Janet Goebel is the founding director of the Cook Honors College and delighted to be in the wonderful position to still teach CHC freshmen while interacting with the faculty from all the different departments who come together for the interdisciplinary core courses.
“I love teaching freshmen more than any other group. They are curious and open. The very best part of teaching in the HC is that I still see them as they move on to become seniors and then alumni. Some days I see the seeds we planted in freshman core growing right in front of me faster than Jack’s beanstalk. That’s fun!”
Goebel grew up in a tiny town in the Texas Panhandle replete with rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds. A scholarship allowed her to spend her senior year of high school in Germany through the American Field Service Program. Scholarships and lots of part-time jobs allowed her to become the first woman in her extended family to attend college.
She spent her undergraduate years in an experimental residential honors program which was subsequently eliminated in a budget crisis. “This wonderful place fostered big questions and interdisciplinary thought. It saved me from Big State University anonymity and showed me what undergraduate education could be like.” She ultimately graduated Phi Beta Kappa by adding up the courses she had taken most of to find a major: German, English, and History. A Fulbright (ITT) Scholarship took her to Austria, where she studied folklore. Navigating the rest of the academy with too many interests for the usual pathways, she finally emerged with something akin to a Comparative Literature Ph.D. from the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Goebel’s academic interests are still quite broad. She began writing about the German authors of the romantic period who rediscovered the medieval literature of their own tradition. The question of the possible truth in historical fiction and the oral tradition fascinates her. This line of inquiry has taken her from Novalis and Walter von der Vogelweide to the Arthurian legend, then to the tradition of the Trojan War, and most recently to the Hittites. The journey continues.
IUP became Goebel’s academic home in 1986. “As soon as I sat in the coffee room of the English Department and overheard the professors greeting the students by name as they walked by, then continuing to talk about Flannery O’Connor and Chaucer, I knew I this was the right place. IUP faculty members continue to impress me with their curiousity, intelligence, scholarly passion, and commitment to students. Even after all these years, there are still days when they just take my breath away.”
Goebel teaches Freshman Core (HNRC 102) in the Spring semester. She regularly takes CHC upperclassmen abroad (to Vienna multiple times, and most recently to Turkey) for interdisciplinary honors synthesis courses. Her husband, Ron Ali, is a retired art professor. If you like the interior decorating of Whitmyre, thank them both.