By far, the most rewarding benefit of being a department chair is celebrating the successes and accomplishments of our students and colleagues, but with this position also comes listening to, and helping, those of us in situations of hardship, whether personal, professional, and/or educational, and also remembering those of us who passed on. The pandemic surely amplified these high and low points. With deep sadness, we lost two colleagues this past year, Dr. Tom Price and Dr. Greg Rocha, and a prominent alumnus, the honorable Philip Martinez. However, we again had the privilege of celebrating the accomplishments of our students. It was fantastic to see some of our students cross the stage at the commencement ceremony held this May in the Sun Bowl. It was wonderful to celebrate together, in-person, these accomplishments. Two of our majors this year earned the Top Ten Senior UTEP award, Jessica Martinez and Luis Hinojos, and that makes five Political Science winners since 2018! This speaks well to the quality of the students and faculty in our department. It is also gratifying to hear faculty colleagues in other departments praise our students in their courses, as commented to me recently by colleagues in the departments of Theater & Dance and Criminal Justice. Similarly, our students continue to win fellowships such as the Fulbright and Archer. Congratulations to Aylin Duarte on her Fulbright! Notice the accomplishments of our students included in this newsletter, but remember that it is but a sampling of our students’ achievements. Please see the coverage of our graduating students and their accomplishments, below. To all of our graduates, we are so proud of all of you!
I am grateful to our faculty and to our students for switching to online courses, made with grace, due to the onset the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic came at a time when the world was enduring many other forms of conflict and stress, such as political tensions in international affairs, racial divisions and conflict, and dissatisfaction by many across the American political spectrum concerning society and politics. Nevertheless, these are fascinating times stimulating both interest in politics and responses by our students and faculty. For example, the department has boldly advocated for racial justice and will continue to address these issues, including in our curriculum. We will continue to be El Paso Strong, but we must also look to our broader world and seek ways to improve it. It is truly pleasing to see our students and colleagues responding to the needs of our community and our world.
For our alumni, please stay in contact with us. We love staying in touch and hearing about your successes, and we are always here for you. Education should be life-long learning, and thus formally or informally, we are here to help you. Interested in changing careers, or just deepening your education? If so, we offer the Political Science and Public Administration master’s degrees, and some of our alumni hold both degrees. Are you interested in giving back to UTEP, our department, and students? One can do so in many ways. Alumni can help students by contributing to our endowed scholarship funds or our gift fund. In the current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the variety of challenging circumstances facing our students is greater than ever before. Access to funding very often helps make life-changing experiences possible for our students seeking to build on their research and learning experiences. Our students are always incredibly grateful for the generosity of those who contribute, and they are very thankful to see us reach out to them when they are in need. You can help in other ways. For example, students in Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA) have benefited from alumni giving, which has helped support PSA induction ceremonies and conferences. I hope that we will see the end of the pandemic soon, which will allow us to gather more safely for talks and events. Even still, the pandemic has widened our technical skills, and visiting our classes virtually is now more possible than ever. Please visit us and share your career paths and stories with our students. Additionally, if you are in a position to create internships, our students are eager to engage in such educational and networking opportunities. Remember that our successes are accomplished by standing on the shoulders of others; pay it forward. We thank our alumni for all of your kind contributions and continued support, which helps us to serve our students -- we very much appreciate it!
I am delighted to report that the state of our department is strong! Please feel free to visit our department website and our Facebook page for more information about us, including our MA program for those interested. Please also consider donating to the Political Science program to help us for the coming year. We look forward to seeing you at future events and wish you all the very best.
Please feel free to peruse our latest newsletter by clicking on each of the links below highlighting some of the most recent student, alumni, and faculty activities and accomplishments!
--Dr. Charles Boehmer, UTEP Political Science Department Chair
DEPARTMENT SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS
Luis Gustavo Hinojos became passionate about his education at an early age when he moved from Juárez, Mexico, to Miami and had to deal with culture shock and learning a new language. In high school and away from his family, he realized he needed to take advantage of every opportunity to make a positive change in his life.
