The achievements and contributions made by Hispanic and Latinx Americans have been paramount to our society, nation, communities, and the University of Houston Law Center. Starting on Sept. 15, we commence the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and applaud the extraordinary feats of those in the Hispanic and Latinx communities.
After initially beginning as a week-long observance in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month is now celebrated through Oct. 15, honoring those whose family origins are from Latin American and Hispanic countries: Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Spain, and Central and South America. From Sonia Sotomayor becoming the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, to former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman cementing herself as the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Texas Supreme Court, to Fortuanto Pedro Benavides being the first Hispanic to serve on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, there are countless examples of those in the Hispanic and Latinx communities who have made groundbreaking change.
At the Law Center, almost 40 percent of the entering class are from underrepresented backgrounds of which 18.4 percent of the class are of Hispanic or Latinx origin. Moreover, three of our most recent faculty hires are of Latinx backgrounds: Daniel Morales, the George Butler Professor of Law, who specializes in immigration law, Elizabeth Trujillo, the Mary Ann & Lawrence E. Faust Professor of Law, who specializes in international economic law, and Jessica Bregant, Assistant Professor of Law who specializes in Property Law. They join long-serving UHLC faculty member, Sandra Guerra Thompson, the Newell H. Blakely Chair, who specializes in Criminal Law, now retired Bates Professor of Law Emeritus Michael A. Olivas, and the late Stephen Zamora who was the Law Center’s first Hispanic dean.
There is still much progress to be made. The 2020 American Bar Association Profile of the Legal Profession reported over 86% of the legal profession are White, and those from underserved backgrounds is small with approximately five percent of all lawyers of Hispanic origin and five percent African American. This makes it all the more important to dedicate time to recognize Hispanic and Latinx accomplishments and ensure we are making concerted efforts to grow diversity in law, corporate law firms, law schools, and more.
In recognizing the strides of those in the Hispanic and Latinx communities, please allow me to spotlight one specific Hispanic and Latinx alumna who has forged an impressive career in law and health care compliance. This month, in keeping with our acknowledgment of health law professionals during the time of COVID-19, I’m pleased to highlight Mariana Pope, a consummate, performance-driven professional who currently serves as Chief Compliance Officer at Traditions Health. She earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence specializing in Health Law from the Law Center in 2002, and she also holds a Master of Public Health.
With more than a decade of experience in health care compliance, Pope specializes in billing compliance, HIPAA privacy and security, and corporate compliance while employing an ethics-driven and detail-oriented approach to her work. Prior to her current role, Pope served as Director of Compliance and Privacy at Texas Children’s Hospital. She also spent more than 11 years at the Houston Methodist Research Institute in manager and director roles. She holds experience and expertise in human resources, operations management, board governance, and communication training.
In recognizing Pope’s distinguished career in the health law field, I would also like to share information on several additional Hispanic and Latinx alumni who have made admirable marks in their fields. Please take a moment to click through the slideshow to learn more about other Hispanic and Latinx alumni who have made outstanding contributions to the legal field and serve as prime examples of ambition and perseverance.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, may we also remember to commemorate our incredible Hispanic and Latinx professionals all year long. I also call for us to reflect on how we can continue to seek opportunities to uplift the voices of underrepresented communities and ensure proper resources and recognition for all.
Leonard M. Baynes
Dean & Professor of Law
University of Houston Law Center
The University of Houston Law Center
100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204-6060