Jorge Espinoza-Gonzalez ’26
Professor Vincent Tomasso was born in San Jose, California. His family moved to Flagstaff for four years and then to the suburbs of Washington: he was a true West Coast kid! “I’m a fan of warm weather,” commented Tomasso. “I’m pretty sensitive to the cold, like you, I imagine,” he added after I told him that I am from Los Angeles. Tomasso then gave me a “Surviving in New England” crash course, which included comments on down-feathered jackets, how fast the cold came this autumn, biking in different seasons, and the mention of incoming winter. He was a pleasure to interview and a fascinating professor, so I am hopeful that my words reflect this.
Professor Tomasso has also been all over the country in pursuit of academia. He completed his undergraduate studies at Washington University in Seattle, where he studied ancient Greek literature and graduated in 2004. Afterward, he went south and studied at Stanford University for six years to receive his graduate degree in 2010. Tomasso then took a teaching position at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin; he did not arrive at Trinity College until 2016. Since then, Tomasso has taught courses ranging from language—like Biblical Greek—to literature-based courses—like Heroes In Antiquity.
“Growing up, I really liked Indiana Jones,” Tomasso answered after being asked whether he always wanted to teach. “I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist,” that is until he discovered that mythology and literature spoke more to him. He was first exposed to ancient Greek literature when his mother read him The Odyssey in the sixth grade. “She was really into mythology, so she would bring books home and read them to me.” After this discovery, he then realized that he loved to teach during his time in school; thus leaving us with Professor Tomasso. Like many of us, Tomasso’s mother played a major role in leading him to his current career—no pressure moms!
As mentioned above, Tomasso’s mother, a librarian, brought the world of mythology to his mind. Even after knowing a lot of mythology and ancient literature in his early life, Tomasso kept his doors open. “I didn’t know what major to choose until late high school,” he added. Tomasso encourages students to pursue whatever interests them, especially in college. He encourages students at Trinity to take a classical studies course as it “provides foundation.” In his words, the works of the ancient world were the foundation of modern culture, the languages made their way to medicine and law, and the history is too rich and relevant in modern issues to simply ignore.
Tomasso currently teaches a class administered by the Humanities Gateway Program, a program that introduces students to the world of ancient texts, from The Odyssey to The Quran. He is currently teaching The Odyssey and claims that every time he reads it, he gains more insight or “a different angle.” Tomasso mentions that part of the reason why he is part of the program is that he loves to teach first-year students who, although haven’t figured out their life yet, show a clear interest in the humanities. I then asked him if first-years are hard to teach, to which he responded with an “absolutely not!” The professor wholeheartedly believes that first-years are at a crucial point in their lives of adjustment and all they need is resources, which he and the rest of the first-year professors happily provide. Tomasso mentioned that as long as students trust the process, are responsible, and are constantly challenged, first-years will find the adjustment easy and worthwhile.
All in all, professors are people too. They are more than lecturers, mediators, and graders; they live an outside life, which is something we often forget. Like how many of us love M&Ms? So does Professor Tomasso. Or Mediterranean food? Well, Tomasso heavily recommends Tangiers, a nearby Mediterranean restaurant that serves falafel, kebabs, and salads. So I encourage you to have conversations with your professors outside of the being-friendly-to-score-an-internship type of conversation.