Meet the SACJ Faculty

Gloria Gadsden, Ph.D.

photo of Gloria Gadsden

Dr. Gadsden has earned her A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. in sociology as well as a graduate certificate in women’s studies. Her areas of specialization include criminology; criminal justice; deviance, gender & sexuality; race & ethnicity; popular culture & mass media; and qualitative methodology.

She has been teaching at New Mexico Highlands University at the undergraduate and graduate levels since 2012. She teaches several different courses, including Dispute Resolution, Criminology, Domestic and Sexual Violence, Drugs in American Society, Global Crime, Institutional Corrections, Law Enforcement, Race and Ethnic Relations, Social Deviance, Social Stratification, Sociology of Law, Social Theory, Sociology of Murder, Sociology of Sexuality and Violence & Society.

Dr. Gadsden is the coordinator of the Criminal Justice Studies major, the Public Affairs – Applied Sociology master’s degree and the master’s degree in Criminology.


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Rebecca Álvarez, Ph.D.

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Dr. Rebecca Álvarez is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at New Mexico Highlands University, where she teaches courses focusing on race, homicide, and policing. Her current academic research examines crimes against women, femicide, and issues of intersectionality in law enforcement and the media. Her book Vigilante Gender Violence: Social Class, the Gender Bargain, and Mob Attacks on Women Worldwide was published in 2020 by Routledge. Dr. Álvarez is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters dealing with issues of colonization, empire, and social movements. She is presently working on a book about the role of the media and policing in solving serial killings involving women of color. Dr. Álvarez is an active participant in social justice work within her community, lending her expertise to numerous grassroots and non-profit organizations within New Mexico.



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Jacob Avery, Ph.D.

Photo of Jacob AveryDr. Jacob Avery is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at New Mexico Highlands University. After earning his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Pennsylvania, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Before coming to NMHU, he served on the faculty at UC Irvine. Dr. Avery is an award-winning teacher and mentor, whose pedagogy focuses on designing and delivering relevant courses for students while simultaneously encouraging them to understand themselves and their worlds with heightened sociological sophistication. He sees himself as a teacher, mentor, and coach, who is deeply committed to helping students achieve their scholastic and life goals. Dr. Avery’s research examines urban and rural poverty in the United States. A key feature of his scholarly agenda is putting a humanistic face on people and populations subjugated by socioeconomic marginalization, political violence, and extreme forms of social suffering. Dr. Avery serves on the Faculty Research Committee (FRC) as well as the President’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council at NMHU.

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Erika Derkas, Ph.D.

Dr. Erika Derkas has been a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at New Mexico Highlands University since 2003. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of New Mexico, at which time she was a visiting scholar at Loyola Marymount University, Las Angeles. Dr. Derkas is a passionate academic and activist who centers her work on reproductive justice, art activism and social justice issues. Specifically, Dr. Derkas’ research explores state and private sponsored population control and regulation of BIPOC communities, nationally and internationally.  She also investigates the use of art to challenge and resist occupation and oppression for female and gender expansive artists.  She is the co-founder and co-director of the Social Justice Program in Sociology and co-founder of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program.

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Victoria Riley Evans, Anthropology Laboratory Director

Photo of Victoria Evans at Chaco CanyonVictoria Riley Evans received her B.A. in anthropology at Prescott College, Arizona, and her M.A. in Southwest Studies at New Mexico Highlands University.  The daughter of a well-known southwestern anthropologist and ethnohistorian, Vick has been exposed to the field of anthropology her entire life. She worked for many years as an archaeologist in southern Arizona, specializing in Hohokam burials and pottery analysis. Vick has participated in the excavation of several historic burials and is co-authoring a book about the late nineteenth-century skeletal remains of a trader found along the Santa Fe Trail, and a book on Hohokam iconography. She is also the published author in the southwestern journal Kiva on interpreting Hohokam design on pottery. Vick is the anthropology laboratory director at New Mexico Highlands University and contingent instructor for archaeology classes and field school.

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Laura Pinto Hansen, Ph.D.

photo of Laura Pinto HansenLaura Pinto Hansen earned her B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology at University of California Riverside (UCR), after a career in the finance sector, in financial and tax planning. Dr. Hansen is a Professor Emerita in Criminal Justice at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts and is currently teaching as a part-time instructor in criminal justice at NMHU Las Vegas (beginning Fall 2022). Dr. Hansen is a U.S. and Portugal national, with dual citizenship.

Dr. Hansen’s scholarship and research focuses have been in criminology, studying cybercrime, financial crime, youth gangs, and young juvenile offenders. She has published a number of peer reviewed articles, chapters in books, and is the author of White Collar Crime and Corporate Crime: A Case Study Approach (2020). She is currently under contract to publish Introduction to Penology and Corrections (2022) and Juvenile Delinquency (2023), both with Aspen Publishing. Her previous work in social causes included the prevention of youth violence and gang recruitment in Springfield and Holyoke, Massachusetts, volunteering as a grant writer and program evaluator.

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