Justice in Mexico's Staff

Meet our team

Committed to excellence in research, impartial analysis, and professional quality of service, the expert staff of Justice in Mexico benefits from extensive training in the fields of academia, law, and public policy. Our team is bi-lingual and has over two decades of experience working in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region. Based at the University of San Diego, we also draw tremendous support from our academic colleagues, student interns, and volunteers who contribute to the work of building Justice in Mexico.

Dr. David Shirk


Dr. Shirk is Director of Justice in Mexico, Associate Professor and Director of the M.A. program in Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego. He is also a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Mexico Institute. Dr. Shirk conducts research and publishes on topics related to Mexican politics and U-S.-Mexican relations. He frequently serves as policy advisor, consultant, and expert witness on matters concerning crime and violence, judicial reform, and human rights issues in Mexico. In 2016, Dr. Shirk received USD's prestigious International Impact Award for his contributions to USD’s international education goals to promote global education and understanding.

Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira

Program Coordinator

Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira is the Program Coordinator of Justice in Mexico, in the Department of Political Science & International Relations at the University of San Diego. He received his J.D. and M.A. in Juridical Science from the School of Law at Universidad Panamericana in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He received his graduate degrees in Human Rights at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain and in Procedural Law at Universidad Panamericana. He is currently a doctoral candidate of Juridical Science at the Universidad Panamericana. Mr. Rodríguez has written and co-authored several studies on Mexican policing, judicial reform, human rights, organized crime, violence, and corruption.

Janice Deaton

Training Director

Ms. Deaton has served as Training Director for Justice in Mexico since 2013. She has previously worked to advance oral advocacy skills and advanced litigation techniques in Mexico and other Latin American countries with various organizations, including the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and Acceso Capacitación (Cal Western School of Law) since 2006. In addition to her work with Justice in Mexico, Ms. Deaton works in private practice as a criminal defense attorney, handling cases including immigration violations and narcotics trafficking. In 2016, Janice Deaton received the distinguished Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies for her exceptional legal representation and advocacy for the underserved communities within the region.

Diana Sanchez

Operations Coordinator

Diana is Operations Coordinator for Justice in Mexico. She received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in International Business, summa cum laude, from the University of San Diego (2015). As a first-generation Mexican-American, Diana has always been passionate about staying connected to her roots and promoting progress for Mexico. She finds interest in issues such as rule of law, criminal justice, security, and judicial reform. Diana will be attending Stanford Law School in Fall 2017.

Dr. Micaela Smith

Program Officer

Micaela Smith is Program Officer for Justice in Mexico and is responsible for all grant writing, reporting, and media outreach. She received her Ph.D. (2012) in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Before beginning her work with Justice in Mexico, Micaela spent much of her time writing and teaching more broadly about race, marginality, and Latin American politics. She is thrilled to now be with Justice in Mexico.

Laura Calderón

Field Coordinator

Laura Calderón is Field Coordinator for Justice in Mexico and also responsible for maintaining the Memoria database - a database that seeks to identify, report and geolocate victims of violence and organized crime in Mexico. She received her B.A. in International Relations from the University of San Diego (2015) and is currently enrolled in the M.A. program in International Relations at the same university.

Nancy Cortés

Program Officer

Nancy Cortés received her M.A. in International Relations from the University of San Diego (2015). She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and focused her graduate studies on Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexico relations, and transnational organized crime. In November 2016, Nancy co-authored the latest report in the Justice in Mexico Justiciabarómetro series, Justiciabarómetro 2016 – "Perspectives on Mexico’s Criminal Justice System: What do its operators think?"

Rita Kuckertz

Program Associate

Rita Kuckertz is Program Associate for Justice in Mexico. She received her B.A. in Spanish and Psychology from the University of San Diego in 2015. As an undergraduate, she completed several independent research projects on border literature and legal challenges facing asylum-seekers. She is a former intern of USD’s Trans-Border Institute and studied abroad in Spain and Argentina.

Kimberly Heinle

Research Associate

Kimberly Heinle is Research Associate and Editor for Justice in Mexico. In 2011, she graduated from the University of San Diego with a Master's in International Relations. As part of her graduate studies, Heinle traveled to Washington, D.C. to present her research on human rights abuses in Mexico's unfolding security situation to the National Defense Intelligence College. Kimberly Heinle is a regular contributor to Justice in Mexico's news monitor as well as co-author to the last three "Drug Violence in Mexico" publications (2016, 2015, 2014).

Jorge Lison

Research Associate (Data Specialist)

Jorge is a self-taught computer programmer from Spain who obtained his M.A. in International Relations at the University of San Diego and his B.S. in Economics at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. He is passionate about data-mining, learning new programming languages, and solving day-to-day problems with technology. Jorge is currently working on creating automatized programs that extract information about weapons trade, and human violations from various web pages on the Internet. Jorge manages the Justice in Mexico website, and provides technical support to the rest of the team.

Zulia Orozco

Research Associate

Zulia Orozco Reynoso is a doctoral candidate in Urban Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM). She has a B.Sc in Sociology and a Master degree in Law - both Cum Laude- also from UNAM. She has collaborated for UNAM’s Attorney General's Office and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Her areas of specialty are accountability, citizen security and criminal economy with special emphases on prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing.

Daphne Blanchard

Graduate Intern

Daphne Blanchard is currently enrolled in the M.A. program in International Relations at the University of San Diego. She has previously served as Director for Humanity Corps, a nonprofit that works with community-based educational and service groups in Ecuador. She recently served as Project Lead for Cannon University, coordinating a team to create a sustainable educational program within a manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico.

Michelle Lara


Michelle Lara is a fourth year student majoring in International Relations and minoring in Sociology at the University of San Diego (USD). As a first generation college student herself, she has been a mentor to first generation and underrepresented students on campus since 2015. Her future plans include going to law school to focus on immigration law and human rights.

Ashley Ahrens-Víquez


Ashley Ahrens-Víquez is in her final semester of undergraduate studies at the University of San Diego. As an International Relations major of Costa Rican and Nicaraguan descent, she is most interested in US-Latin American Relations. She is passionate about human rights and foreign policy. Ashley primarily writes news articles for the Justice in Mexico news monitor. In the future, she hopes to earn a graduate degree in International Relations.

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  • Justice in Mexico
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  • San Diego, CA. 92110
  • United States
  • 619-260-2299

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