SHSU Alumna Heads National Institute of Justice

Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, NIJ Director. Photo courtesy of Arizona State University.
Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, NIJ Director. Photo Courtesy of Arizona State University.

Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, a Distinguished Alumna from Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the new Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

Dr. Rodriguez is a professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University who specializes in the study of sentencing policies, juvenile court processes, and substance abuse. She received a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University in 1992 and was named the College’s Outstanding Alumna in 2009.

Dr. Rodriguez spoke at a White House conference on children of incarcerated parents.
Dr. Rodriguez spoke at a White House conference on children of incarcerated parents. Photo courtesy of Arizona State University.
“It is with tremendous pride and great pleasure that I inform you that our 2009 COCJ Outstanding Alumnus, Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, has been appointed by President Obama to head the National Institute of Justice,” said Dr. Phillip Lyons, Interim Dean of the College of Criminal Justice. “I am sure you will join me in congratulating her on this remarkable accomplishment.”

Dr. Rodriguez will lead the prestigious federal agency that serves as the research, development and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Its mission is to improve knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues, and the agency has funded several major projects at the College, including a study of untested sexual assault kits at the Houston Police Department; tests for bath salts in toxicological samples; a study of the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network and its use in criminal investigations; a study to create a quantitative standards for human decomposition at the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility; and the development of an analytical tool to trace the geographical origins of marijuana.

National Institute of Justice logoAfter graduating from Sam Houston State University, Dr. Rodriguez received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Washington State University. She joined the faculty at Arizona State University, where she conducted research on program evaluations of drug courts, restorative justice programs, and three strikes laws. She also conducted studies on the role of race, ethnicity and gender on juvenile court processes and prosecution and sentencing practices of imprisoned drug offenders before and after Arizona’s mandatory treatment laws. She recently completed her tenure as Associate Dean for Student Engagement at the College.

“Dr. Rodriguez has a rare combination of scholarly, professional and personal acumen,” said Dr. Todd Armstrong. “I know her to be an outstanding researcher and a good human being. We here in the College of Criminal Justice can be very proud of the manner in which Dr. Rodriguez represents us to both the field of criminology and criminal justice, and to the larger community.”

Dr. Rodriguez was named Distinguish Alumni from SHSU in 2009.
Dr. Rodriguez, pictured with Dr. Todd Armstrong, was named Distinguish Alumni from SHSU in 2009.
Dr. Rodriguez is the co-author of Just Cause or Just Because? Prosecution and Plea-bargaining Result in Prison Sentences of Low-level Drug Charges in California and Arizona, and she is co-editor of Iages of Color, Images of Crime: Reading. Her recent work has appeared in Crime & Delinquency, Justice Quarterly, and Criminology Public Policy.

Dr. Rodriguez is the Executive Counselor of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) and recently earned awards for her research, including the W.E.B. Dubois Award from the Western Society of Criminology, and the Coramae Richey Mann Award from the ASC Division on People of Color and Crime.

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