New Mexico’s first female U.S. Marshal reflects on her NMSU roots

From covering news stories in the rural Southwest to investigating gangs on the city streets of Chicago, Sonya Chavez ’89 has had quite the professional journey over the past three decades. That journey reached a new milestone in April 2018, when Chavez was selected as the new U.S. Marshal for the state of New Mexico. But, it was her time as a journalism student at NMSU that launched it all for her.

“The entire NMSU experience was absolutely a positive one for me,” says Chavez, who is the first woman to be appointed to the role of U.S. Marshal in state history. “The background that I got at NMSU really helped me develop as a professional in so many ways.”

Chavez grew up in Moriarty, a small town in central New Mexico. When it came to selecting where she would go to college, Chavez’s choice was clear.

“I was interested in pursuing a career in journalism, and I knew NMSU had a great journalism program,” she says.

After graduating from NMSU, Chavez worked around the southwest as a broadcast journalist. Chavez, then, transitioned into her long-time career investigating gang activity for the FBI. 

“In some ways, it was a culture shock, because I didn’t have a background in law enforcement,” says Chavez. “But I discovered there was a lot of similarities in my journalism background and the FBI. When you’re interviewing someone, you are either doing it to gather evidence or to get a confession. And that rapport building, I already knew how to do that. Little did I know, as a young journalist doing interviews in the cornfields of West Texas, that all that was preparing me in ways that I would not even appreciate until much later.”

After 11 years fighting super gangs in the Chicago area, Chavez returned home to New Mexico where she continued working the gang detail through the Albuquerque FBI offices. After 23 years of service with the FBI, Chavez is thrilled to be serving the greater New Mexico area in her new role as U.S. Marshal. 

“There is nothing more rewarding than being able to do important work in a place you call home,” says Chavez. “Doing a public service job where you are protecting the community where you grew up in—it’s really gratifying and so exciting.”

Matthew Legaretta ’17










When she wasn’t taking journalism classes, Sonya Chavez (second from left, first row) spent a lot of time as a Delta Zeta sorority member, serving community organizations like Casa de Peregrinos and hosting campus events, including an ice cream social for new Aggie football recruits.