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Distinguished Professor Biography

Christine Sierra, Ph.D.


Christine Marie Sierra is Professor Emerita of Political Science at the University of New Mexico.  Her expertise is in American politics with a focus on race, ethnicity, and gender.   Her most recent publication is Contested Transformation: Race, Gender, and Leadership in Twenty-First Century America, a national study of elected officials of color, co-authored with Carol Hardy-Fanta, Pei-te Lien, and Dianne M. Pinderhughes (Cambridge University Press 2016).  With this book, the authors won the Distinguished Career Book Award from the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Organized Section of the American Political Science Association.  Sierra has also published on Mexican American activism on immigration policy, Hispanic politics in New Mexico, and the politics of Latina women in the United States.  Her research also led her to co-write and co-produce a highly acclaimed videodocumentary, This Town Is Not For Sale!:  The 1994 Santa Fe Mayoral Election, of the stunning electoral victory of Chicana activist and city councilor, Debbie Jaramillo, as the first woman mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sierra received her B.A. with honors from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her M.A. and Ph.D. are from Stanford University.  She began her teaching career as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs (1981-1985).  She accepted a faculty position at the University of New Mexico in 1986, where she taught till her retirement in 2015.

She has been a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., the University of Arizona, and the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.  She has served as a consultant to Williams College, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of California, Santa Barbara on their respective Latino Studies programs.  From 1994 to 1997, she served as a presidential appointee to the Good Neighbor Environmental Board, which advised the President and Congress on environmental and infrastructure needs of the U.S.-Mexico border region.  From 2008-2009, she participated on the Immigration Policy Roundtable co-sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and the Brookings Institution.

Her activities in the profession include Secretary of the American Political Science Association (2004-2005), APSA Executive Council (2000-2002), and co-president of the APSA Organized Section on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics (1999-2000). 

As an expert in American and Latino/a politics, she appears frequently in local, national, and international media.  She served as Director of the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute at the University of New Mexico from 2011 – 2014. 

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Dr. Sierra was the third Mexican American woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science in the nation.

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