Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of five profiles on women associated with the University of New Mexico, who have been recognized by Albuquerque Business First as women of influence in New Mexico.

Sonia M.Gipson Rankin is an Africana Studies senior lecturer, the Associate Dean of University College and the director of first-year success projects at the University of New Mexico. She teaches a course at UNM’s School of Law and is also a wife and mother of three.

She never fails to find inspiration from her students, she said.

“It’s watching them unpack the material in the classroom. It’s watching them figure out how to navigate campus. It’s watching them find their community, watching them take leadership positions, watching them translate their classroom work into the workplace and the things they want to do,” Rankin said.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Rankin pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science, she said. She pursued a law degree in Illinois and then moved to Albuquerque, where she began teaching at a career college, she said.

“Nothing is better than standing in a classroom and working with students toward a thought or an idea and watching the revelation that comes forth,” Rankin said.

She said there is something special about UNM.

“We got something really, really unique here at the University of New Mexico that I think we are just on the cusp of really being able to strongly articulate that to around the state, throughout the nation (and) internationally,” she said.

Rankin has always had the dream and desire to explain world and societal topics to the next generation, she said.

“I have been teaching since I was in the second grade,” she said. “I lined all my dolls up, all my Barbie dolls, my Cabbage Patch Kids, and they were all in my class and I would teach my dolls all day long.”

Between teaching and her administrative work, Rankin continues to take a personal deep dive into other parts of herself to continue to explore her identity.

“I love to read any and everything. I like to write stories and ideas, just things I’m pondering,” she said.

Rankin’s recent literary obsession is “The Lady Sherlock” series by Sherry Thomas, but comics are her favorite form of literature, she said.

Rankin is not sure of what the future may hold, but she wants to continue to create positive work and inspire more students at UNM, she said.

“I hope to keep doing more administrative work. I hope to keep being a part of the University and help it to think about where it wants to be next, where it can be next,” she said.

Shayla Cunico is a culture reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @ShaylaCunico.