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 and an associate professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego. Dr. Shirk conducts research and publishes on topics related to Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexican relations, and law enforcement and security issues along the U.S.-Mexican border. Dr. Shirk was a fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies from 1998-99 and 2001-2003, and a the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2009-10. Currently, Dr. Shirk is a global fellow and security expert for the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center. He frequently serves as policy advisor, consultant, and expert witness on matters concerning crime and violence, police and judicial reform, and human rights issues in Mexico.

Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira

Program Coordinator

Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira is the Program Coordinator of Justice in Mexico, at the Department of Political Science & International Relations of the University of San Diego. He received his J.D. and Master in Juridical Science from the School of Law at Universidad Panamericana in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and has graduate Diplomas in Human Rights at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain and in Procedural Law at Universidad Panamericana. He is currently a candidate for Doctor of Juridical Science at 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

Janice Deaton graduated from San Diego State University with degrees in Greek and Roman Classics and Spanish, and went to law school at the University of San Francisco where she graduated cum laude. In addition to her work with Justice in Mexico, Ms. Deaton works in private practice as a criminal defense trial attorney, handling cases including immigration violations, narcotics trafficking, white collar offenses, and homicide. Since 2006, Ms. Deaton has served as both coordinator and trainer for the development of oral advocacy skills and advanced litigation techniques in Mexico and other Latin American countries with various organizations, including NITA, the Conference of Western Attorneys General, Acceso Capacitación at Cal Western School of Law, and the American Bar Association.

Diana Sanchez

Operations Coordinator

Diana is the 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 in 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, corruption, security, and judicial reform. In the future, Diana hopes to further her passion by pursuing a law career.

Dr. Micaela Smith

Program Officer

Micaela received her Ph.D. (2012) in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. As an 18-month Mellon Dissertation Fellow, Micaela completed her dissertation while in residence at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and participated in the Sawyer Seminar Series, “Race, Property, Poverty: The Paradoxes of Law and the Possibilities of Justice.” As Program Officer for Justice in Mexico, Micaela is responsible for all grant writing, reporting, and media outreach.

Laura Calderón

Field Coordinator

Laura Calderón is a Field Coordinator at Justice in Mexico. She is also in charge of Memoria and coordinates all the data entry of this project. She received her B.A. in International Relations from the University of San Diego in 2015 and is currently enrolled at the same university for her M.A. in International Relations. During her undergraduate studies, she focused her research on regional security issues and U.S.-Mexico relations. She is passionate about drug-trafficking conflicts in Latin America and the importance of cooperation in transnational issues. She studied abroad in Germany to examine the power of integration.

Nancy Cortés

Program Officer

Nancy Cortés received her M.A. in International Relations from the University of San Diego in 2015 and her B.A. in Business-International Political Economy and Spanish from the College of Idaho in 2011. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico. Nancy is passionate about promoting justice, peace, and prosperity in developing countries, such as her country of birth. This led her to focus her graduate studies on Mexican politics and U.S.-Mexico relations, specifically on democratic politics and transnational organized crime.

Rita Kuckertz

Program Associate

Rita Kuckertz is a program associate for Justice in Mexico. She received her B.A. in Spanish and Psychology from the University of San Diego in 2015. During her time 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 is a Research Associate and editor of the Justice in Mexico Project. In 2011, she graduated from the University of San Diego with her Master's in International Relations, and prior to that received her Bachelor's degree in Spanish from Ithaca College in 2008. As part of her graduate school studies, she participated in the joint capstone research project between the National Defense Intelligence College and the University of San Diego, where she conducted research in Mexico and traveled to Washington, D.C. to present her research on human rights abuses in Mexico's unfolding security situation.

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 area of specialty is accountability, citizen security and criminal economy with special emphasis on prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing.

Daphne Blanchard

Graduate Intern

Daphne Blanchard has a bachelor’s degree in languages (Spanish/English) from Southern Utah University and is currently enrolled in the Master of International Relations at the University of San Diego. Her areas of focus are diplomacy and international development. She has served as a director for Humanity Corps, a nonprofit that works with community-based educational and service groups in Ecuador. Over the past 10 years, she participated in and led a variety of humanitarian and development projects in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and 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). At USD she has become passionate about immigration issues and social justice. As a first generation college student herself, she knows the struggles many first generation and underrepresented students experience and has been a mentor to first generation and underrepresented students on campus since 2015. She is also a board member of the Founders Club and has become an active volunteer in orphanages in Tijuana, Mexico. 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. When she is not studying for midterms, she enjoys participating in theatrical performances, reading crime novels, and going to free jazz concerts. In the future, she hopes to earn a graduate degree in International Relations and travel extensively throughout Latin America.

  • Contact us
  • University of San Diego
  • Justice in Mexico
  • 5998 Alcalá Park,
  • San Diego, CA. 92110
  • United States
  • 619-260-2299

  • Justice in Mexico is possible thanks to the generous financial support of:
  • Macarthur Foundation

  • Subscribe to our newsletter and join other 2,838 Justice in Mexico readers!

©2014 Justice in Mexico Project. All rights reserved