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Group photo of USMEX team; the right side has a dark blue overlay with the UC San Diego branded element of a stylized tridentMeet the Team

Director

  • Rafael Fernández de Castro

    Rafael Fernández de Castro

    Director, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies; Professor, GPS; Aaron Feldman Family Chancellor's Endowed Chair in U.S.-Mexican Studies in Memory of David Feldman
    Email | Bio

    Rafael Fernández de Castro is a professor at the School, Aaron Feldman Family Chancellor's Endowed Chair in U.S.-Mexican Studies in Memory of David Feldman, and director of USMEX. A former foreign policy adviser to President Felipe Calderón, he is an expert on bilateral relations between Mexico and the U.S. He is founder and former chair of the Department of International Studies at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City. He has published numerous academic articles and written several books, including “Contemporary U.S.- Latin American Relations: Cooperation or Conflict in the 21st Century?” and “The United States and Mexico: Between Partnership and Conflict” with Jorge Domínguez. He also worked as the Project Director of the UNDP’s Human Development Report for Latin America 2013-14, “Citizen Security With a Human Face: Evidence and Proposals for Latin America.” He is the founder and editor of Foreign Affairs Latin America and contributes to the daily newspaper El Financiero and a regular contributor to Televisa.

Staff

The USMEX staff manages the research agenda of the center as well as its fellowship program on Mexican studies in the U.S., and the coordination of events and conferences throughout the year.

  • Catheryn Camacho Bolanos

    Catheryn Camacho Bolanos

    Associate Director
    Email

    Catheryn Camacho Bolanos has over 15 years of professional experience in the public sector and academia as a public policy researcher, adviser, lecturer and consultant. She oversees various projects at USMEX. Camacho Bolanos is also an affiliated researcher with the Center for Studies on Security, Intelligence, and Governance (CESIG) at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico (ITAM) based in Mexico City. Prior to her work at UC San Diego, she was appointed to the Protection Department in the Consulate General of Mexico in San José, California, where she analyzed public policies related to Mexican nationals living in the U.S. She also provided legal advice to Mexican nationals facing issues related to their immigration status, labor condition or civil matters—either in Mexico or the U.S.

    She also worked in Financiera Rural, a Mexican government financing agency aimed to provide economic resources to the rural sector. There, she carried out an extensive academic analysis to design and implement a program aimed at financing and providing subsidies to Mexican migrants living in the U.S. As a result of this project, over one hundred million pesos were approved for the development of productive projects for migrants and their families in Mexico. She also developed financial strategies for women and young entrepreneurs in the rural sector.

    Later, she worked as a political researcher and international advisor in the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Mexican Senate. She was also appointed Chief of Staff of Senator Gabriela Cuevas. After her experience in the senate, Camacho Bolanos participated in a project titled “Co-Constructing Human Security in Mexico. A Methodology and Action Plan from Communities to the State,” as an academic collaboration ITAM-LSE. She then joined the International Studies Department at ITAM as a lecturer and later became the coordinator of CESIG.

    Camacho Bolanos holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), a master’s degree in government and public policy, and a Ph.D. in law from Universidad Panamericana. Her work examines the multiple dimensions of security and their impacts on the design of public policy in the case of the Mexican National Guard.

  • Cecilia Farfán Méndez

    Cecilia Farfán Méndez

    Head of Security Research Programs
    Email

    Cecilia Farfán leads the security research portfolio of the center. She also is an affiliated researcher with the Center for Studies on Security, Intelligence, and Governance (CESIG) at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico (ITAM) based in Mexico City. Farfán is an expert on organized crime and female participation in criminal groups, and co-founded the Mexico Violence Resource Project, an online platform providing analysis and resources for journalists and policymakers on violence and organized crime in Mexico. Since 2020, she has co-chaired the Public Security and Public Health working group of the U.S.-Mexico Forum 2025 led by USMEX.

    In addition to her formal academic initiatives, Farfán has consulted for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, is a columnist for Mexico Today, member of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Urban Violence Research Network and is a member of the strategy committee for the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development.

    Farfán received her doctorate in political science from UC Santa Barbara, her master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and her bachelor’s in international relations from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She has been a recipient of several research fellowships including the Fulbright Program, the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and Mexico’s National Council on Science and Technology.

  • Claudia A. Fernández Calleros

    Claudia A. Fernández Calleros

    Academic Coordinator for Financial Inclusion
    Email

    Claudia A. Fernández Calleros is the academic coordinator for financial inclusion at the center. She is also a research assistant at FABLE-México, which is part of a global consortium modeling land use to 2050. Claudia received a Master of Public Policy from the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) in 2021 where she pursued a double specialization on Program Design and Evaluation, and Peace and Security. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Prior to GPS, she worked in the Directions for Health and Financial Literacy at the Institute for Mexicans Abroad.
  • Michael Lettieri

    Michael Lettieri

    Senior Fellow for Human Rights
    Email

    Michael Lettieri is a Senior Fellow for Human Rights at USMEX. His work has explored the political culture and authoritarian politics in 20th Century Mexico, journalism and threats to freedom of expression during the drug war and gender-based violence.