At UTEP, Hinojos secured a Terry Foundation Scholarship, made the dean’s list every semester, served as a mentor and received a Leaders of Mines Award.
Recently, he secured an internship at the Archer Center in Washington, D.C. He plans to bring the knowledge that he will gain from working in policymaking at a federal level back to the borderland to address poverty, the lack of high-paying jobs, and the city’s status as a net-exporter of educated workers.
“My graduation from UTEP is the culmination of a robust public education and personal growth. Above all, I see my path to the achievement of this goal as one defined by opportunity, and for that, I am incredibly grateful,” Hinojos said.
Advocating for people’s rights has been a passion for Jessica Marie Martinez since she graduated from high school as a licensed vocational nurse and worked as a pediatric home health nurse. A special interest for health care reform developed as she worked as a nurse while balancing her studies in political science at UTEP.
Despite everything going on in her life, Martinez made time to have an active life on campus, serving as the Student Government Association president for two years. Martinez’s grades were a strong reflection of her ambition and hard work as she became a recipient of the Diana Natalicio Endowed Scholarship.
“I have a true passion for helping others, putting others before me, and working to provide the best experience possible for them. I am frequently asked how I am able to manage everything that I do. My answer is always, when you have love and passion for what you are doing, nothing else matters,” Martinez said.
See full descriptions and content here: https://www.utep.edu/newsfeed/campus/utep-announces-2021-top-ten-seniors1.html?HomeBanner
This past year was incredibly challenging amid the Coronavirus pandemic so we wish to give an extra special recognition to all of our graduates in Political Science for all of their achievements and perseverance through the storm! Below are pictured some of the top graduating students from Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 (see also the links down below to access their memorable quotes and other information):
Fall 2020 Graduates:
See full descriptions and quotes on the Fall 2020 POLS Graduation Page:
Spring 2021 Graduates:
See full descriptions and quotes on the Spring 2021 POLS Graduation Page:
MAKING IT THROUGH COVID-19
While we've all faced major challenges during the past year while getting through COVID-19 and trying to keep up with UTEP activities, few of us stand out as much Jorge Morales for the incredible resilience and optimism he has shown through tough times -- and not just amid a worldwide pandemic! While taking courses in Political Science, Jorge was hit hard by both COVID-19 and a major shoulder operation on top of it this past Spring. And while many of us struggled even more amid the UTEP-wide outage that occurred just before Spring Break, Jorge put his head down to get recovered while also completing all his make-up work and even striving ahead to get a head start the remainder of his assignments and projects, including community engagement outreach via social media to help register voters and also spread awareness of UTEP's vaccine program for the benefit of his classmates and other citizens. He finished strong and with an even more optimistic outlook to the future.
Jorge has served as a true inspiration to all who have had the pleasure of knowing him in his studies at UTEP, and not just for the willpower he displayed amid COVID-19. He comes from a strong Cuban-American immigrant family and draws much of his inspiration from his grandmother who escaped the Castro regime at the age of 19 in search of the American Dream. Jorge also went out on his own at a very early age to become a 1st generation military serviceman and 1st generation college student, aiming to set a new path not just for himself, but especially for his children in looking to the future. He never takes anything for granted and has many people to thank for guiding him towards a positive pathway, including his Veterans Affairs Counselor, Mr. Mauricio Solis, who encouraged him to continue his studies in higher education at UTEP. His tough mentality that drives him to work "twice as hard" as needed, along with his heart-warming character that he has displayed as a father to his children, loyal friend to his fellow soldiers in serving the country, and good-natured colleague to his classmates and professors have all helped Jorge to do what he does best -- bringing people together and working hard to make life better in service of his close ones as well as the broader community in honor of his grandmother's legacy.
Our congratulations to Jorge and so many other of our friends and colleagues at UTEP (many detailed further below in our newsletter) who have strived so hard to succeed in their lifelong journeys and continue to a brighter future -- Go Miners!
