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A passion for supporting cutting-edge research

| By Anthony King, GPS News

USMEX Fellows

The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies (USMEX) has one of the largest residential fellowship programs in the United States for research on Mexico. Each year, the Center supports independent research while offering fellows the opportunity to engage with students, faculty and the San Diego community.

Ranging in residency from four months to the entire academic year, fellows represent a wide range of up-and-coming scholars and established research leaders in fields of political science, sociology, environmental studies, economics, history and art, among many others. This year’s cohort of 18 fellows span the globe, coming to UC San Diego from the United States, Mexico the United Kingdom, and even as far away as Belgium.

“Each year, our fellows program brings together a group of scholars engaging in cutting-edge research on Mexico and U.S.-Mexico relations from universities across the world,” said Associate Director Melissa Floca. USMEX has welcomed over 600 fellows in its 35 years.

“This year’s researchers and our group of former fellows form an intellectual community of scholars that inform our research and are active participants in the activities of the Center,” Floca said.

Two of last year’s fellows — Alexander Ruiz Euler and Casey Lurtz — were thankful for the Center’s support as an important tool in furthering their careers. When the two came to USMEX at the beginning of the 2013 – 2014 academic year, they were Ph.D. candidates: Ruiz Euler in political science at UC San Diego and Lurtz in history at the University of Chicago. When they left, they had both successfully defended their dissertations.

“Being at USMEX provided me not only the time and resources to finish my dissertation, but also gave me the opportunity to connect with other scholars within and beyond my field,” Lurtz said.

A passion for social change

Fellows coordinator Greg Mallinger is looking forward to the continuing research that will be undertaken for 2014 – 2015: “We are excited to have such a diverse group of predoctoral candidates and visiting faculty as fellows this year. Some of their research topics include violence, native languages, trade, elections and the border." All fellows will present aspects of their research to small groups during their residency.

This year’s fellowship winners include Brian Palmer-Rubin, a Ph.D. candidate in political science from UC Berkeley researching interest organizations and their role in development policy in Mexico. Deborah Watkins, from the Department of Economics at UC San Diego, will continue her dissertation research on U.S.-Mexico trade liberalization, focusing on the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Gema Santamaria, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and historical studies from the New School for Social Research in New York City, will take a slightly different look at violence in 20th century Mexico, focusing on vigilantism and local communities in the state of Puebla. She said she was thrilled to be part of the vibrant and thriving community of scholars.

“I strongly believe that institutions such as the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies can play a leading role in the creation of more democratic, inclusive and resilient societies,” Santamaria said. “Being a USMEX fellow will be an enriching experience at a personal, academic and professional level. Being able to share different disciplinary and intellectual perspectives regarding Mexico’s historical present will allow me to challenge my own work, as well as to situate my research within a broader academic dialogue.”

Santamaria holds a master’s degree in gender and social policy from the London School of Economics, and served as the main advisor for the United Nations Development Programme’s recent Human Development Report for Latin America, titled “Citizen Security with a Human Face: Evidence and Proposals for Latin America.”

She has a passion for scholarly research that goes hand in hand with her firm commitment to positive social change, and will grow that passion as a fellow.

“I hope to be able to work in the creation of collaborative and innovative projects involving leading scholars, civil society representatives and policy makers,” she said. “As a Nicaraguan-born scholar and poet who grew up in Mexico City, I look forward to participating and contributing to the enhancement of the rich cultural life taking place in both sides of the border.”

Continuing research

In addition to Ph.D. candidates, there are five visiting professors as part of this year’s fellows, including environmental studies professor Daniel Klooster from the University of Redlands and Victor Remigio Martinez Cantu from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. Martinez Cantu will be researching security and prosperity at the border.

Fellows Matilde Cordoba Azcarate and Ana Isabel Garcia are lecturers at UC San Diego, continuing their research while teaching courses in the Department of Communications and School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, respectively. A part of last year’s fellows as well, Cordoba Azcarate called her experience at the Center rewarding, giving her a platform to interact with scholars from all disciplines.

Meet the 2014 – 2015 fellows, read their full bios, including research interests and affiliated university, at the USMEX Visiting Fellows website. Once scheduled, all presentation information will be posted on their individual pages.