    He is the co-founder and managing editor of the Mexico Violence Resource Project and has written broadly about the intersections between democracy, security policy, organized crime and violence. His current work includes a study of foreign media coverage of the Mexican drug war, and an effort to develop new digital tools for documenting disappearances in partnership with local activists in Sinaloa.

    He holds a Ph.D. in modern Latin American history from UC San Diego and previously worked at the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego where he managed programs on human rights and the border region.

  • Mónica Bauer

    Mónica Bauer

    Coordinator for CaliBaja Working Group
    Email

    Monica Bauer oversees the CaliBaja initiatives and immigration programs at the center. Bauer's professional career has focused on intergroup, interfaith, government and public relations. She brings more than a decade experience in a leading national civil rights organization where she successfully developed and maintained strong long-term relationships with community leaders and established strategic partnerships with government, media and nonprofits in the pursuit of combatting hate and discrimination.

    Bauer is a Mexico City native and a San Diegan since 1999. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Universidad Iberoamericana and received a Post-Graduate Certificate in U.S.-Mexico Border Studies from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte and UC San Diego Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies School of Global Policy and Strategy.

    Bauer was an advisor for the Institute for Mexicans Abroad and a commissioner for the City of San Diego Human Relations Commision where she took a leading role in the proposal for the creation of an office of immigrant affairs that became a reality in 2019.

  • John B. McNeece III

    John B. McNeece III

    Senior Fellow for Energy & Trade
    Email619-888-4889

    John McNeece is Senior Fellow for Energy & Trade at USMEX. His work in Mexico extends back to the NAFTA negotiations, where he served as an advisor on issues of Mexican law to the Office of the United States Trade Representative negotiating team for NAFTA Chapter Nineteen: Review and Dispute Settlement in Antidumping/Countervailing Duty Matters.

    McNeece’s transactional work in Mexico included legal advice on formation of cross-border joint ventures, acquisition and development of renewable energy projects, complex financial transactions, mergers and acquisitions and venture capital transactions. He has written extensively on the Mexican energy Reform in the power sector.

    McNeece is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley Law School. He is also an attorney who worked with the international law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP working out of the firm’s San Diego and New York offices until his retirement from the practice of law in July 2017.  At Pillsbury, he was a member of the Latin America, Energy and Corporate & Securities practices.

  • Alan Sweedler

    Alan Sweedler

    Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment
    Email858-344-2685

    Alan Sweedler is Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment at USMEX where his expertise is in the area of energy policy, technology and environmental impacts of energy use, especially climate change and the energy-water nexus. Sweedler was a Congressional Science Fellow and worked in the U.S. Senate on issues of energy, water and national security. He was also a Carnegie Foundation Science Fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Arms Control and was a visiting scholar at the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation as well as director of the California Energy Commission’s Energy Innovation Small Grants Program. He has edited, co-edited and contributed chapters to books dealing with energy, air quality, security and climate change with a focus on the U.S.-Mexico border region. He recently retired from San Diego State University, where he was associate vice president in charge of the university’s international programs, director of the Center for Energy Studies and a professor of physics. He currently holds a PIMSE Chair as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at CETYS University in Mexico and serves on the Congressionally mandated Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB).

  • Arturo Chiquito

    Arturo Chiquito

    Program Coordinator
    Email(858) 822-1309

    Arturo Chiquito works alongside the USMEX director to assist in the planning of events and programmatic activities. Previously, he worked as a research assistant at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. Chiquito holds a B.A. in political science with a minor in Catholic Social Traditions from the University of Notre Dame.  

  • Greg Mallinger

    Greg Mallinger

    Fellows Coordinator
    Email(858) 822-1696

    Greg Mallinger manages the fellowship program at USMEX. He previously was the program coordinator for the Center, overseeing the first two Mexico Moving Forward conferences. Mallinger holds an MPIA from GPS and a B.A. in international relations from UC Davis.

  • Adana Martinez

    Adana Martinez

    Research Center Events Coordinator
    Email

    Adana Martinez assists in coordinating and executing event, conference and workshops logistics.

  • Iva Kostova

    Iva Kostova

    Manager of Research Programs
    Email(858) 822-3103

    Iva Kostova oversees events, programming and fiscal management for all research centers at GPS. She holds an MPIA from GPS.

Research Assistants

UC San Diego graduate students work on the various research projects at the Center.

  • Ernesto Castañeda

    Ernesto Castañeda

    Ernesto Castañeda is a 2023 Masters of International Affairs candidate at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, specializing in Latin American Politics. He received his B.A. from California State University, San Bernardino, in Political Science with a minor in History. Castañeda assists the Program Manager and Director with research and social media projects.
  • Meghan Mattioli Zavala

    Meghan Mattioli Zavala

    Meghan Mattioli Zavala is a 2023 Master of Public Policy candidate at UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy with a specialization in Program Design and Evaluation. She graduated from UC San Diego with a B.A. in International Studies - Economics in 2015 and then worked in the community-based nonprofit sector in North County San Diego prior to joining the USMEX team.
  • Austin Patten Bustos

    Austin Patten Bustos

    Austin Patten Bustos is a 2022 Masters of International Affairs candidate at GPS pursuing a specialization in Latin American Politics. Prior to assisting USMEX, he was in the International Business Affairs Department at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, where he advocated for the rights of small businesses in the Cali-Baja region. He holds a B.A. in History from Western Washington University.