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Because of the geographic location and unique cultural history of New Mexico, The University of New Mexico (UNM) has emphasized Latin American Studies since the early 1930s. In 1979, the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) was founded to coordinate Latin American programs on campus. Designated a National Resource Center (NRC) by the US Department of Education, the LAII offers academic degrees, supports research, and provides development opportunities for faculty. In addition to the Latin American Studies (LAS) degrees offered, the LAII supports Latin American studies in departments and professional schools across campus by awarding student fellowships and providing funds for faculty and curriculum development. The LAII is also committed to expanding awareness, knowledge, and understanding of Latin America and Iberia among diverse constituents. Through its community education programs, the LAII coordinates a wide array of outreach initiatives, including K-12 teacher professional development opportunities; post-secondary academic conferences and lecture series; workshops and symposia for business leaders, government officials, and media representatives; and cultural events for the general community.

The LAII's mission is to create a stimulating environment for the production and dissemination of knowledge of Latin America and Iberia at UNM. We believe our goals are best pursued by efforts to build upon the insights of more than one academic discipline. We support research from the humanities and social sciences, as well as the natural sciences, health sciences, and other professional schools. Therefore, when allocating materials and human resources, we give special consideration to broadly interdisciplinary projects that promote active collaboration from different schools, colleges, and/or departments.