LAII Welcomes New Academic Associate Director

January 21, 2014

The Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Matías Fontenla, Associate Professor of Economics, to the position of Associate Director for Academic Programs for the LAII. In commenting upon his new position, Fontenla stated that he "looks forward to the opportunity to work more closely with the wonderful students, faculty, and staff of the LAS program."

As Associate Director for Academic Programs, Fontenla will oversee the LAII's Latin American Studies (LAS) program. The LAS program is an interdisciplinary program that grants B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. In addition to the M.A. in Latin American Studies, the program has established dual degree options with five programs (Business Administration, Community & Regional Planning, Education, Law, and Public Health) in which students simultaneously earn the M.A. in LAS and a professional degree.

Fontenla, who is Argentine, earned a B.S. and B.A. in Economics and German, respectively, from the University of Utah (1997), and an M.A. (2001) and Ph.D. (2003) in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2005 he joined the Department of Economics at the University of New Mexico, and shortly thereafter became affiliated with the LAII. Fontenla has published prolifically in refereed journals such as Contemporary Economic Policy, Macroeconomic Dynamics, Journal of Housing Economics, and El Trimestre Económico, among others. His work has also appeared as book chapters and in edited volumes.

As a professor, Fontenla is regularly recognized as a dedicated and innovative instructor. In 2012 he was honored as an Outstanding Teacher of the Year, an award which recognizes and rewards teaching excellence and fosters a campus climate that supports teaching improvement and accomplishment.

This dedication to education is evident in his regular classroom instruction, but becomes exemplified each year in Fontenla's faculty-led study abroad course, "Sustainable Development in Nicaragua," where students gain the opportunity to study firsthand issues of sustainable development in Central America. The course focuses on the three main aspects of economic development: income, education, and health. Students explore the social, economic and political variables that underpin poverty and deep social inequalities in the country; and, most importantly, explore solutions to these problems.

Alongside welcoming Fontenla to the position, the LAII bids a fond farewell to Dr. Kathryn J. McKnight, who stepped down in Spring 2014 after serving five years as the Associate Director for Academic Programs. McKnight begins a term of sabbatical this spring and will return in the fall to resume teaching with the UNM Department of Spanish & Portuguese.