Andolyn Medina, MA ’17, MA ’20, is rapidly adding titles to her résumé. A fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral candidate in the Columbian College Professional Psychology Program, her goal is to become the first doctor in her family. She’s a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. And in June she was crowned Miss District of Columbia—one step away from winning the 100th Miss America title this December at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
“It’s exciting to compete for Miss America with so many intelligent and talented young women,” said Medina, who earned her master’s degrees in forensic psychology and clinical psychology at GW. “I definitely have my work cut out for me.”
Medina is accustomed to juggling challenges. In addition to her Navy reserve duties and her shifts at the professional psychology program’s Center Clinic—a nonprofit community mental health clinic where students work directly with patients—she balances classwork with pageant preparations. She likens the competition to training for a sport—from following a strict health regimen to choosing wardrobe options to practicing for the always-intimidating judges’ questions. “It can be lot of pressure,” she said. “Luckily I’m someone who likes to keep busy.”
Growing up in Chesapeake, Va., Medina began appearing in pageants to relieve her childhood shyness and a speech impediment. She has since competed in about 50 pageants and won numerous awards, including a full-tuition undergraduate scholarship to Hollins University as Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Teen in 2012. At the Miss D.C. competition, she earned approximately $10,000 in scholarships.
She is also a recipient of a U.S. Navy Health Profession Scholarship, which provides tuition grants in exchange for a five-year commitment to serve as a Navy psychologist after graduation. In her 2019 swearing-in ceremony, Medina’s Navy-veteran parents administered her oath of office. “It was one of my greatest moments,” she said. “I’m proud of following in my parents’ footsteps, but I also look forward to bringing awareness to mental health services in the military.”
At GW’s Center Clinic, students like Medina receive hands-on training with patients, many of whom are D.C.-area residents with no access to needed care. The students are responsible for all aspects of clinic operations, from monitoring the phones and serving as the first point of client contact to treating people with issues like depression and mood disorders.
Medina credits her clinical psychology training with making her an empathetic listener—a skill that helps her connect with the community as Miss D.C. “There’s something important about being able to really listen to people and let them know that they are being heard, that they matter,” she said. She uses her Miss D.C. platform to speak out against human trafficking, and has volunteered with both the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the nonprofit anti-trafficking group FAIR Girls.
“Our doctoral program in clinical psychology encourages students to be curious, tolerant and to work for the benefit of others,” said Loring J. Ingraham, the program’s director and professor of clinical psychology. “Andolyn shows how broadly applicable those skills can be, from the military to high-level pageants.”
As a child, Medina learned opera when a voice teacher told her it was the best training to sing like Beyonce. She’s performed for President Barack Obama at a rally in Virginia and sang the National Anthem at events including Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics games. At the Miss D.C. pageant, Medina won the talent competition with her rendition of “Summertime” from the opera Porgy and Bess.
Only two D.C. contestants have won the Miss America crown in its 100 year history—including the first Miss America in 1922. Medina is eager to return the title to the nation’s capital. But she’s mostly excited about sharing the stage with 50 other accomplished women.
“This has been a phenomenal experience and I’m going to do my best to make the District proud,” she said. “Hopefully, I can help other young girls take advantage of scholarship opportunities in the same way I have. I want to continue bringing diversity and representation into the pageant industry and showing the next generation of women that they can be limitless.”