STUDENT RECOGNITIONS & ORGANIZATION ACTIVITIES
POLITICAL SCIENCE SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
Each year, a select number of our top students are chosen as recipients for one of the Komarnicki Scholarship Awards for political science. Here is the latest lineup of super stars for the current academic year (listed alphabetically):
Sandra Nehring (Komarnicki Top Graduate Award)
Nallely Santiesteban Garcia (Komarnicki Top Graduate Award)
Adriana Chavez De La Rosa (Komarnicki Top Graduate Award)
Omar Carranza (Joseph Graves Memorial Award)
Lisette Farran (June Kruszewski Memorial Award)
Noah Gutierrez (Grabowska Kruszewska Memorial Award)
Gabriel Garcia (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Shai'Enne Franks (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Gabriel Loya (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Litzy Chavero (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Diego Soto (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Marah Abdel Jaber (Komarnicki Top Graduate Award)
Jesse Maese (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Joseph Muela (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Marcela Fuentes Anaya (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Frida Murga (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Idael Hernandez (Komarnicki Top Undergraduate Award)
Bry-Tanny Weaver (Misiewicz Sadowski Memorial Award)
Jennifer Carrillo (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Samantha Morales (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Gina Castrejon (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Kimberly Flores (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Angelica Quintanilla (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Jovany Meza (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Kristin Portillo (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Alyssa Lomeli (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Anahi Gallardo (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Edgar Rodriguez (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Briana Macias (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Diana Garcia (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Madeline Diaz (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Esteban Loza (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Anastacia Bean (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Mariana Govea (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Emmanuel De La Riva (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Carlos Chavez (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Horacio Estavillo is serving as president of Vision Mexico, which is an organization focused on helping and supporting Mexican students, among others, in an academic and professional way at the University of Texas at El Paso. The main achievements have been to recruit new students to an organization where they are able to feel comfortable and supported to make good and solid decisions.
Likewise, another achievement is having the support of the Consulate of Mexico in El Paso and having excellent communication with Consul General Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de León (pictured above meeting with Horacio), who continuously offers opportunities to meet and participate in the activities of the consulate.
Finally, is also taking part in community meetings with local El Paso leaders and organizations, which provides additional opportunities to participate in various programs.
Amoret McCartney, a sophomore at UTEP, is a Political Science major with a concentration in Law and Politics and a minor in History. For both the 2019-2020 and the 2020-2021 years she has received the Colligate Rifle Coaches Association (CRCA) All-American Scholastic Awards. She also received the Conference USA Academic Achievement Medal for the 2019-2020 year, and is eligible to receive it once again for the 2020-2021 year.
Pi Sigma Alpha: An Update from PSA Advisor, Dr. Taeko Hiroi
The Epsilon Epsilon Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, The National Political Science Honor Society at UTEP won yet another Best Chapter Award in 2020! Congratulations to PSA members! This is the eighth national Best Chapter Award that we were awarded, indicating UTEP PSA members’ excellence, commitment, and hard work. I am grateful for the privilege to assist UTEP PSA as faculty advisor.
SHINING STAR ALUMNI
Aylin Duarte Earns Fulbright Award!
Our recent UTEP graduate, Aylin Duarte, who earned bachelor's degrees in Political Science and Spanish (December 2020) was recently selected to serve as a Fulbright scholar in Argentina to help promote biculturalism and bilingualism as a teaching assistant in Spring 2022. Aylin is the first UTEP Miner since 2015 to be selected for the prestigious Fulbright program since 2015.
Read the full story by Daniel Perez from UTEP Communications linked here:
Daniel Antonio Arizpe Working at the Texas Capitol for Fellowship!
Our recent UTEP graduate, Daniel Arizpe (Spring 2021) was selected for the Mexican American Legislative Leadership Foundation (MALLF) Fellowship and a result has been working as the Communications Director for State Representative Eddie Morales, Jr. in Austin, Texas at the Capitol.
Rebeca Rivas Continues on to a Ph.D. in Borderlands History at UTEP!
Another recent graduate, Rebeca Rivas (Spring 2021 MA in Political Science) is very excited to be accepted for the PhD. in Borderlands History program at UTEP starting this fall 2021. Entering a doctoral program has always been one of her main objectives in life. Looking forward optimistically, Rebeca states "I am aware that pursuing a PhD degree will not be easy and that I will encounter and overcome various obstacles. But with my persistence and my vast knowledge from the department of political science, I trust it will result in a successful journey."
