nancy teaches

Hispanic Heritage Month: From PhD to pageantry


Deanna Dent

While Nancy Gomez was preparing for doctoral exams, she spent her study breaks working on her walk.

And it paid off: The PhD student in Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures now wears the 2018 Miss U.S. Latina crown.

“I always wanted to participate in a pageant but I was always just so scared, (thinking) 'I don’t have the experience, I don’t have the money, I don’t know the people,'” she said.

But that couldn’t keep Gomez from competing, all while researching and teaching.

Video of

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

When asked to give her final statement at the pageant, she quoted noted feminist and Chicana writer Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s words on how identity and language are intertwined. This topic resonated with Gomez, a first-generation American, due to her love of the Spanish language.

Judges easily awarded Gomez the title, and she came back to a second doctoral exam and teaching her fall classes.

“Since I was little I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” said Gomez, who is pursuing her PhD in Spanish. “I just honestly love speaking Spanish, I have a passion for it.”

Gomez spends Tuesdays and Thursdays on campus and online teaching intermediate Spanish and civilization of the Indohispanomexicano Southwest.

nancy in final three

Nancy Gomez (second from left) waits to hear who will be crowned Miss U.S. Latina. Photo courtesy of Nancy Gomez

In one class, she prompted her students to talk about their “redes sociales,” or “social media,” coaching them through their struggle to find words for email and password.

When she's not teaching ASU students, she heads to Perryville prison to teach a different group, one equally as motivated as her Sun Devil classes.

Gomez’s desire is simply to spread her love of the Spanish language to those who would like to learn it, whether as a teacher or a beauty queen.

“I like how she encourages us … even if we say something wrong, we just keep talking,” said psychology and criminal justice sophomore Jessica Breeden, who has been learning Spanish since seventh grade.

“It’s a really inviting environment.”