Skip to main content


P_A_FisherEdward F. Fischer, Director (email )
Edward (Ted) Fischer is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University. He also directs a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project in collaboration with WHO-Europe on the Cultural Contexts of Health and Wellbeing.  In 2009, Fischer founded Maní+, an award-winning social enterprise in Guatemala that develops and produces locally sourced foods to fight malnutrition, and he currently serves on the board of the Maya Education Foundation. His research focusses on issues of political economy, values, wellbeing, and development. He has authored or edited a number of books, including most recently The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing (2014). Fischer is currently completing a book that examines the ways cultural and economic values are intertwined in the high-end coffee market.

P_A_averyAvery Dickins de Girón, Executive Director (email )

Avery Dickins de Girón is the Executive Director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies and a Senior Lecturer in Latin America Studies.  She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Vanderbilt (2008).  Avery oversees CLAS operations, including center programming, outreach, NRC and FLAS budgets, and grant-writing.  She spearheads our collaborations with Minority Serving Institutions, most recently working with Tuskegee University to establish a Portuguese language program, and with Meharry Medical College to provide medical Spanish and expand clinical experiences abroad.  Avery also manages the Latin American Garden and its related database.  The garden houses over 50 species of plants native to Latin America, and is used as an interactive learning tool for Vanderbilt students, faculty, and staff, as well as the Nashville community.  Avery works with faculty across the university to support coursework relating to Latin America, and regularly contributes to our professional development activities for K-16 educators. Avery’s research examines insecurity in Guatemala, and international development programs in Q’eqchi’ Maya communities in Alta Verapaz.  Avery teaches seminars on Central America for pre-specialty nursing students as part of their Community Health course, a first-year student seminar that highlights the Latin American Garden, and other courses focused on health, development, and culture in Guatemala. Avery is the national Coordinator for the Guatemala Scholars Network, which brings together over 400 scholars and hosts a bi-annual conference in Guatemala.  She sits on the board of the Inter-American Health Alliance that supports the Primeros Pasos clinic in Quetzaltenango, and helps coordinate students carrying out research and volunteering at the clinic. Avery regularly serves as a Mentor Committee member for MPH students working in Latin America.

Colleen McCoy, Outreach Coordinator (email)
Colleen is the Outreach Coordinator of the Center for Latin American Studies.  As Outreach Coordinator, Colleen leads our public engagement programs, organizing our K-16 teacher workshop series and summer institutes, strengthening our collaborations with Minority Serving Institutions and regional postsecondary institutions, building partnerships and programing with local cultural arts organizations, and working with teachers to develop curricular resources. She also co-coordinates the Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature, sponsored by the national Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs in collaboration with the Library of Congress. Colleen is the Chair of the Academy of IB Diploma Programme Partners Board at Hillsboro High School and serves on the Advisory Board for Cheekwood Estate & Garden’s el Dia de los Muertos celebration. Colleen received her M.Ed in International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt University, a B.A. in International Studies and Spanish, and a B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Kentucky.

Alma website1Alma Paz-Sanmiguel, Adminstrative Assistant II (email )
Alma Paz-Sanmiguel joined CLAS in July 2011 as Administrative Assistant II. She comes to us with a background in graphic arts and small business management. Most recently Alma worked as Executive Assistant  of  Las Paletas  Gourmet Ice Pops.  Alma’s  duties include providing administrative support for CLAS faculty and staff, coordinating logistics of visiting speakers, and helping to strengthen the Center’s relationships both on and off campus thru events such as Global Villages at Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival, organized the Latin American Images Photo Competition and current member of the Warren Center’s Community Advisory Council. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Alma has been involved in cultural outreach for the Latin American community in Nashville.

P_A_paulaPaula Covington, Bibliographer (email )
Paula Covington is Latin American and Iberian Bibliographer at the Vanderbilt University Libraries and a Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies.  She has taught Latin American Research Methods for more than three decades, and is the author of an award-winning work, Latin America and the Caribbean: A Research Guide, a research project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Paula is past president of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), an international organization focused on the development of research services and library collections of Latin Americana. She has twice received the José Toribio Medina award for a distinguished monograph in Latin American Studies. Paula received her degrees from Syracuse University and Vanderbilt University in Latin American history and studied at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.  She is a participant in an NEH-funded project to preserve and digitize colonial Latin American slave society records (Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies). Her principal research interest is 19th-century women travelers to Latin America.