In some ways, Gomez's life has been steadily building toward her current role as the department's lead liaison and advocate to Congress. Her current office is just a short walk from Congress, where she was the lead education adviser for Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., then-chairman of what is now the House Education and Workforce Committee. As lead negotiator for the House Democrats on higher-education issues, Gomez, 40, played a key role in passing the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, and a handful of other measures. Before that, she worked as a higher-education lobbyist at the American Federation of Teachers and as a legislative assistant to then-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas. Gomez's longtime interest in education policy seems fitting. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, and she arrived in Washington for a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute fellowship. She received her bachelor's in political science from Loyola Marymount University and a master's in education policy from Harvard.