When he sees that something is missing — an opportunity, a connection, an open door — he’s not afraid to be the one to create it.

October 12, 2021

By Julie Cooper, ’18

When he sees that something is missing — an opportunity, a connection, an open door — he’s not afraid to be the one to create it.

Román Hernández, ‘92, looks back on his time at Oregon State as a culture shock, and simultaneously, a welcoming embrace. Coming to OSU from a rural town in Eastern Oregon with very few Mexican American families like his own, he soon learned how a robust community could change his life forever.

His involvement with campus groups, including the Hispanic Student Union, the Educational Opportunities Program, the Air Force ROTC program and the Arnold Air Society, helped him develop a sense of “cultural awareness and pride” and an inclination toward community leadership.

Now, he’s opening doors for others the same way his fellow Beavers did — both as an Oregon State alumnus and as a professional in a field that still grapples with many inequities. Román is the managing partner at the Portland office of Troutman Pepper, one of the 50 largest law firms in the country, where he practices employment law and commercial litigation.

Headshot of Román Hernández. He's smiling with a suit on and there's a blue background.

Even when he’s not solving problems for clients and confronting a new legal challenge every day, he strives to help others. He’s a mentor to fellow lawyers and law students, and he’s been building bridges for Latinos in law for decades in a state where only about 1.77% of attorneys identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino in 2020.

While attending Lewis and Clark Law School, he founded the college’s Latino Legal Society and in 2002, just two years after he began practicing law, he co-founded the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association. Román has also served as former president and longtime supporter of the Hispanic National Bar Association, an organization he credits with helping him find community and belonging in his field.

His motivation for taking on all these professional extracurriculars is simple: “I want people not to have such a difficult time as I did when I started practicing law.”

It’s that same feeling that has led him back, after all these years, to his Oregon State community, where he’s helping to rebuild alumni connections to OSU and each other through reviving the Chicano/a Latino/a Alumni Network.

“I think there’s a lot we can do to assist one another,” he says. “We each have our individual histories with Oregon State, but I think we can meet with one another, develop relationships and collectively support Latino students at Oregon State and show them that there are opportunities beyond the educational experience.”