We wish you the best of luck with your continued studies, Rebeca, and we're very glad and excited to still have you attending at UTEP!
Rodrigo Santos Legaspi is Thriving at the Clinton School of Public Service!
A final graduate who has kept in touch since graduating the previous year, Rodrigo Santos Legaspi (Spring 2020 BA in Political Science), has since pursued his master's degree at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. He moved to Arkansas in summer 2020 in the middle of the pandemic and has now completed his first year of graduate school. During his first year, he conducted research with the Central Arkansas Library System to create an awareness campaign about homelessness, hunger, and poverty, and this summer he will be doing an international public service project developing best practices research that is based on elevating education over the next decade in Sri Lanka. Rodrigo has also been selected as one of this year’s McLarty Scholars for a semester-long fellowship at Vital Voices Global Partnership in Washington, D.C. This fellowship will also be his Capstone project which he will complete during the second year before graduating in May 2022.
Lisette Farran is Going to Law School at the University of Houston!
Finally, our recent UTEP graduate, Lisette Farran (Spring 2021 BA in Political Science), is going on to attend the University of Houston Law Center. In the meantime, she has also been interning for a District Judge -- way to go Lisette and best of luck in Houston!
Dr. Charles Boehmer continues as Chair of the Department of Political Science. He revamped his online teaching skills during the pandemic. His most satisfying moments this past year was helping our students and colleagues with their struggles and goals. His research also continues on the relationship between economic development and growth on international war. Courses taught this past year include International Organization & Law, International Relations, and helping students with internships.
Dr. Todd Curry focused on what was he thought was important in 2020: serving his students and family during a difficult time. In Spring of 2020, he invited three Texas Supreme Court Justices into his remote classroom to discuss a number of issues. The recording of that event can be found on the Supreme Court’s Youtube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBAf_a3eKVE
Beyond that, he was very happy to welcome a new addition to his family, Harlan Joseph Curry. The best part of the pandemic for him was being able to spend time at home with his new son and family. Here is a picture of baby Harlan:
In his spare time, Dr. Curry tried to focus on research, and is in the process of writing a book co-authors about how state supreme courts innovated during COVID-19. A brief explanation of that work can be found at the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/11/unlike-supreme-court-state-courts-have-responded-quickly-pandemic-heres-why/
Dr. Gaspare M. Genna co-authored a chapter in the book The Rise of Regions: Conflict and Cooperation (Rowman & Littlefield). The chapter analyzes the future of the European Union (EU) in light of its multiple economic and political challenges, including the departure of the UK (Brexit). He also co-authored a journal article in Social Science Journal. This research examines the public support for a Single European Security and Defense Policy by examining citizen trust levels for the more powerful European states. Although the pandemic has limited conference presentations, he was able to present research at a virtual conference, the Netherlands Institute of Governance Annual Conference. This research examined the Brexit vote using field survey data just prior to the referendum. In the paper, he finds that the rivalry between the British and German influence in the EU largely explain the decision to leave the EU. He also produced one research seminar (with Dr. Bilge Firat, Department of Sociology & Anthropology) on the revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement with an outside speaker from the Cato Institute/Georgetown University. He and Dr. Dr. Taeko Hiroi are currently completing an introduction to political science textbook with CQ Press. Dr. Genna contributes the graduate program by chairing multiple masters students’ theses and projects and continues to assist colleagues on improving teaching methods in light of our remote learning reality.
Dr. Taeko Hiroi published co-authored article, “Todos os estados são iguais, mas alguns são mais iguais do que outros,” in Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais (one of the top two social science journals in Brazil) in 2020. She also had one co-authored book chapter accepted for publication (“Processo legislativo no Brasil: poderes de agenda e ferramentas de obstrução” in Gustavo Biscaia de Lacerda and Adriano Codato, eds., Manual de Ciência Política), and has been invited to revise and resubmit to a journal a manuscript that examines the presidential cabinets in Brazil. She is also working with Dr. Genna on an introductory political science textbook project (under contract with Sage/CQ Press). She also presented her work at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, was invited to serve as a discussant for American University’s Legislative Effectiveness Workshop, and is serving on the Emerging Scholar Selection Committee of the American Political Science Association’s Legislative Studies Section. The recent drastic increase in anti-Asian hate incidents is alarming and unacceptable. In April she served as a panelist on YWCA's “Courageous Conversation: The Silent Minority No More.”
