By Arianna Zomparelli / Matthew Staff || Edited by Jacopo Menichincheri
Professor Thomas Govero teaches classes of Classical Studies, such as Roman Literature and Society, since 2003, for the Department of Humanities. In this interview I had the opportunity to ask him about his memories at JCU, his advice for the JCU students who plan to go into the field of Classics, and much more.
Professor Govero, your brilliant career is very varied and full of different experiences. You have initially come to Italy on a Fulbright Fellowship at the American Academy of Rome. Returned as a study abroad coordinator at School for International Training (SIT). Worked as a special events and travel director for NATO. Then, you began to run a study abroad program in Venice and Rome. We know the incredible reasons as to why you came to Italy, but what has made you stay here?
I stayed here as one position was offered to me after another! And life can be much worse elsewhere (laughs), so I was really happy to be in Italy and living in such engaging places such as Venice, Naples, Rome. Obviously, being in Classics, I’m attached to ruins and archeological sites and such ancient matters. Moreover, it gave me access to other parts of the former Roman Empire and former Greek world as Greece is not far away and I went there frequently. I also visited Tunisia, Spain and so on. So, there is a variety of reasons as to why I stayed here.
Life here has kept me learning, and then I pretty much put down roots here, as I met new friends, I gained pretty good knowledge of Italy, developing Italian language skills, which I’m still doing (laughs). Basically, I think it just happened, rather than it being planned. And I invite students to consider life on that plan, be ready to jump on opportunities that life will offer you, even if, maybe, there will be a different variety of them. What might seem only as a career choice, will absolutely enrich your life.
As we’ve been able to see, you have a true passion for Classical Studies. How did you get into the studying and teaching of Classics?
Well, it has been a very varied path. I got into the teaching of Classics, as I dropped out of Law School and I returned to my old high school where they asked me to teach Latin, which was very gratifying. After some years, I decided to get a graduate degree in Classics and then
, never taught Classics again for another thirty years, until I came to John Cabot University. I suspected, at that time, that I had forgotten everything, but it all came right back into my head as if it had been yesterday. So, I would say, John Cabot University, has gotten me into Classics more than any place else.
What do you teach here at John Cabot and which course is your favorite to teach?
I teach a wide range of classes in Classical Studies
, occasionally teaching Public Speaking. In the area of classical studies, I teach Greek and Latin at all levels. I teach courses such as Roman Law, Sexuality and Eroticism in the Antiquity, Roman Literature and Translation and sometimes I teach courses which merge Ancient Rome and the cinema. I particularly enjoy teaching Greek, both the language, the literature and material on the Greek world.
Apart from your passion for Classics and the beauty of Rome, what has made you choose JCU, amongst the numerous opportunities of a career for you?
Well, once again, it was by chance. I had a friend of mine working at JCU and as she went back to the United States; I succeeded her. I started as an adjunct but then gradually, I became a full-time professor and staff.
As you’ve been a professor at JCU since 2003, do you have a favorite moment from your JCU experience?
As JCU is a community of students, my memories gravitate around the great students I have! And I have a great series of them. I could be very selfish and say that my favorite moment was the year I won “Professor of the Year.” It was a great moment for me, very motivating and very reassuring. That would be the single event, but in general, when I think of John Cabot University, I think of the great students I have had here, how stimulating they were and what a great pleasure was working with them.
Have any of your students ever taught you something?
I think they often do! I think many of the students often have previous training or knowledge of the world, and that has always contributed to my ever-growing education and learning. I cannot think of anything in particular, but that certainly goes on.
As you’ve been teaching at JCU for almost 20 years, how has your perception of JCU changed over time?
I’ve been lucky as I’ve been here to see John Cabot growing substantially. When I came here there were about 400 students and now this number has quadrupled, hasn’t it? And that’s been very exciting and positive. Then of course, I was very much behind at the development of Classical Studies Program, and I was very pleased to see that it received such support from the administration and that the department has grown considerably, and the number of students studying classics has grown. So, that has been my adventure here for the last twenty years. I hope that I’ve also grown with John Cabot University, not only in age, (laughs), but also in wisdom, let’s say!
What would you say to the students that want to study Classics?
I would say, “Well, congratulations! You’re making a wise choice!”
. It can be a very interesting, rich and engaging study. The history of classical education has survived enormously well, I think, in terms of the changes of the world since antiquity. I think that it gives us a long-term sense of patterns in politics, science, society and philosophical ideas. I think it opens-up your minds to the possibilities of change and recognition that change is important, and every individual somehow plays a role in that change. I think of the classics as extremely revealing and unlike many disciplines today. The mission and goal of classical studies is to change the person for the better and to underline their intellectual growth, and I’ve seen it do that to former students.
As a professor and former student, why do you think students should choose John Cabot University as their university?
Well, I would say, for a variety of reasons! First of all, it is in Rome, and many students around the world look upon that as a big selling card. Secondly, it is small and intimate still, therefore there is more community. Moreover, by choosing JCU, they’ll understand that their education
, will not only be exclusively within the walls of the institution, but they will also be getting a broader education in a beautiful city that has a glorious past, despite its ups and downs and much to see and study. So, they are not only coming for the JCU campus, but they’re also coming for Rome as a campus. Besides, its diversity, having students coming from more than 72 countries, is very attractive to students that are interested in taking part in the dynamics of an international global world, economically, culturally, politically and so on. And John Cabot University is an ideal environment as an introduction to that world.
And now as a last question, as you’ve had the chance to travel, teach and have a flourishing career, what would you recommend to the students that are uncertain of their future paths?
I would recommend them to not lose too much sleep over this! First of all, narrow down your options and, as I said before, view the working world as offering ending possibilities and possibilities will be offered to you. Don’t be scared of changing jobs occasionally, over a period of years, as it can be very stimulating; it’s like starting life over again! Always be aware that the job or work you do offers a considerable option of always learning something new, which is not salary, status or position; it should offer other qualities which I think too many people entering the work field choose to ignore. Be ready to be flexible, willing to change, and willing to learn at any age. I hope that the students I’ve taught will have a rich life experience and that the work they do will contribute to that, and not the way around. Do not live just to work, but have your work stimulate you and engage them in their lives.