Melanie Johnson - undergraduate (2008)

Melanie Johnson with her students at Iowa City's West High School.
Since Fall 2008, I have been a social studies teacher at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa.  My courses include Advanced Placement European History, World Religions, and Economics.  I am a coach for the West High debate team and have traveled to many cities throughout the United States to compete.  In The University of Iowa Teacher Education Program, I learned how to implement inquiry-based approaches to history and social science instruction.  This approach deeply informs my teaching at West High School.  I continually offer my students visual and written primary sources for them to analyze and interpret.  I also developed in the Social Studies Education Program a keen interest in having students make historical documentaries.  The University of Iowa's Social Studies Education Program was a wonderful choice.  I enjoyed my experiences with the faculty and other students in the program.  If you would like to talk with me about social studies education, classroom teaching or The University of Iowa Teacher Education Program, feel free to contact me at

Photo: Melanie Johnson (second from right) with her students at Iowa City's West High School.

Gretchen Jahn Bertram - Master's (2006)

Gretchen Jahn Bertram with her son and daughter.
After graduating in Fall 2006 from the MA program in social studies education, I decided to take some time to stay home with my two young children and became a full-time, stay-at-home mom.  However, I have remained involved with The University of Iowa social studies education program by conducting seminars in the instructional methods course on using imagery to teach social studies through the use of desktop documentaries, something I became interested in during my time at Iowa.  You can find an example of the kind of desktop documentaries students make at Iowa here:

The program at Iowa provided me with a strong foundation for teaching that I will use when I enter the teaching profession full-time in the not-too-distant future.  I had a wonderful experience working with the faculty and staff during my time at Iowa and feel that the social studies education program there draws in some of the best and brightest students in the field.  I feel honored to have been able to work with so many intelligent and talented people during my studies.  Being around so many individuals who shared a passion for both teaching and learning only served to increase my love for the field.  I think anyone interested in obtaining an advanced degree in social studies education would find The University of Iowa to be an excellent choice.

If you have any questions about the social studies education program at The University of Iowa, or if you would like to learn more about creating and teaching with desktop documentaries, feel free to contact me at:

Photo: Gretchen Jahn Bertram with her son and daughter.

Joe Bishop - Ph.D. (1999)

Joe Bishop
As a high school dropout, and son of 2 educators, I was teaching as an adjunct faculty member at Kirkwood, and completed MA’s in Sociology (Iowa, 1989) and Anthropology (Iowa, 1995). I found a home in the Social Studies Program and the Policy, Planning, and Leadership Studies Program by the mid 1990s where, as a Graduate Assistant, I worked on Civic Education projects for countries such as the Czech Republic, Armenia, and Bulgaria. After learning enough Czech to “get by on the street,” I conducted research on Czech secondary student and teacher conceptions of democratic citizenship and received my PhD based on that research under the mentorship of Greg Hamot in 1999 and with the support of the Howard Jones Achievement award, T. Anne Cleary Scholarship and other funds.

I defended my dissertation on a Thursday afternoon in July, and immediately afterward drove to Madison, South Dakota for a Friday interview at Dakota State University (DSU) where I was hired to teach Social Studies and Social Foundations of Education. I was at DSU for 3 years (1999-2002) and expanded my research into the Slovak Republic and subsequently obtained a position at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in the Social Foundations of Education program (2002-present) where I also played a significant role in the development of a new PhD program in Educational Studies and the creation of a college wide committee to Internationalize the College of Education.

Since moving to EMU, I have continued my work in the post-Soviet world in Ukraine and with educators from other Central Eurasian countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. (2002-2005) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (2006) where I was a Fulbright Scholar on the Faculty of Islamic Sciences, University of Sarajevo where I lectured on Education for Active Democratic Citizenship and received a Diploma in Islamic Studies. I was promoted to Associate Professor and received tenure when I returned from Sarajevo. As many of the educators I have worked with are teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), I have been focused on expanding my knowledge, skills, and credentials in the area of linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. While on sabbatical during the fall of 2010, I was a Visiting Professor at Sumy State A.S. Makarenko Pedagogical University (Ukraine) where I lectured on Comparative Pedagogy, History of Pedagogy, Language Philosophy, and conducted practical classes of English as Foreign Language (EFL) and when I returned, I was promoted to full Professor (effective Sep 2011). In May, 2012, I will begin working in Uganda with public schools and a Colorado non-profit. I am also deeply involved in the Graduate Council on campus as well as the faculty union.

I would not be where I am today without the excellent preparation and skills I acquired at The University of Iowa and remember my time there fondly. I can be reached at

Thomas Misco - Ph.D. (2006)

Thomas Misco
After graduating from the Ph.D. program in social studies education at The University of Iowa, I joined the social studies education faculty at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  While at The University of Iowa, I had the tremendous opportunity to conduct research on the development of a Holocaust teaching curriculum in Latvia.  Based upon my research in Latvia, I wrote my dissertation titled "Breaking Historical Silences through Cross-cultural Curriculum Deliberation: Teaching the Holocaust in Latvian Schools."  My current research projects include pre-service teacher perceptions of controversial issues, reverse chronological history instruction, and Holocaust education in post-communist countries.  I am also conducting a study of Ohio social studies teachers and the ways in which standards and assessments affect democratic citizenship education.