Dr. Marcos Menchaca published an article in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (found here) addressing polarization in America. He finds that polarization is dependent on the issue domain: Americans are much more polarized on racial issues and morality issues than on economic issues. Due to the time this article was submitted to the journal, this data only goes up to the year 2016. But now Dr. Menchaca is working on an update article with the 2020 data with some very exciting results. He is also investigating the importance of these issue domains in presidential elections. Additionally, he is doing research on American party systems and also on distributive politics in presidential elections. Dr. Menchaca also teaches a Party Systems, Campaigns and Elections class which is very popular with the undergraduates at UTEP (especially when there is an election happening).
Dr. Rebecca Reid published three peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, including “Speaking Up: Women and Dissenting Behavior in the Supreme Court of Canada” in The Justice System Journal, as well as “Human Rights and Court Activism in the Mexican Supreme Court” and “High Courts and International Norms Institutionalization” in Open Judicial Politics: An Empirical Reader by the Oregon State University Open Textbook Initiative. She has also published several newsletter pieces focusing on diversifying and developing inclusive academic communities in public law, as well as an article on indigenous law in The Monkey Cage (The Washington Post). She serves as the chair of the College of Liberal Arts’ Antiracism Core Curriculum Task Force and as Liberal Arts Honors Program Political Science Liaison, currently teaching Indigenous Law and Politics.
Dr. Gregory D. Schmidt became one of the first UTEP faculty members to base all of his undergraduate courses on Open Educational Resources (OER), eliminating textbooks and all other materials purchased by students. Just before the COVID pandemic hit, he had the prescience or dumb luck to complete training for online classes through the Blackboard Institute and attend the KISS concert. Schmidt published peer-reviewed articles in both English and Spanish on how ballot structure has affected the election of women in Peru over the last four decades. The articles show that the type of list—open or closed—matters a great deal in the provinces, but not in the capital city of Lima, where the socioeconomic context and political culture are much more supportive of women. He served on five departmental committees, as the Political Science library liaison, and on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies (MALAS).
Dr. José D. Villalobos and his co-authors published a book entitled Seeing Us in Them: Social Divisions and the Politics of Group Empathy (Cambridge University Press 2021), which details their originative Group Empathy Theory and application of their Group Empathy Index (adopted by both the ANES and BES) vis-à-vis a litany of large-N representative survey waves and experiments demonstrating that group empathy is a primary determinant of political opinions and actions across racial/ethnic groups even when other competing factors are at play (see more info down below under "New Books"). Dr. Villalobs also serves as Chair of the Dean's Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Task Force and Review Committee.
Borderlands Biography: Z. Anthony Kruszewski in Wartime Europe and Postwar America (Brill | Schöningh, 2021)
Seeing Us in Them: Social Divisions and the Politics of Group Empathy (Cambridge University Press, 2021)
Authors: Cigdem V. Sirin, Nicholas Valentino, José D. Villalobos
What causes some people to stand in solidarity with those from other races, religions, or nationalities, even when that solidarity does not seem to benefit the individual or their group? In Seeing Us in Them, Cigdem Sirin and José Villalobos of UTEP, along with their co-author, Nicholas Valentino from the University of Michigan, examine outgroup empathy as a powerful predisposition in politics that pushes individuals to see past social divisions and work together in complex, multicultural societies. It also reveals racial/ethnic intergroup differences in this predisposition, rooted in early patterns of socialization and collective memory. Outgroup empathy explains why African Americans vehemently oppose the border wall and profiling of Arabs, why Latinos are welcoming of Syrian refugees and support humanitarian assistance, why some white Americans march in support of Black Lives Matter through a pandemic, and even why many British citizens oppose Brexit. Outgroup empathy is not naïve; rather it is a rational and necessary force that helps build trust and maintain stable democratic norms of compromise and reciprocity.
