Miss Iowa studied Brazilian music and dance abroad while at UI

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Aly poses with Brazil's scenery in the background
Miss Iowa Aly Olson's busy schedule as an undergraduate student at the UI included a study abroad program in Brazil, where she learned about the music and dance of Carnaval. Armando Duarte, professor of dance, teaches the course abroad. Photo courtesy of Duarte.

Aly Olson has a wonderful singing voice, a talent she’s honing in the University of Iowa’s School of Music. But she hopes her spoken messages promoting service and inclusion resonate Sept. 14 as she competes for the title of Miss America.

Olson, a senior from Des Moines, is pursuing a bachelor of music in vocal performance, along with certificates in music education and performing arts entrepreneurship. At the UI, she has been involved in various activities and causes, including the LeaderShape Iowa Institute and the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The 21-year-old is taking a year off from the UI to fulfill her duties as Miss Iowa, but will return next year.

Olson answered questions for Iowa Now before heading off to Atlantic City to compete for the Miss America title.

Aly holds out her arms in front of Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil
Aly Olson stands in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Photo courtesy of Armando Duarte.

Why did you decide to attend the University of Iowa?

The University of Iowa fully embraced me every step of my journey as a Hawkeye: I received a Presidential Scholarship, met my voice professor Stephen Swanson, and was invited into the UI Honors Program community —all before beginning my freshman year on campus. Since becoming a Hawkeye, I have made amazing connections with faculty, administration, and with other Hawkeyes across the state and the country.

What organizations and programs are you involved with at the UI and why?

As a music student, much of my time is spent singing in the University Choir, in UI Opera Productions, and the all-female a cappella group Take Note. I have also worked with the University of Iowa Foundation through the Student Philanthropy Group, which has allowed me to advocate for the UI to donors and alumni in appreciation of all the support the university has given me.

I have also participated in Walk It Out, the multicultural fashion show on campus for two years and served on the executive committee my junior year, which allowed me to serve my passion for diversity and tolerance.

I work for the UI Honors Program as a living-learning community programmer for Daum and Centerstone Residences, as well as served on the Educational Policy Committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee for CLAS, graduated from LeaderShape Iowa, served 30 hours in Detroit with UI Alternative Spring Breaks in March 2014, and spent January 2013 on a UI study abroad trip to Brazil where among other things I learned to samba during Carnaval. Essentially, I have spent my three years at Iowa soaking up as much of the Iowa experience as possible (and sleeping very little!).

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