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Annual Report Highlights Achievements and New Initiatives

The LAII announces the publication of its 2013-2014 Annual Report, which highlights the achievements and initiatives of the past year. Below we share Dr. Susan Tiano's "Letter from the Director."

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On the eve of our 35th anniversary--and in response to your request for more information about the LAII's activities--we want to highlight some of the recent achievements of the LAII and our Latin American Studies (LAS) program. It's been such a remarkable time for us! We are celebrating the success of initiatives that are forging strong networks with international partners and bringing exciting opportunities to and beyond the campus community. With the essential contributions of our affiliated faculty and our committed community collaborators, we are fulfilling our longstanding mission of promoting knowledge of Latin America and Iberia and expanding it in new directions that hold significant promise for UNM's future.

We are delighted by our recent success in securing the Title VI National Resource Center (NRC) grant, which brings prestige and resources to UNM, and the companion Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) grant that provides fellowship support to UNM students. Our overriding objectives for this grant cycle are environmental and cultural sustainability and indigenous communities in Latin America, and we will use the NRC funds over the next four years to expand initiatives in these areas. We will also continue to support departments and faculty across campus, and to promote community-based programs in the schools and at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM).

Our Cuba programs are booming. As in the past, we are using our academic license to good effect to organize popular faculty-led trips for UNM students. And we are especially excited that our People-to-People license, which allows us to take community groups to the island, has been renewed for two more years. Last year we collaborated with both UNM Continuing Education and the Tamarind Institute to organize programs focused on Cuban arts and culture, and we have a number of trips on the horizon. Participants are raving about the experience. Let us know if you'd like to join us for an upcoming trip.

Another exciting initiative builds on our networks with universities in Ecuador to recruit graduate students to UNM. Last year we signed an MOU with the Universidad Central del Ecuador, the oldest and largest public university in the country, to recruit qualified members of their faculty to Ph.D. programs across UNM. The first "pilot" cohort is beginning Spring 2015, and another larger group will follow in their footsteps next fall. Other Ecuadorian universities such as the University of Cuenca are poised to begin working with us as well. While the initiative is still in its infancy, we intend for it to spearhead the development of an innovative model of bi-national collaboration in graduate education that could make UNM a leader among U.S. universities in the years ahead.

As you read though this report, you'll find out about other exciting initiatives, such as the joint international Master's degree program with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), which will enable students to study on both campuses and receive degrees from both universities; the MOU that we signed with the University of Havana that will provide a host of new opportunities for academic collaboration with Cuban faculty; the consortium that the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute (SHRI) and the LAII have formed with New Mexico State University and the University of Texas at El Paso to promote interdisciplinary research on border communities; and the recently created LAS concentrations in Brazilian Studies and Urbanism & Community Development, courses for which were developed by faculty in various UNM departments and seeded with NRC funding during the last several years.

Last year saw many exciting activities that brought our community together, from the annual Greenleaf Symposium on Latin America to the plethora of exciting speakers such as writer and activist Marjorie Agosín, author Junot Díz, and filmmaker Alex Rivera. We had remarkable success with our programs for K-12 educators, which reached a larger audience than ever with workshops focusing on topics as diverse as the Mexican Revolution and Día de los Muertos.

The highlights featured in this report can only scratch the surface of the contributions that the LAII and its affiliated faculty, students, staff and community partners are making to UNM and the region we serve. We hope that it will entice you to learn more about the LAII and our activities by consulting our website, which continues to evolve to become the go-to place for our constituents to keep abreast of our events, initiatives, and offerings for the campus and general community. Among our favorite new features are the profiles that demonstrate the quality of our students and the strengths of our accomplished alumni. We'd be honored to profile you and your activities, so let us know if you'd like to be included.

We are proud of our strong and growing community of Latin Americanists and Iberianists at UNM and beyond. As this publication illustrates, we are developing new means of keeping in touch, such as this annual report. We are delighted to have you as a member of the LAII community and hope you will keep us apprised of your activities and accomplishments, just as we will continue to share our successes with you.

--Posted Friday, January 23, 2015.