The book is also included as part of the Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology series.
Read more here: https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/american-government-politics-and-policy/seeing-us-them-social-divisions-and-politics-group-empathy?format=PB
Dr. Tom Price passed away on April 9, 2021 in Las Cruces, NM. He was 81. Dr. Price was a beloved professor and colleague at UTEP during his 30 years of teaching until his retirement in 2001. Below are some tributes in his memory:
In the summer of 1987 I took a course with Dr. Price on Foreign Intelligence Systems. I did not need to take the course but after talking with him I thought it would be interesting. He took a very different approach to the class. Rather than a text he selected the works of Ian Fleming and John LeCarre for us to read and contrast the two approaches to spydom. It was a fascinating course. He also paired me up with Pat Hegarty for some group work. I was not aware that Pat was the QB for the football team. We became close friends and I became a football booster. He also suggested that I talk to the chair about teaching part-time in the department, which I did and started in the Fall. When I shared an office with Dr. Price in 2000 - 2001, I told him about how that class changed my thinking about spies, etc. and that he introduced me to a life long friend. He was delighted to learn that the class made a difference to me and to others.
~Professor Richard Gutierrez
Tom, a good colleague with whom I had many engaging conversations about international affairs, was a fine man with high expectations and a sound ethical core. He was department chair in the mid-1980s and as I recall, the first to introduce us all to computers, (the brand name for which has long gone out of business)!
~Professor Kathy Staudt (Professor Emerita)
I first met Dr. Price in 1977, when he was Graduate School advisor and I was thinking of applying for the MA program. He encouraged me to attend, but it wasn't until 1979 that I was able to begin. His was the first class I took and I clearly recall how frightened I was after the class, a Seminar in International Relations. The syllabus was 10 pages of single spaced text and filled with reading and writing requirements that overwhelmed me. I left the room thinking "what have I gotten myself into?" He was rough and demanding on all of us, so much so that I would cross the street if I saw us walking on the same side! But that rigor sent the very message I needed in order to graduate- earning an MA will be interesting and a life changing experience, but be prepared to work as hard as you possibly can because they are not given out to just anyone. It's a lesson I continue to apply to all aspects of my life.
When I returned to the Department as a faculty member, one of my biggest concerns was how I would be regarded and treated by my one time professors; would I be accepted as a colleague? I was especially worried about Tom because he was so demanding and intimidating, but he could not have been more gracious. Not only did he help me get acclimated, he offered me encouragement when I felt down and a further uplift when I felt as if I accomplished something. We also got to know one another as friends who shared interests beyond academia. I truly enjoyed spending time with him and Tony Kruszewski. Together they would have the most fascinating conversations. I was smart enough to stay out of the way and let them carry on with whatever crossed their mind. And I was especially heartened that he let me develop a closer relationship with his wonderful family.
So Tom's passing leaves a big void within me. He was a major influence in my life and, I'm happy to say, a very dear friend.
~Professor Gregory Rocha (Provided just before his own passing, see tributes to Dr. Rocha down below)
Obituary from the El Paso Times:
The Honorable Philip Ray Martinez passed away on February 26, 2021. He was 63. Judge Martinez was a beloved UTEP alumni and prominent judge at the country, state, and federal level for over thirty years. Below are some tributes in his memory:
I had the opportunity to meet Judge Martinez while doing my internship with the U.S. Marshal service during my senior year of undergraduate studies. I am so glad I had the opportunity to view the trials he presided over on a regular basis and learned a lot. I also came to find out that he was very active in the ACTS community at my church where I worked and attended. He was just such a kind person who I truly came to admire.
~Crystal Bustillos, Lecturer
In the late 1970s, Philip Martinez was a student in my upper-division Administrative Theory class. (Can you imagine a less appealing course title?!) A brilliant student who did consistent A+ work, I was proud to write one of his reference letters for Harvard Law School. Judge Martinez worked with commitment to fairness and justice throughout his professional life. He treated everyone with dignity and respect. Judge Philip Martinez made us and will forever continue to make us proud: El Paso, UTEP, and the political science department.
