The gift of education and inclusiveness

Ross and Cecilia Romero

When Cecilia Romero arrived at the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2000, she was one of few students of color in her class.

Soon after her arrival she connected with the law school’s academic assistance program, which at the time was led by professor John Flynn and professor Bob Flores. The program was vital to helping her find her stride in an often-intimidating world of demanding law professors and intense coursework. Group training sessions with Flynn and Flores meant she and classmates had a place to go to share their struggles and to receive advice on navigating law school.

“It provided much needed mentoring, guidance and a caring environment—a “safe zone” if you will,” said Romero of the program, which was geared at helping minority students find camaraderie. “Professors Flynn and Flores were so kind and encouraging. It made such a difference.”

Memories of that experience prompted Cecilia Romero, along with her husband Ross Romero, to get involved on a personal level upon learning that the S.J. Quinney College of Law wanted to launch a new set of diversity initiatives, including the creation of a special Diversity and Inclusion Suite.

The couple knew they wanted to give back to a similar type of program that helped both of them in the beginning of their legal careers.

“We wanted students of color to know they were welcome and that there were students of color that went before them and many that will come after,” said Ross Romero.

The Romeros were among a group of minority donors whose personal experience as minorities in law school inspired them to give to the College of Law for the naming of the Admissions and Inclusion Suite, designed to be a welcoming gateway to law school for the minority student community.

The suite opened in 2016 and is envisioned as a place to help people of color in law school better connect with resources and a community to assist them in excelling through law school, a path that for many is travelled alone as the first in their family to pursue a higher education.

Donations for the suite also came from Gilbert Martinez, Sam Alba, Jane and Tami Marquardt, Robert Marquardt and Ken Okazaki. The law firm of Jones Waldo also contributed significantly to the suite’s creation.

The Romeros said they are happy to see two years after the launch that the suite is fulfilling its goal as a place for minority students at the College of Law to get off to the right start. Ross Romero attended law school at the University of Michigan and was a leader in the Hispanic Law Student Association, a group that was a great resource to him as he transitioned to law school. He said the S.J. Quinney College of Law inclusion suite is reminiscent of some of the outreach experiences he had in Michigan. Today, Ross Romero serves a mentor to Utah law students after spending many years as a Utah legislator. He currently works as a senior advisor in government relations at Michael Best Strategies in Salt Lake City and serves on the board of the University of Utah Alumni Association.

Cecilia Romero is a partner at the law offices of Holland & Hart in the Salt Lake City office, where she focuses on employment and commercial litigation and counseling.  She also gives back to her alma mater through service, by volunteering on the Board of Trustees at the College of Law and providing insight on the Dean’s Diversity Council, a group of professionals and community stakeholders dedicated to recruiting minority applicants to the law school and assisting with job placement after graduation.

“We know how privileged we are to have received our education.  Law school provided a great education, excellent friends and a wonderful foundation upon which to build,” said Cecilia Romero.