Christine Williamson is taking a year off from pursuing her MBA at UTC because she has a new job to fill.
“I love that I have the time to take off to focus on Miss Tennessee, but then to come back and really focus and throw myself into my classes,” Williamson says.
Her advisor was quick to email her after the news broke, she says, and remind her there wouldn’t be a problem if she needed to take some time off from classes because she has six years to finish the program.
“I don’t plan on taking six years to finish,” Williamson adds, “but it was nice knowing that I have the support and the flexibility to finish in my own time but to also give the program my best.”
The Miss Tennessee title is more than just a sash and crown. Over the next year, Williamson will visit schools across the state, traveling 80,000 miles to talk to children as Gov. Bill Haslam’s character trait spokesperson.
“I’m going to be talking to children about respecting themselves, making smart choices with our minds, bodies and how we portray ourselves; respecting our friends; standing up for one another and promoting Gov. Haslam’s anti-bullying campaign,” Williamson explains.
As she travels the state, she also will be advocating for a cause that’s dear to her, Alzheimer’s. She has lost four family members to the disease, including her grandfather, who battled it for 11 years, she says.
“We had his birthday party and all his friends were there from the home and his dog, and he didn’t remember my name or my mom’s name,” she says. “That’s a really tough moment because the person you love so much isn’t there.”
There’s 120,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Tennessee, Williamson says, and even more are impacted by the disease. “It affects everyone in their family because everyone becomes a caregiver, especially children,” she explains.
Last year, Williamson was runner-up to the Miss Tennessee title. She has spent five years in the program, most of which as a top competitor.
“I didn’t win on my first, second, third, fourth try. Sometimes it takes years,” she says. “But anything worth doing is worth doing well and not giving up on.”