Sandia LabNews

Meet Sandia’s rodeo queen

Sandia intern Shay Williams in the running for 2017 NM State Fair rodeo queen

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RODEO QUEEN Shay Williams, a year-round graduate intern in diversity and inclusion, is the 2017 Bernalillo County Rodeo Queen and is competing in the New Mexico State Fair Queen contest. (Photo courtesy of Shay Williams)

Every night of the New Mexico State Fair, Shay Williams (3010), rides her horse Buddy in the grand entry along with forty-some other riders and their horses, traveling in a serpentine pattern and holding a flag while the crowd cheers them on. This moment is just one of many that make up her duties as the crowned 2017 Bernalillo County Rodeo Queen and a contestant in the New Mexico State Fair Rodeo Queen contest.

“Winning or not, I just wanted to have that experience of running for queen because it looked like so much fun,” Shay says. “Representing my county and New Mexico sounded like a great experience.”

Preparing for a career in human resources

Shay studies strategic management and policy at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson MBA program and is a year-round graduate intern for Sandia’s diversity and inclusion department. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UNM with a concentration in human resources and appreciates the hands-on experience she gets at Sandia.

 “It’s been exciting and very independent,” Shay says. “I’ll get a project and my team lets me run with it, whereas other jobs I’ve had involved a lot less ownership and more oversight. I also feel like an employee and not a number, even with 10,000 employees in Albuquerque.”

Shay works on brochures and posters for Sandia’s equal employment opportunity program, develops materials about diversity and inclusion programs for new employees, and is considering how new video programs could enhance diversity and inclusion learning for the workforce.

The life of a queen

When Shay isn’t studying or working, she shows and cares for her family’s four miniature horses and has a full schedule of Bernalillo County Rodeo Queen events. To win the Bernalillo County Rodeo Queen title, Shay competed in three horsemanship events — a set pattern, a free time pattern, and a queen’s run — and did a personal interview, a speech, western wear modeling, and answered an impromptu question: “What intimidates you?” Her answer was public speaking, and she says she’s not alone.

“I heard a statistic that public speaking is the second highest fear people have in the US, right after death,” Shay says.

Despite her fear of public speaking, Shay is proud to be Bernalillo’s queen, and is using the opportunity to meet with local children and talk about the importance of working toward goals.

“As a queen, one of my goals has been to talk with youth about being more confident within themselves and following their dreams,” Shay says.

From Sept. 14-16, Shay is competing to win the New Mexico State Fair Queen title, which includes horsemanship events, speeches, modeling, personal interviews, and a written test about the state of New Mexico and the New Mexico State Fair Rodeo. At each event she’ll wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and boots. Shay says that “rodeo queen dress is very conservative and not like Miss America when they wear bikinis.”

“The queen is supposed to be someone who is well-rounded in rodeo and personality; someone who works hard,” Shay says. “Someone who can get on a horse with the drop of a dime, but also someone who can have a conversation with you and be an ambassador for the sport of rodeo.”

Cami Belcher, a fellow Sandian and the 2016 New Mexico State Fair Queen, worked with Shay to prepare for the competition by helping her plan her speeches, pick out clothes, and even style her hair in the rodeo queen fashion with wings that curl away from the face.

Miniature horses and a foundation in rodeo

Shay enjoyed going to rodeos throughout her childhood, but says showing Reina, Star, Brew, and Blue — her family’s four miniature horses, is her foundation in working with horses. She and her family have won titles in several categories, including driving and western pleasure. Shay and Brew, a 22-year-old gelding, earned a national championship in showmanship last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Showmanship is basically how you present yourself,” Shay says. “It’s how you hold yourself and your horse. Brew and I are a great team. He’s my old man, but he still acts like he’s super young and can get pretty spunky.”

You can watch Shay compete Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8 a.m. in Tingley Coliseum as she completes her second run in horsemanship in her run for this year’s New Mexico State Fair Queen Title and also at the rodeo Saturday night where the results of the competition will be announced.