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There are some students whose resumes add entirely new and baffling dimensions to the McGill tradition of well-roundedness.
Vancouver native Jessica Trisko managed to fast-track through high school, get a B.A. in International Development Studies at McGill and a Masters in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, to find herself back at McGill as a Political Science PhD student at only 22 years of age.
Between classes and research, she managed to squeeze in the Miss Universe Canada 2007 pageant, held March 3 and 4 at the Casino de Montréal, at which she finished in the top 10.
Shrugging off a reporter’s bewilderment, Trisko explained, “I’m only getting better at what I’m doing, but its fun to have other things going on as well.”
Trisko has completed the first semester (with straight A’s), of a 5-year plan that includes two years of studies, followed by field research and an eventual dissertation, with a PhD defense scheduled for 2011.
The theme of her research sounds like a Council on Foreign Relations version of the classic beauty contestant “world peace” response.
“I’m going to look at foreign military aid flows to weak states in Asia, and how this affects the level of repression on domestic populations, and in turn how this affects mobilization of armed opposition,” Trisko explained.
She added, “I like men with guns. They’re interesting.”
With all this talk of military aid and repressive states, it’s easy to forget about the other Jessica Trisko – the one who was selected to contend for the Miss Universe Canada crown.
While Trisko did some modeling in high school, that all stopped when she got to McGill and concentrated on academics.
Eventually, there came a hankering to step away from the books and try something different.
The Miss Universe Canada pageant was an experience she deemed both positive and exhausting.
A week of public appearances and rehearsal can take its toll, but the positives made it all worthwhile: a great learning experience, some new dance moves, and the opportunity to meet interesting women from across the country, “from big city Toronto to the buffalo farms of Alberta.”
Woe betide anyone who suggests these women are anything but strong, motivated individuals.
Trisko, a self-described “antidote to the stereotypes” balks at the notion that beauty pageants are demeaning.
There were no cat fights, no eating disorders, and she stresses that it is not an arena where any intelligent and accomplished girl would feel out of place.
Moreover, pageants have evolved from the superficial spectacles they once were to potential platforms for important causes. Trisko’s is the universal right to education. It is a mission shaped by her own experience. “My life has been totally changed by the opportunity to come to McGill, to pursue my B.A and to go on to higher education. “I now have two degrees and I’m working on my third. That’s pretty powerful.”
Trisko says she wouldn’t rule out another shot at a crown, but would rather focus her plans on some day advising governments about how to get along in the world.
“If that falls through, I’ll be an MTV VJ,” she said.