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Janet Gomez

“Expose yourself to people who are different from you and not be afraid of that. Don’t stay in the bubble. Expand your world.”

Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

German & Romance Languages and Literatures (Italian), PhD 2016

Assistant Dean of Faculty Affairs, Summer & Special Programs at Georgetown University

Janet‘s Podcast Episode

In this episode, we discuss what led Janet to pursue a PhD in Italian literature, the ways her background, identities, and graduate work have continued to show up throughout her career in higher education administration, and her take on the importance of traveling and learning new languages to broaden your cultural horizons, stay curious, and never stop learning.

Learn More About Janet‘s Story

This photo was taken on June 25, 2012, when I stood on the summit of Mont Ventoux after an 8-hour hike. With no previous hiking experience, I armed myself with croissants and Powerade, and had a near-death experience in the last two hours of the climb.

So why did I embark on this hike? My degree is in Italian medieval and Renaissance literature, and Francesco Petrarca wrote a letter in 1336 about his ascent of Mt Ventoux. Whether it was a real-life ascent or just a literary exercise is up for debate. Petrarch claims to be the first person since antiquity to have climbed a mountain for the view and has a spiritual revelation at the top. I actually read the letter at some point during the climb up.

The summer of 2012 was a transformative time in my life. I like to say there was a “Janet” before 2012 and one after. Nine months prior, I had started running (and haven’t stopped since), which prepared me physically for this hike. A few weeks before the climb, I had cut my hair short in a small village in the Dolomites, and a few days before, I did a 15K night run around Largo D’Orta where I was the only American running and was interviewed by the local TV station!

The hike was transformative because I came to know myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Although the climb up was treacherous and some might say stupid (including the French couple that rescued me at the top, and took me back to their village, helped me find lodging, and fed me a feast), for the first time in my life, I was not afraid of anything. I often say it wasn’t the climb up that was hard, it was coming back down to reality that was challenging. But the feeling I left with was that I no longer would be so afraid of who I am and who I will become in this world.

This image from December 2017 shows me with Mrs. Anne Hopkins and her stepson, Mr. Sam Hopkins, at the Clifton Mansion. They gave me a private tour of the mansion, which was being restored at the time. Sam Hopkins is one of the descendants of Johns Hopkins, the founder of the university. Meeting Mrs. Hopkins was one of the most memorable and heartwarming experiences I had during my time as a graduate student at Hopkins and even after I graduated.

For decades, Mrs. Hopkins took Italian language lessons and was tutored by a long line of Hopkins PhD students in Italian. I had the honor of being the longest and last of her tutors. From 2014 to 2021, I saw her once a week for an hour of Italian language lessons. During our lessons, we would have conversations in Italian, discuss parts of an Italian novel we were reading together, and go over grammar lessons. Although I was the tutor, she was really the teacher. Mrs. Hopkins was from another era and belonged to a different world than I did. As she traveled vicariously through me, I traveled vicariously to the past with her. We were so different, yet we came together through language and culture that, for both of us, were foreign to our own.

Through Mrs. Hopkins, I learned so many incredible stories, including how there was a red phone in JHU’s former president Milton Eisenhower’s desk that had a direct line to his brother, President Dwight Eisenhower, at the White House. I learned how her husband, Samuel Hopkins, once ran for mayor of Baltimore and how his campaign poster still hung in her kitchen. I also learned about her involvement in a variety of causes for women in Maryland and her leadership roles in Maryland politics at a time when not many women were involved. But the best lessons were the ones where she taught me about life, etiquette, generosity, history, love, family, and so much more.

Mrs. Hopkins, my late dog Bella, and I looked forward to those weekly lessons in her study at her house. I miss her very much and our weekly sessions, as I now type this from what used to be her desk. She was my oldest student, and she passed away at the age of 92 on January 5, 2022. I often say that I got a full Hopkins education in what education is truly about: wisdom. Wisdom was the major, Italian was the elective.