Andrew L. Spivak

Andrew L. Spivak, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

CBC-B 241


Andrew came to UNLV in 2008 from Norman, Oklahoma after receiving his Ph.D. in Sociology from University of Oklahoma. He worked for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections from 1997 to 2008, beginning as a correctional officer and later serving as a prison case manager and research analyst. He brought that on-the-ground experience in crime and corrections to his work as a researcher and teacher at UNLV. His students lauded his mentorship as sharply analytical and deeply informed by both his disciplinary knowledge in criminology and practical work experiences in the field that really set him apart.

Andrew deeply valued his students and worked tirelessly for their success. His excellence is reflected in the trove of teaching awards he received over the years, including: the 2010 College of Liberal Arts William Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2014 Alex G. and Faye Spanos Distinguished Teaching Award, the 2015 UNLV Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award, and the 2016 Nevada Regents Teaching Award. Most importantly, his students recall him as “a positive, and unwaveringly supportive mentor, advisor, and leader,” who “always made time” for students “no matter how busy he was.” He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in criminology, penology, research methods, statistics, and demography, and supervised an internship program in cooperation with the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Dr. Spivak’s research, twice funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, addressed wide-ranging topics including prison inmate demographics and recidivism, neighborhood policing, juvenile prostitution, juvenile justice processing, violent behavior, tobacco regulation compliance, sexual commerce and residential segregation. He has published two books and numerous articles, chapters, and reports. He also used his research to shape public understandings about crime, population, and inequality through interviews with local, national and international print and broadcast media.

Dr. Spivak is survived by his partner Rela and his young son Ian.

Past Courses Taught

  • SOC 101 — Principles of Sociology
  • SOC 403 — Techniques of Social Research
  • SOC 404 — Statistical Methods in the Social Sciences
  • SOC 415 — World Population Problems
  • SOC 431 — Crime and Criminal Behavior
  • SOC 434 — Penology and Social Control
  • SOC 702 — Quantitative Methods
  • SOC 737 — Seminar in Criminological Theories

Past Research Projects

  • Health Sociology of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes
    This area of research relates to several projects including (1) the efficacy of juvenile tobacco restrictions, especially the 1992 “Synar Amendment” that led all of fifty U.S. states to enact prohibitions on tobacco sales to minors, (2) public attitudes toward tobacco control legislation, including cigarette taxes and smoking/vaping restrictions in public spaces, and (3) the influence of marketing on public attitudes toward electronic cigarette use, especially as an alternative to traditional combustible tobacco products.
  • Prostitution Among Las Vegas Youth
    This project involves several working papers from an ethnographic study of adolescent sex workers in Las Vegas, Nevada, using in-depth interviews conducted between 2012 and 2014 as part of a Department of Justice grant. We examine the narratives of these youths’ first sexual and paid-sex experiences, and the nuanced interplay of victimization and agency in their circumstances. Findings reflect a range of conditions – from abuse and coercion to innovation and survival – with common themes including a lack of third party management (i.e., pimps) and introduction to first paid-sex experiences by friends and customers. Our discussion attempts to situate these results alongside the dominant narrative surrounding child sex trafficking in the United States.
  • LGBT Special Needs Offenders
    This project, in collaboration with one of the UNLV Department of Sociology’s doctoral students, explores issues related to LGBT inmates in prisons and jails, including prevalence and demographics, victimization, social/cultural challenges related to LGBT prisoners, administration and housing, healthcare and programming.