In Their Words: Michelle Parra

Name: Michelle Gomez Parra

Department: Sociology

What Scholarship or Award did you receive? Lionel Cantú Memorial Award

What year are you (1st year, 3rd year)? First year PhD student

College: Rachel Carson

Where do you call home? Los Angeles, CA

What is your field of focus? I research the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality. My current research project focuses on the gender and sexual identities of working-class Latina college students.

With all of the choices for college, what made UC Santa Cruz stand out? I chose UC Santa Cruz because the graduate students in Sociology were very diverse. As a first-generation woman of color students, it was imperative for me to be surrounded by people who share similar research interests and passions as me. In addition, being in California was a very crucial factor for me. Being close to my family, who lives in Los Angeles, is very important to me.

What do you hope to do once you graduate from UC Santa Cruz? I plan on becoming a faculty at a public university working closely with students of color.

What is one memorable moment that stands out for you as a student here? Working with the undergraduate students at UCSC is an incredibly rewarding experience. Many of them care deeply about social justice issues that their communities have experienced and will dedicate their lives to advancing racial, gender, class, and sexual equality.

How will this scholarship/award impact your academic life/research? Receiving this scholarship will support me in attending the ASA Sexualities Pre-conference: Race and Empire Resistance in an Uncertain Time, August 2018. Attending the conference in crucial for my professional development; it will expose me to key cutting edge conversations in her field of study and move her forward in conceptualizing her research agenda. Additionaly, the conference very much promotes mentorship opportunities and several scholars are attending that are key to building me professional network.

For research awards, please include a one paragraph description of our research written for a general audience.
My research bridges sociology, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies in hopes of understanding the lives of working-class Latinas. My current project analyzes how Latinas who are upwardly mobile, are of working-class backgrounds but are entering middle-class life trajectories by obtaining a college education, redefine their gender and sexualities as they construct themselves upwardly mobile. Through qualitative interviews, I find that Latina college students learn new information and understandings about gender and sexuality. These new understandings transform the gender and sexual identities of Latinas and produce contradiciting effects in the lives of Latina college students. For example, these new understandings allow young Latina women to experience new pleasures and teach them to see themselves as capable and worthy of desiring and experiencing pleasure. However these new understandings also foster conflict between daughters and mothers. Daughters and mothers no longer share the same perspectives of gender, sexuality, and women’s bodies. Ultimately these disagreements cause distance between Latina daughters and mothers.

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