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Published: March 22, 2024

UT Staff Members, Student Travel to Mexico to Speak on Human Trafficking, Missing Persons

Over spring break, two UT instructors and a student traveled to Mexico to present lectures on the topics of missing persons and human trafficking. UT Staff Members, Student Travel to Mexico to Speak on Human Trafficking, Missing Persons Over spring break, two UT instructors and a student traveled to Mexico to present lectures on the topics of missing persons and human trafficking. Photo courtesy of Angela Ramos

They were invited by the University of San Luis Potosí, and an international faculty travel grant made the trip possible for Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Anthony LaRose and cybersecurity Lecturer Angela Ramos.

Ramos was asked by the director of the cybersecurity program at UT, Alper Yayla, to attend. He had done a talk via Zoom for the Mexican university last year.

She built her presentation, “Using Open Source Intelligence to Find Missing People” off Yayla’s research paper, “Ethical Hacking for a Good Cause: Finding Missing People using Crowdsourcing and Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Tools.” 

In Mexico, Ramos taught students, professors, members of law enforcement and local government techniques in cybersecurity that could be used to find missing people.

Ramos called the conference a “cross-collaboration through multiple disciplines.”

“They don’t have half the stuff we do,” Ramos said, stating there is “no centralized database for missing people. There’s not nearly the amount of cyber laws as in the U.S. — and I thought we were behind.”

LaRose brought along one of his students, Michael Young ’25, to present with him, saying he was a “natural fit.”

“In February, he told me not to book anything for spring break,” Young said. “It wasn’t a question, more of a ‘clear your schedule,’” he laughed.

Young, who is pursuing a dual degree in criminology and criminal justice and international studies with minors in Spanish and philosophy, said the topic of the presentation aligned well with what he’s studying.

For their lecture, LaRose focused on human trafficking and missing persons in the United States, while Young covered Mexico and Canada.

After LaRose invited him, Young said he began consuming literature reviews and podcasts and tried to gain a well-rounded understanding of the issues. He read about what was common and where there were research gaps.

Young’s work will continue throughout the semester, as he is taking an independent study. He will produce two papers, one focusing on Mexico and another on Canada.

“It’s a great way to apply international business and criminology,” he said. 

LaRose plans to continue his partnership with Professor of Rights, Paola De La Rosa, from the University of San Luis Potosí, who invited the UT team to Mexico. The pair are planning to publish his presentation in a book, and he would like for her to visit and present at UT. 

Ramos, too, said the experience will stay with her.

Several in her audience had been parents of missing people, including some whom Netflix had made a movie with called “Ruido,” which is Spanish for “noise,” she said.

“It gave me chills the whole time — this was more than a movie. I felt the pain, sorrow, desperation, strength and determination,” Ramos said. 

“It serves as a reminder that what I teach in cyber could transcend into real people’s lives.”

Ramos brought home a very real reminder, so she would not forget the topic or the people she met. Two posters of missing people, given to her by their families, hang in her office, across from her desk.

 

Have a story idea? Contact Brianna Kwasnik, Digital Content Editor/Writer  
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