About Us


IOA building

For 25 years, the Institute of the Americas has been at the forefront of U.S.-Canada-Latin America cooperation, working with the public and private sectors to encourage investment and information-sharing in energy and technology markets. Charles Shapiro, assumed the presidency of the Institute of the Americas on October 3, 2011. He served temporarily in Trinidad to organize the logistics for the participation of President Obama in the Summit of the Americas in April 2009.  His prior positions have included Coordinator, Western Hemisphere Trade Task Force; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs; Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Andes; U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela; Coordinator for Cuban Affairs; and Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Chile.

This leadership role has drawn 11 Latin American presidents to the Institute over the past 11 years.

-          1987 Raul Alfonsin (Argentina)
-          1989 Oscar Arias Sanchez (Costa Rica)
-          1990 Virgilio Barco Vargas (Colombia)
-          1992 Patricio Aylwin Azocar (Chile)
-          1994 Carlos Saul Menem (Argentina)
-          1997 Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Bolivia)
-          2001 Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico)
-          2004 Ricardo Lagos Escobar (Chile)
-          2005 Alvaro Uribe Velez (Colombia)
-          2006 Alejandro Toledo (Peru)
-          2007 Vicente Fox (Mexico)
-          2008 Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico)

As an impartial and independent non-profit organization, the Institute hosts roundtables and professional workshops from its sweeping complex on the campus of the University of California, San Diego, and in cities throughout Latin America. The Institute’s location 30 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border makes it the premier institution for business exchange on the West Coast of the United States as well a strategic point of entry to Latin America.

The primary focus of the Institute’s programs is energy, climate change and clean technology development.  The Institute also organizes professional journalism workshops on the migration of HIV/AIDS and pandemic preparedness, investigative journalism and science and global warming and hosts conferences on issues facing Latin America such as immigration, poverty and the food crisis.

These are some of the questions that we are frequently asked about the Institute of the Americas:

What is the Institute of the Americas?
The Institute is an independent, inter-American organization that promotes cooperation between the public and private sectors to improve the economic, political and social well-being of people in the Americas.

When was the Institute founded?
In 1983, the Institute was founded by Theodore E. Gildred in collaboration with Richard Atkinson, who was then chancellor of  the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and who later served as president of the University of California. Gildred, a San Diego land developer and former U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, established the framework and the vision for the Institute that is still in place today.

Who heads the Institute?
Charles Shapiro, President. He is guided and supported by a distinguished Board of Directors whose members are business and academic leaders from throughout the Americas.

Is the Institute a non-profit organization?

Yes. The Institute is a 501(c)(3) corporation registered in the State
of California.

Is the Institute part of a university system or the U.S. Government?

No. The Institute receives no funding from UCSD nor is it supported by the federal government. However, we work closely with universities and governments throughout the Western Hemisphere to encourage dialogue on public policies for economic development, trade and investment, good governance and regional integration.

What is the source of the Institute’s funding?
Much of our financial support comes from our Board of Directors, program Steering Groups and corporate members throughout the Americas. The Institute also receives funding from membership dues, conference and roundtable registrations, corporate sponsorships and donations.

How can I find out more about the Institute’s funding?
The Institute’s annual financial statements are available to the public. You can see an electronic version of  the 2007 and 2006 statements by going to the Financial Statements page on this web site.

What is a Steering Group?
Each of the Institute’s programs has a Steering Group comprised of representatives from companies operating in Latin America. Steering Group members offer advice regarding our programs, conference and roundtable locations, event agendas and speakers.

What benefits will I receive if I join?
Our members network with important policymakers and business leaders from throughout the region to learn about political and economic trends as well as business opportunities in the region.

What are the Institute’s primary focus areas?
Energy , Information and Communication Technology and Professional Workshops are at the core of our efforts, as well as Project Mexico, which enables Mexico’s leaders to respond to today’s political and economic challenges, and our Cepas community program, which highlights the best of border life.

Does the Institute focus only on Latin America?
Yes. The Institute responds to the needs of members and collaborators who are looking for business opportunities, pursuing expansion into new markets and seeking project development partners in the Western Hemisphere.

How does the Institute differ from other organizations?
The Institute is focused only on the Americas. It is not a lobbying organization, but an impartial and independent organization that brings together industry leaders, policymakers, and academics for frank and open discussions about the challenges and opportunities in Latin America.

What kinds of events does the Institute organize?

The Institute organizes high-level conferences between leaders of the public and private sectors to strengthen the political, economic and business development ties critical to improving the quality of life in countries throughout the Americas. Most of sessions are open to the public. We also offer professional workshops on subjects ranging from public health to migration to science and technology.

Where is the Institute located?
The Institute is located on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. However, many of the Institute’s conferences and roundtables are held in countries throughout the region, such as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada.


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