UHV assistant professor teaches balancing law enforcement, individual rights

Paranormal phenomenon, unsolved cases and one of the most iconic female characters in science fiction led Michele Quiñones down a path to criminal justice and law enforcement.

Michele Quiñones

“I wanted to be like Dana Scully,” said Quiñones, an assistant professor of criminal justice in the University of Houston-Victoria School of Arts & Sciences.

Growing up in Miami as the daughter of Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants, her first exposure to law enforcement came from the excitement of watching “The X-Files.” One main character was Special Agent Scully. Now Quiñones’ goals are focused on giving students the tools they need to untangle mysteries.

“I take what they see on television and explain to them how it is in reality,” she said. “We clarify what is and isn’t true about criminal justice. Then it’s about breaking down the system for the students, so they can understand it.”

On Monday, Quiñones will lead a post-screening discussion about the film “Gideon’s Army,” which follows the personal stories of three young public defenders in the Deep South who challenge the criminal justice system and the way people think about indigent defense. The Crossroad Progressive Women event, which takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St., comes nearly 50 years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling Gideon vs. Wainwright, which established the right to counsel.

Since joining UHV’s faculty in the fall, Quiñones has used her research, which focused on the factors that influence racial profiling, to stress the need to balance good law enforcement with protecting individual rights.

In October, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Inc. and the Educational Testing Service recognized her with an honorable mention for her dissertation.

“I never saw myself as a teacher; it was one of those things I just fell into,” she said. “One thing I think my students say about me is that I’m real.”

Quiñones previously won outstanding teaching awards from Texas State University in San Marcos, where she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees. She was the first graduate to obtain a doctorate from the university’s School of Criminal Justice. She earlier earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Quiñones worked for several years as a bilingual interpreter and police assistant with the College Station Police Department. She also worked as a records assistant with the San Marcos Police Department before beginning her doctorate in 2009.

Quiñones said the best aspects of the courses she teaches at UHV come from the professors she had in her past.

“You are the people who came before you,” she said.

The Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s four schools. To nominate a faculty member, email Paula Cobler , UHV director of marketing and communications, or call her at 361-570-4350.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.