The Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) announces the appointment of Matías Fontenla, associate professor of economics, to the position of associate director for academic programs for the LAII. Fontenla said, "I look forward to the opportunity to work more closely with the wonderful students, faculty and staff of the Latin American Studies program."

As associate director for academic programs, Fontenla will oversee the LAII's Latin American Studies program, 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 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 UNM Department of Economics, 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.

Fontenla replaces Kathryn J. McKnight, who stepped down in Spring 2014 after serving five years as 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.