I had a wonderful academic experience in the social studies education program at The University of Iowa.  Professor Gregory Hamot provided me with splendid guidance and support while writing my dissertation.  I also had close, and productive, contact with Professors Peter Hlebowitsh and Bruce Fehn.  I continue to enjoy close professional associations and friendship with all three of these University of Iowa faculty members.  The University of Iowa, and Iowa City, were great places for me to complete my graduate education.  If you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in social studies education, I suggest you take a close look at the Iowa program.

James Schul - Ph.D. (2009)

Jim Schul with his advisor, Dr. Bruce Fehn
I was raised in Ohio and graduated from Miami University (B.S., 1996; M.Ed., 2000).  I taught high school social studies in Southwestern Ohio for ten years before coming to The University of Iowa to work on the Ph.D. in the social studies program.  At Iowa, I had many valuable experiences beyond my courses and doctoral research.  These included supervision of student teachers, research assistant, and teaching assistant.  My primary research interests at The University of Iowa involved study of the integration of desktop documentary making in history teaching and learning.  Additionally, I engaged in historical research that examined former Iowa curriculum professor, Ernest Horn, and his role in the field of social studies education.

I earned a Ph.D. in social studies education in the spring, 2009.  My dissertation, advised by Dr. Bruce Fehn and Dr. Kathy Schuh, was entitled Historical Practices and Desktop Documentary Making in a Secondary History Classroom.  After graduating from Iowa, I became an Assistant Professor of Education at Ohio Northern University where I teach classes in social studies teaching methods and educational foundations.  Currently, I live in Ada, Ohio with my wife, Christa, and daughter, Lani.

I found The University of Iowa's social studies education program to be an excellent choice for advanced graduate study.  Faculty members were friendly and accessible.  Iowa City is an exciting university town where my wife and I enjoyed three exciting and interesting years.

Photo: Jim Schul (right) with his advisor, Dr. Bruce Fehn, during the May 2009 Ph.D. commencement ceremony

John "Jay" Bickford - Ph.D. (2009)

Jay Bickford and family before graduation ceremony
In 1995, I came to The University of Iowa on a football scholarship.  I played consistently for my final three years, started a few games my junior year, and started my senior year (until a season-ending injury to my Achilles tendon).  During that time, we went to three bowl games (winning two).  I earned Academic All Big Ten twice, lettered twice, and had the privilege to play for head coaches Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz.  During that time, I earned a B.A. in History and started my Master's prior to my senior year of football.  I completed my M.A. in Social Studies Education after I finished competing for the Hawkeyes.

I taught high school U.S. and World History at Hubbard-Radcliffe High School for a year before I accepted a position at Mid-Prairie Middle School.  I taught 6th grade social studies for one year before moving up to teach 7th grade social studies, where I stayed for the next seven years.  During that time, Dr. Bruce Fehn, my academic advisor, encouraged me to continue my studies in the doctoral program.  When I started the Ph.D. program, I did not believe I was "doctoral material."  Dr. Fehn did not share my reservations.  His motivation, positive attitude, and critical support helped propel me through coursework, comprehensive exams, and into my research.

Bickford in Hawkeye huddle at Kinnick Stadium.
During my doctoral field research, I investigated how male students used media as a tool to construct and express adolescent masculinity.  I analyzed how boys gendered the classroom context through masculine, sexist, and homophobic imagery, which infused their media presentations.  While shaping the classroom context as masculine, the boys also positioned themselves as male with their peer groups.  I examined how students used media knowledge during social interactions, specifically how males performed masculinity and how female students responded.  Importantly, students did not just project variations of aggressive or hostile masculinity, they took the teacher's opportunity to critique masculinity and the gendered hierarchies it reinforced and perpetuated.  In the dissertation, I argued that teachers' and researchers' recognition of masculine assertions enables productive management of male students' interactions with peers.

While saddened to leave the Hawkeye State, I am thrilled with the opportunity to work in a middle level education department and as a social studies teacher educator at Eastern Illinois University.  In this position, I have three central teaching assignments: social studies methods; adolescents' social, emotional, and behavior development; and reading in content area for middle school.  I am motivated to research social studies pedagogy and adolescents' gendered expressions.  My confidence in my future success in higher education at Eastern Illinois University (and beyond) is based strongly on my experiences in the Social Studies Education Program at The University of Iowa.  If you would like to contact me to discuss the social studies education program, please do not hesitate.  Here is my email address:

Photos: Jay Bickford and family before graduation ceremony, and Bickford in Hawkeye huddle at Kinnick Stadium