~Professor Kathy Staudt (Professor Emerita)
Philip Martinez was a proud graduate of UTEP and of the Department of Political Science. When I was appointed to serve as executive director of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America he administered my oath. He was a great role model for all of us!
~Professor Irasema Coronado (now at ASU)
I would like to share two anecdotes about Judge Philip Martinez that speak of his humanity and belief in doing the right thing.
If he was in town and did not have an early court date; Phil was always at the 7am mass at St. Patrick cathedral where he would play the organ and sing with a small number of choir members. At the cathedral it is fairly common to find women and men in need asking usually for some financial support.
One regular was Luis, a quiet gentlemen who would attend services and knew all the prayers. He would not ask for money, but would accept donations from parishioners. Phil was one of those. He would always greet Luis, even shake hands him although most people would avoid any close contact with him because of his poor hygiene. It was moving to see Luis’s appreciation for the fact that Phil treated him with respect and would return that with a huge and warm smile.
One morning Luis was not present and that turned into days and weeks. Phil used all the resources at his disposal to try to track him down. Was he hurt, was he arrested as homeless persons often are, what happened to him? Phil was genuinely concerned about Luis’s welfare and was upset because he could not find any information as to what happened to lead to his disappearance.
For some time after that, Phil would still ask of me and some others if we knew anything about Luis.
Another story was testimony to his belief in doing the right thing and to not use his position as a federal judge for his own personal advantage or for that of other persons. There was one parishioner who had ingratiated himself to the pastor and to Phil who were very close friends. One day, I will call him John, approached Phil with the request to “take care” of a traffic ticket that he received. I was present when Phil politely turned him down. John insisted that since Phil was a judge it would not be a problem for him to “fix” the ticket. Phil responded that he would not use his position to help anyone avoid their legal responsibilities. John then asked the pastor to ask Phil, the answer was the same although Phil was well aware of the friendship between John and the pastor. From that day on, John would no longer consider Phil as a friend. It was not easy for Phil but his belief that people should do the right thing was not only an abstract principle but one that he believed and lived by every day.
Two sides to Phil, his humanity, respect for all persons regardless of position or wealth and his commitment to the rule of law. He was devoted to his family, fiercely loyal to his friends, devout in living his faith, and a true patriot. It was an honor and privilege to know him and to call him “friend” in every sense of the word.
~Professor Richard Gutierrez
Obituary from the El Paso Times:
Dr. Gregory Rocha passed away on June 29, 2021. He was 69. Dr. Rocha was a beloved professor and colleague at UTEP. He served as our department chair from Fall 2001 to the end of August 2004, and then again as interim chair for three semesters from Fall 2006 through Fall 2007. Below are some tributes in his memory:
Dr. Greg Rocha was chair of the department when I was hired, and very early on I felt connection with him when he interviewed me at the American Political Science Association meetings the year I was hired, and he subsequently sent me a customized follow up and thank you message. He was always an advocate for me and we shared many interests in common. He left a void in the department on local politics when he retired that we may never fill; he was the face of our department on most matters of local and American politics for many years. I will deeply miss seeing him, whether it be in the department or the early hours at the natatorium.
~Professor Charles Boehmer (Chair)
Greg and I shared a real interest in local politics and cars. We had many talks about both. His office door was never closed. He convinced the Dean to place me on a yearly salary instead of paying me by each class that I taught. That made such a huge difference. He served as my evaluator numerous times and always had high praise for my teaching.
I already missed our talks. more so now that I know they will never happen again. I miss him dearly. He fought a courageous battle against cancer.
Greg was the very first person that I met at UTEP. and he graciously answered my countless questions. I enjoyed sharing meals at his favorite Mexican restaurants, learning about El Paso politics, and reminiscing about classic movies. He was also a big swimmer and an avid Miners/Longhorns fan. On November 22, 2013, several of us had a panel discussion in Greg’s class on our memories of the JFK assassination 50 years earlier. And of course, he loved cars!
