HU Sociology Senior to Present Research at National Women’s Studies Conference
New Mexico Highlands University sociology senior Crystal Montoya will present her research along with her professors at the National Women’s Studies Association annual conference Nov. 11 — 14 in Denver.
Montoya, 20, was born and raised in nearby Mora. She will graduate in May 2010 with her sociology degree, and a minor in Native American and Hispano studies.
Montoya and Highlands University sociology professor Erika Derkas conducted a joint research study that is featured in a panel Derkas heads at the conference titled, Creative Expressions, Cultural Constructions and Politics: Women and Food Practices.
Highlands University history and political science professor Kristie Ross is also part of the panel. She will present her research about the relationship between food and healing within the context of U.S. Civil War nurses and their patients.
Derkas and Montoya collaborated on a qualitative study that examined women in Northern New Mexico’s ideas about food preparation, using interviews as their research method.
“Crystal is an exceptional student and already a gifted sociologist as an undergraduate,” Derkas said. “She has a natural, and rare, sensibility for observing and analyzing social environments. She has so much potential to be extraordinary in her further academic pursuits.”
Derkas’ portion of the study focused on how gender relations are negotiated, reinforced and challenged in food preparation. Montoya focused on the way culture is expressed in the kitchen, with an emphasis on Hispanic and Native American women.
“Our research challenges the accepted assumption that domestic work such as food preparation is always oppressive for women,” Derkas said. “Women’s experiences in the kitchen are as varied as the women themselves and their life changes such as marriage and motherhood. Food preparation can be a source of joy and celebration or bitterness.”
“What I found about food and culture is that they are one and the same,” Montoya said. “For example, tamales at Christmas time are a traditional staple for Northern New Mexico Hispanic families. The time-consuming process of women making tamales together in the kitchen reinforces culture, and family bonding.
“I took a research methods course with Erika last fall and learned so much. It was great to work with her on a hands-on research project. Presenting at this conference is a wonderful opportunity for me,” Montoya said.
While this is the first time Montoya will present her research at a national conference, earlier this year she was awarded a scholarship to participate in the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in June at the at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Montoya is the editor-in-chief of the newsletter for the university’s women’s center, and has been instrumental in organizing events for the center.
Montoya said her goal is to earn her Ph.D. in sociology, and do research that will help preserve and maintain the Hispanic culture of Northern New Mexico.