Mauricio Benítez

The Kellogg Institute for International Studies proudly welcomes as its new executive director Mauricio Benítez, who previously served as the associate director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago. 

Raised in Jojutla, Morelos, Mexico, Benítez initially came to the United States to study political science, first at the University of California, San Diego, and then at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a PhD in 2008. There he came to know former Kellogg visiting fellows and informal ambassadors for the Institute Ruth Berins Collier and David Collier, who spoke highly of the Institute and introduced Benítez to the work of its researchers and to its renowned Working Paper Series. 

“As I developed as an academic, the work of people like Guillermo O’Donnell, Scott Mainwaring, Michael Coppedge, and Fran Hagopian, among others, had a great influence on me,” shared Benítez. 

He continued to keep up with Kellogg’s scholarship and happenings as he graduated, became an assistant professor at Chapman University, and eventually moved into administration as a program director and then executive director with the Mexico office of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

“While I was trained as a political scientist, I came to recognize that academia per se wasn’t my calling – my passion really was for working with people,” shared Benítez about his shift in careers. “I had an epiphany moment when I realized that I could use my training and background to help others to conduct research and educate students. It was the perfect way to combine my skills, my gifts, and my love for higher education into a new professional direction.”

Through the years, Benítez has gained a strong background in supporting faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students, as well as in building university relationships and stewarding donor funds. He also has gained significant experience in developing programming on some of the Global South’s most pressing issues, such as the environment, migration, violence, education, and democracy. And he has honed a myriad of skills in managing the day-to-day operations of an international research institute – all of which will be assets in his new role with the Kellogg Institute. 

“Mauricio’s leadership style, his academic training, and his professional experience fit very well the needs of the Kellogg Institute and into the culture of Notre Dame,” commented Kellogg Director Aníbal Pérez-Liñán. Citing the study of democracy and poverty as two of the University’s strategic priorities for the next decade, he added, “His role as executive director will be crucial for the future of the Kellogg Institute, the Keough School of Global Affairs, and the University of Notre Dame at large.”

“This position holds a formidable challenge – it’s hard to take an institution of such excellence to a higher level,” commented Benítez. “But I do think Notre Dame’s Democracy Initiative holds great opportunities for Kellogg, and it will be important to seize those while also maintaining focus on our other main research theme of human development.”

Benítez also names other priorities outlined in the Kellogg Institute’s new Strategic Plan that he sees as opportunities for growth, and he points to new efforts – such as highlighting the policy relevance of the institute’s research and recent innovations in student programming – as examples of Kellogg continuing to pursue excellence.

He said he feels primed for the challenges, citing the staff at Kellogg as one of its great assets that he hopes to rely upon as he becomes acclimated to his new role. 

Benítez said that overall, he is “thrilled” to be at Kellogg after admiring it for so long from afar:

“I came to know Kellogg as a place of excellence in research, but also as a place of collegiality and community. And that reputation has stuck with me through the years. It’s in large part what made me want to come to Kellogg,” he said.

“And of course, it is a privilege to continue the legacy of so many excellent executive directors here and to be part of carrying out the vision of Fr. Hesburgh to further the study of democracy and development at Notre Dame through Kellogg.”