~Professor Greg Schmidt
Greg Rocha was a strong supporter of Chicano Studies that will be missed. His election research exposed many a student directly to local politics. His Triathlon colleagues have lost a very good companion and sportsman.
~Professor Dennis Bixler-Marquez
Greg was a wonderful colleague to have just across the hall. He was always happy to catch up on the latest political news and anything to do with cars and music. Dr. Rocha had a knack for forecasting elections and political events better than any statistical forecast model, from national to local politics. He also enjoyed holding committee meetings at Carnitas and other nice places to hang out and often insisted on picking up the tab. He was always a very candid, knowledgeable, and the epitome of a genuine person who cared about the community. Rest in peace, Greg.
~Professor José Villalobos
Greg and I were good friends and next-door office mates in Benedict Hall, home to UTEP’s Political Science Department. We both hailed from the Midwest: Greg, from Des Moines Iowa. He always traveled to the Iowa Caucuses for first-hand observations and interviews. He LOVED analyzing politics at the national, state, and local levels. Greg was the go-to person for the El Paso print and TV media for analysis and quotes from his unfailingly unbiased, evidence-based commentary.
Greg was usually the first person to arrive at Benedict Hall, around 7 am, after he went swimming. He like swimming, hiking, and listening to classical music. Greg always did shifts for KTEP’s fund-raising drives during afternoon classic music hour time. KTEP’s Louis Saenz and Greg would analyze and digest politics regularly on Louie’s radio shows.
Dr. Rocha’s approach to teaching the Research Methods class was superb, given its experiential base. Students learned how to design exit-poll surveys, chose precincts in which to conduct the quick interviews, enter the data quickly, and analyze the results. Sometimes, Greg and several students would appear on the 10 pm live TV shows to ‘call’ election results with a plus or minus range. They were almost always on target for calling victories and losses.
Greg was a very private person, so I don’t know anything about the pre-political science part of his life, but he arrived in El Paso to complete the M.A., then went to the University of Texas at Austin for his PhD. He was the third-only Mexican American to earn a Ph.D. in Government there. Fortunately for El Paso, he returned here as a tenure-track professor in the 1990s.
I learned a lot from Greg. He was the one who showed me how to find the political campaign contribution reports for local candidates. Immediately after posting, he would send me the PDF’s. Moments later, we’d talk about who donated how much and speculate about why. He was a gold-standard colleague with whom I had many fruitful conversations.
When my now-adult kids were little, I sometimes brought them to the office. Greg would set up silly multiple-choice tests for them like ‘who is the fastest runner in the building?’ a. My son’s name; b. My daughter’s name; c. Greg. Guess which was the right answer! We always had laughs. Greg celebrated their graduations from high school and each university degree, from B.A.s to PhD. They were heartbroken when I told them of his passing.
For the big National Science Foundation grant to study informal economies at the U.S.-Mexico border and to support undergraduate “NSF Scholars” for several years as Research Assistants, Greg, Drs. Cheryl Howard, Alejandro Lugo, and I taught the high-intensity summer preparation course to design the survey, chose the six neighborhoods on both sides of the border, and identified random samples in each (which required constructing a map from which to sample in several neighborhoods). Greg also led a hiking trip up the Franklins so that we might bond with and trust one another. It was an unforgettable experience.
After retirement, Greg, Tony Kruszewski, and I regularly had suppers together to talk politics: Tony, international, especially Europe; Greg, national/local; and me, all of the above. Greg died way too early, and I will miss him. Rest in Peace and Rest in Power, Dr. Gregory Rocha.
~Professor Kathy Staudt (Professor Emerita)
Obituary from the Des Moines Register:
Dr. Rocha is pictured above (second from left) holding his certificate for El Paso's proclamation of "Dr. Gregory Rocha Day" on December 8, 2015 that commemorated his retirement and many years of service to the city and region.
Dr. Rocha pictured for one of his many countless visits to the KTEP studio to interview (or just hang out) with Louie Saenz.
Dr. Rocha (left) pictured with Dr. Kathy Staudt and Dr. Tony Kruszewski.