Elena Losada: Pursuing Social Justice

Graduate student Elena Losada was drawn to UC Santa Cruz because of its progressive culture, its strong inclination towards social justice, and she valued the space for sociology students and faculty to engage outside of the traditional discipline.

“Interdisciplinarity has really enriched my time at UCSC thus far, especially working with the Latin American and Latino Studies Department, and the Center for Integrated Spatial Research,” Losada said.

Losada studies processes of socio-spatial change, like urbanization and migration, and social futures in Latin America. In particular, she is interested in indigenous and agrarian lifeways in the context of majority urbanized Mexico, as well as the role of ‘informality’ in megacities.

Losada was awarded the Jessica Roy Memorial Award in 2022. The award is intended to provide its winners with stipends to support fieldwork, travel, and research. 

Family, friends, and colleagues established the Jessica Roy Memorial Award in 2005 to honor the memory of UCSC graduate student Jessica Roy. The scholarship is given to graduate students within any department who have a demonstrated interest in or are pursuing studies focusing on the equitable distribution of natural resources in international development, especially as that equity applies to women. 

Losada used the award this past summer to carry forward preliminary ethnographic work in Mexico City and in Chiapas, looking at the exchange of indigenous ideas in the urban context. She says this trip was indispensable for designing her dissertation project which will be carried out in the coming years.

After graduating from UCSC, Losada hopes to obtain a professorship or teaching position, in the United States or in a university in Mexico. 

“I believe that the most inspiring and impactful professors and researchers are simultaneously involved in community action,” Losada said. “I hope to maintain community organizing and policy change at the center of my life work.”

Losada’s advice to current students is to take advantage of the learning opportunities and to keep an open mind. 

“In my first years of the program, I was exposed to so many new ways of thinking about research and theoretical perspectives through discussions with peers, graduate seminars, teaching undergraduate students, working groups, and more,” Losada said. “I will never forget the feeling I had when I knew I had come up with a project that brought together what I had learned in graduate school and my life experiences, and also genuinely represented my political goals and hopes about the future. This feeling was a first for me in my career.”