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Meet the USMEX Team

  • Peter Cowhey

    Peter Cowhey

    Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
    (858) 534-1946

    Peter Cowhey is the Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UC San Diego. As a former senior counselor in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and a former chief of the International Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission, Cowhey is a leading expert on the future of communications and information technology markets and policy. He specializes in U.S. trade policy, foreign policy, the Internet, global biological threats, international corporate strategy and the microfinance industry to alleviate poverty. Cowhey currently serves on a binational experts group appointed by the U.S. and Chinese governments to research and guide innovation policy and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition to having served on the advisory boards of the United Nations Development Programme and the U.S. Agency for International Development, he has advised more than 50 countries on reforming their communications markets.


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.

  • Melissa Floca

    Melissa Floca

    Interim Director
    (858) 534-6066

    Melissa Floca sits on the advisory boards of UC MEXUS and Columbia Pangea Advisors as well as on the operating committees of the UC-Mexico Initiative and The Puentes Consortium. Formerly, she worked at the Mexico City-based office of McKinsey & Co., where she served clients on projects related to financial inclusion, public health and low-income housing. She also founded Sé Más Microfinanzas, a microfinance organization providing financial education and financial services to micro-entrepreneurs in Mexico. Floca holds a degree in political science and economics from Johns Hopkins University, where she also earned a graduate degree in international relations from the School of Advanced International Studies. In addition, she holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.

  • Denise Moreno Ducheny

    Denise Moreno Ducheny

    Senior Policy Advisor

    Denise Moreno Ducheny served in the California State Senate from 2002 to 2010, representing the 40th District. Prior to her election, she served in the California State Assembly from 1994 to 2000 and on the San Diego Community College Board from 1990 to 1994. While a member of the state Assembly, Ducheny launched a series of binational meetings among state legislators of the 10 U.S.-Mexico border states that eventually became known as the Border Legislative Conference. During her years in the state Senate, she also led the effort to convene regular meetings of state legislators from California and the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Denise currently is a co-chair of the Border Innovation Awards Project and a member of the North American Research Partnership advisory board. She was awarded the Premio Ohtli by Mexico’s Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the board of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and North American Development Bank. Ducheny holds a B.A. in history from Pomona College and a J.D. from Southwestern Law School.

  • Greg Mallinger

    Greg Mallinger

    Fellows Coordinator
    (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.

  • Iva Kostova

    Iva Kostova

    Manager of Research Programs
    (858) 822-3103

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

  • Lisa Lee

    Lisa Lee

    Research Center Events Coordinator
    (858) 534-2657

    Lisa Lee coordinates logistics for public lectures, conferences and dinners. She works closely with the multiple research center directors and assists them from pre-event to post-event coordination. Lee holds a B.A. in international studies from UC San Diego.

  • Zaira Razu

    Zaira Razu

    Senior Research Associate
    (858) 246-2192

    Zaira Razu manages and fosters partnerships for research projects at the center. She formerly served as a project manager and research associate at Stanford University’s Program on Poverty and Governance, where she evaluated government and nonprofit crime-prevention strategies and youth re-integration programs, as well as studied public health and inequality in Mexico. Razu also worked as a consultant for the education sector of the Inter-American Development Bank and as a research analyst at Fundación IDEA and the Center Mario Molina. She holds an M.A. in international policy studies from Stanford University and a B.A. in political science from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.

  • Simeng Zeng

    Simeng Zeng

    Research Centers Administrative Assistant
    (858) 822-5059

    Simeng Zeng assists with fiscal-related tasks and managing travel arrangements for staff, faculty and guests.

Research Assistants

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

  • Mariana Lopez

    Mariana Lopez

    Mariana Lopez is an MAS-IA candidate 2017 at GPS. A native to Mexico City, she has more than 12 years experience as the owner of a translation and interpretation business, working with a range of organizations, including high-level governmental agencies, universities, businesses and nonprofits. Lopez holds a B.A. from Escuela Panamericana de Hoteleria and a California professional accreditation in translation and interpretation.

  • Saul Oziel Lopez

    Saul Oziel Lopez

    Saul Oziel Lopez is an MIA candidate 2017 at GPS. Formerly, as a graduate student at Universidad Autonoma de Baja California (UABC), he researched the intersection of energy consumption, international politics and cooperation as well as taught international relations courses to undergraduate students. He holds a B.A. in international relations from the School of Economics and International Relations of UABC, where he earned a M.A. in global development studies.

  • John Porten

    John Porten

    John Porten is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego. His research focuses on community development and informal institutions in contexts of crisis or conflict. He currently is implementing a survey project in the Dadaab displacement camps in Northeastern Kenya. Prior to UC San Diego, Porten practiced for several years as a corporate litigator in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.

Student Assistants

In addition to the full-time staff members, student interns provide logistical support for USMEX-sponsored events, conferences and fellows program. You may contact an intern via email to usmex@ucsd.edu.

  • Veronica Benitez

    Veronica Benitez

    Veronica Benitez currently is a sophomore at UC San Diego, majoring in political science. During the past year, she has pursued a more active role in the undocumented student community by serving as an undocumented student ambassador for UC San Diego. Benitez plans to pursue a career as a criminal attorney.