Wright State Latino Center assistant director recognized as Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan

Catherine Hernandez Hogan was recognized as an individual who demonstrates outstanding achievement in her professional or community service endeavors and someone who serves as a role model for the growing Hispanic/Latino community in Ohio.

Catherine Hernandez Hogan, assistant director of Wright State University’s Latino Center, will receive a 2023 Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award from the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.

Hernandez Hogan will be recognized at the 42nd annual Distinguished Hispanic Ohioans Gala on Oct. 14 at the Grand Event Center at Grandview Yard in Columbus.

The Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award recognizes groups and individuals who demonstrate outstanding achievements in their professional or community service endeavors and who serve as role models for the growing Hispanic/Latino community in Ohio.

The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Hernandez Hogan was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and came to Ohio after receiving scholarships to attend Cedarville University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“As I approached the finish line to getting this degree, I began looking around and I noticed that I was one of very, very few Hispanic/Latino people who were getting this degree and I wondered, where are all my people,” she said. “I decided I wanted to help solve that.”

While working as Cedarville University’s multicultural admissions specialist, Hernandez Hogan ran a conference on increasing the educational attainment level of Latino community members. It was during that time that Hernandez Hogan met Tony Ortiz, senior lecturer emeritus at Wright State. Ortiz was so impressed with her work that he convinced her to come to Wright State and work for him as his graduate assistant while she pursued a Master of Education in Student Affairs in Higher Education.

“Ortiz is very much a hero to the local Latino community and in the state. He is responsible for starting the Office of Latino Affairs at Wright State, which eventually became known as the Latino Center,” said Hernandez Hogan.

After graduating, Hernandez Hogan accepted a full-time position with the University Center for International Education, creating programming for international students at Wright State. During her time with the center, she helped to organize over 300 events that celebrated the various cultures in Wright State’s international community.

She eventually took on the job of retention specialist and began to notice that she was one of only a handful of Latino staff at Wright State. Once again, she began to wonder, “Where are my people and why aren’t we represented?”

Later Hernandez Hogan served as the advisor for the Amigos Latinos Student Association. Latino students began telling her about the challenges they faced on campus and the need to have someone who could help remove those barriers for them.

In June 2022, Hernandez Hogan was named the assistant director of the Latino Center.

“I could really empathize with these students that came to me because that was me only a few years ago, a student at a predominantly white institution who could barely see anyone who looked like me or had my background,” she said.

Through her work at the Latino Center, Hernandez Hogan has made it her mission to aid all Wright State colleges in the recruitment, retention and connection of Latino students and to give Hispanic/Latino students a sense of value, a community and the tools they need to succeed.

“I am a first-generation college student, and while there were many areas I had to learn on my own, I had key faculty and staff members come alongside me and mentor me throughout my time in college. I felt that I wanted to be that person for the Latino/Hispanic community at Wright State,” said Hernandez Hogan. “I’m constantly working to break the glass ceiling for our Latino students by sharing again and again that they belong on campus, that they matter, that they have what it takes to succeed, that they should not be afraid to ask for help, and that by getting their college degree, they can impact their families for generations.”

During her short time with the Latino Center, Hernandez Hogan has made great strides on behalf of the Wright State Hispanic/Latino community, through her work with the Amigos Latinos Gala, leading a Latino student visit day and a summer student program that introduced local high school students, most of whom were children of migrant workers, to what Wright State had to offer.

She is responsible for leading the first Latino Si Se Puede first-year seminar course, which teaches students how to be successful at Wright State through the lens of the Latino culture. She is also working with the Latino Medical Student Association at Boonshoft School of Medicine, El Puente Learning Center and the College of Health, Education and Human Services to increase access to health care by providing free monthly bilingual wellness clinics for Latino communities in East and North Dayton.

To many Latino students at Wright State, Hernandez Hogan has become a hero just like Ortiz was to her.

Mariangely Bonilla Custodio, a human resource management major and former Amigos Latinos president, said the Latino Center is the place where she found her Wright State family and credits Hernandez Hogan with helping her discover her potential and embrace the benefit of being Latina.

“I went from being a student who was unsure of what I wanted to do in life to a confident Latina woman striving to earn my degree and accomplish my goals. I have Catherine to thank for that,” said Bonilla Custodio.

Amy Walker, a French major, said that Hernandez Hogan and the Latino Center have helped her to feel more a part of Wright State.

“The Latino Center has been a stopping point for me to forget about the anxieties of school life,” said Walker. “Catherine told me about the Latino Si Se Puede class. I was skeptical but decided to take it and was so glad I did. Through her, I was able to spread my wings and learn how to socialize more by getting involved on campus. She also, helped me become an RA.”

Felipe Perez, a marketing major, said he has grown both socially and academically through the encouragement and support he has received both from Hernandez Hogan and the Latino Center.

“Along the way, I have met so many wonderful individuals who constantly bring a positive and encouraging environment. The Latino Center fosters a spirit where individuals of all nationalities and not just Latinos can come together as a familia,” said Perez. “Catherine has been an individual who I can approach and express my feelings regarding my experiences on and off campus. Her endless support is a huge motivator for me as I continue to progress as a leader and as a person.”

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