Roman's Hard Work Pays Off

After applying and interviewing with a panel of six K-State professors and leaders earlier this semester, the senior in mathematics was recently selected by the university to represent K-State as a Rhodes and Marshall Scholar nominee. 
Awarded to 32 students each year, the Rhodes Scholarship provides a fully-funded education to Oxford University in England, while the Marshall Scholarship awards as many as 40 students with full funding for two years of study at any university in the United Kingdom. With his nomination, Roman became one of just four K-State students to potentially represent the school on the national level.
"I was pretty excited," said Roman to K-State Sports Extra over the phone. "It feels really, really great in the sense that K-State thinks I'm one of the top students in their school to nominate me for that. I've been working very, very hard academically since I got to K-State, so I kind of felt it was sort of like a reward, like they've known I've been working hard. They recognized that."
You could almost feel the excitement in Roman's voice through the phone's speaker. 
After spending the summer at Berkley researching with the school's Mathematical Sciences and Research Institute (MSRI), Roman returned to California this past week for the 2014 Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Conference in Los Angeles. 
"It was a very intensive research program and we actually got pretty cool results," said Roman about his work at MRSI during the summer. "We were able to solve some problems, and now we're here at the SACNAS conference - we're presenting the results from that program."
Learning, researching and studying - that is how Roman spends his time when he's not out and about running with the Wildcat cross country team. Accumulating a 4.0 GPA during the 2013-14 school year and named to both the 2012-13 USTFCCCA All-Academic Team and the 2012 Academic All-Big 12 Team, the mathematics major from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, laughed when asked how he balanced everything. Not much time for an exciting social life, he said, but that comes with the territory.
"If you want to be on a competitive research level, you have to do extra and additional work outside of your classes," explained Roman. "You have to read books, research papers and publications on your own. And that takes time because it's not like you're reading a magazine, you're reading something that you want to understand and understand well. So it can take you two or three weeks to read a 10-page paper."
Working towards his dream of becoming a professor, if selected for the Rhodes or Marshall Scholarships, Roman plans on seeking a doctorate degree in mathematics.
"It's not easy. You have to give up a lot of stuff, but I know that I've always been really aware of what I want to do and what I want to be," said Roman. "I know I might have to make sacrifices, give up a couple things during my years as a student, but it's going to pay off. I put a lot of effort into track and field, and then I put just as much effort into my classes."
While Roman is the one doing all the work, he does credit much of his success to K-State Athletics for its constant help and support outside of running.
"Coming to K-State was probably the best decision of my life," he explained. "They do a lot to help us academically: they have tutors, advisors and the coaches are supportive of academics. Though we've transitioned to Coach Ryun Godfrey and he's only been here a few weeks, he's also shown that he's willing to make the academic arrangements. 
"He's shown he's understanding of the academic commitment and I'm very thankful for that. Coaches play a huge role in this. They allow me to perform well in both - they help me on the track but they also understand that the academics are important."
Though nominated by K-State as a representative for the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, the final decision is outside of the university's hands. If selected by the national panel - Roman said he should find out in the upcoming two weeks - he will be expected to represent himself at the national interview in November.
In the history of K-State Athletics, only three student-athletes have been nominated for the award with women's basketball's Danielle Zanotti the most recent in 2009.
"As a student-athlete, it makes me happy that I'm able to represent K-State Athletics with this," said Roman.  "I think sometimes there's that stereotype that student-athletes are not very good in academics, but that's completely wrong. We work harder than most people think to be able to do both things at the same time. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It takes a lot of effort, but any student-athlete could do it because it's definitely easier than a sport. (Studying) doesn't hurt, you're not in pain when you're in the classroom."
In the event that Roman is selected as a Rhodes or Marshall Scholar, he will be the first Puerto Rican from K-State to win since Luis Montaner was awarded a Marshall Scholarship in 1991.
While Roman believes any student-athlete can find success in both sport and in the classroom, it is easier said than done. Through his hard work and his ability to keep his mind on the finish, Roman said in order to stay competitive in both the classroom and on the track, he's had to make plenty of sacrifices.
"You just have to be willing to do it and to give up a little bit of a, say, social life, but it's not like I've given it up completely," he concluded. "You have to make sacrifices and I think that really pays off. This nomination is evidence of that. To me, this nomination from K-State was like the payoff of it all."
With that, Roman hung up the phone, grabbed a quick lunch and got back to work at the SACNAS National Conference. Whether he is selected as a national nominee for the prestigious scholarships later this year or not, there's no stopping Roman on his road to success.

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