miss San Jose title in January, a victory that came with a $2,000 scholarship award, a crown and a sash. Wibowo says that while the state pageant looks glamorous, the event, which is the next step in a national program, has a deeper purpose.

“The Miss America program is unique in that unlike other pageant programs, each titleholder has a platform that they spend a year promoting, and for me, women in leadership is an issue that I really care about,” she says. “I think it’s very relevant for San Jose and Silicon Valley in general, a place that has had so many initiatives to diversify the workplace.”

Since being crowned, Wibowo has made public appearances and given speeches. Earlier this year she read books to schoolchildren for Read Across America Day. And just last week she addressed about 300 people at the TiEinflect 2018 entrepreneurship conference to discuss her platform. “That was probably the biggest audience I’ve talked to yet,” she says. “It was really nerve-wracking.”

In addition to her appearances as Miss San Jose, Wibowo is busy preparing for the Miss California pageant. The competition includes several segments, including an interview with the judges, and an on-stage question, which involves selecting a random question from a bowl and answering it on the spot. For the talent portion, Wibowo, who is a classically trained pianist, will perform Fantaisie-Impromptu by Frédéric Chopin.

Wibowo on-stage at the Miss San Jose pageant.

Wibowo answers the on-stage question at the Miss San Jose pageant in January at the Mission City Performing Arts Center in Santa Clara. (Image credit: Larry Sacks)

The segments she says she struggled with the most during the Miss San Jose pageant were the swimsuit and ballgown categories. “I was like, ‘This is so awkward. I go to Stanford and I wear gym clothes everywhere. Why am I in a dress? Why am I in heels?’” she says.

To prepare for the same categories at the state competition next month, Wibowo says she hits the gym almost every day and makes a point to maintain a healthy diet of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables.

Wibowo’s pageant training comes as her college career is coming to an end. She says balancing competitions, schoolwork and friends is a matter of time management.

“It’s my senior spring, so social stuff like going to senior formal and going to senior events is a huge priority for me right now.”

This summer she’ll take some time off before starting a job with a private equity firm in New York. As an investor, she’ll interview entrepreneurs to evaluate whether their companies and ideas might interest the firm’s senior investors. Wibowo credits pageants for helping prepare her for the job, which she described as “very people-oriented.”

“You never know who you’ll run into. You never know what types of questions you’re going to be asked,” she says. “Being able to compose yourself in every situation is something that’s going to be very useful in my day-to-day job.”

As for her long-term career goals, Wibowo says she’d like to work her way up to partner in the firm. But as someone who has always enjoyed building things, she says she can also see herself starting her own company. This sense of independence was a quality she says attracted her to Stanford.

“I think what I was drawn to was the collaborative spirit,” she says. “There’s a really strong focus on entrepreneurship here and paving your own path.”