Syracuse University Magazine

Lorna Rose


Pageantry and Social Activism

Alongside her peers in the School of Social Work, Lorna Rose ’11 is studying the history of social justice and contemporary issues in the field. As Miss Finger Lakes 2009, she is translating theory into practice, leveraging the visibility of her title to bring about the very change social work students are taught to make. As part of her title responsibilities, she makes public appearances and shares a platform dedicated to fighting back against domestic violence and sexual assault. “These issues are incredibly personal to me as I’ve been a victim of both in my life,” she says. “As a result, my motivation is to promote and encourage change, which is why I am a social work major and aspire to a future career in family law.” 

A native of nearby Rochester, Rose credits her grandmother for serving as a role model with a strong value system while raising her in the absence of her parents. “My grandmother was the most beautiful woman in the world, both inside and out,” Rose says. “She was very supportive and generous. My foundation was stripped away from me when she died in 2007.” Soon afterward, Rose transferred from the University at Albany to Monroe Community College, where she spent a year before coming to Syracuse University in 2008. “SU is a wonderful place for social work,” she says. “The professors I’ve had are just as excited as the students are, and they love what they teach.”

As a full-time student in the College of Human Ecology, Rose earned a 4.0 grade point average last semester. She logs an average of 20 to 25 hours a week as an SU Food Services employee and also volunteers with Vera House, which provides emergency sheltering services for women in crisis, and Onondaga County Family Court, where she helps victims file orders of protection. “A lot more people are victims than we realize,” she says. “While no one wants to talk about being abused by a partner, we have to talk about it. We have to fight back.”

Last spring, Rose spoke at SU’s annual Take Back the Night rally, which raises awareness about sexual and intimate partner violence. Afterward, she received a lot of feedback from people who attended the event, but was most struck by a Facebook message from a stranger: “I was at the rally, and you changed my idea of what a ‘beauty queen’ is. We need more strong women like you.”

In June, Rose competed in the Miss New York pageant in Albany. While her goal of becoming Miss New York—and advancing to the Miss America pageant—did not materialize, she is looking forward to future competitions. “To know my platform and message have actually touched people and changed their perspectives is exactly why I wanted to be Miss Finger Lakes,” says Rose, who has entered pageants since she was 14. During the pageant, one judge asked how she would balance being a bright, pleasant titleholder with the challenging experiences in her past. “My experiences are what got me to where I am,” Rose says. “I would highlight my accomplishments, because I don’t want people to see me as the girl with a bad life, but rather the woman who is strong and capable despite everything.”

—Michele J. Barrett