By Elianna Novitch
Greg Hamot has dedicated his career to promoting global education, democracy, and supporting his students in their pursual of social studies education.
Hamot, professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning, is retiring in June 2020 after 25 years as a University of Iowa College of Education professor and more than 44 years as an educator.
Alongside his outstanding career as an educator, Hamot serves as both the Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Education Program Coordinator. He also served as the Secondary Education Program Coordinator and Coordinator for International Studies and Programs in the College of Education.
Other achievements of Hamot’s during his time at the UI include helping establish the UI Center for Human Rights, where he served as both director and associate director, and helping coordinate International Day through the College of Education. Hamot has been involved with the annual one-day conference designed to educate middle school students on topics related both to local and global human rights issues since 2001.
He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Northwestern University and both a master's degree in Humanities Education and doctorate in Social Studies and Global Education from The Ohio State University. His research interests lie in the study of democracy as a cross-cultural concept and preservice field experiences in social studies education.
Hamot’s research interests in the study of democracy led to him being involved in a number of curriculum development projects in post-communist countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Armenia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and most recently in Kosovo.
“After the fall of communism, there was a real big urge on the part of newly forming democracies to reorient their educational system towards a democratic perspective,” Hamot says. “What I learned is that even though each country had certain cultural mores of looking at the term democracy, the common denominator of being democratic was the ability to think reflectively. Democracy is a habit of mind and a work in progress.”
Hamot worked alongside Peter Hlebowitsh, former professor and Department Executive Officer for the Department of Teaching and Learning and current Dean of the College of Education at the University of Alabama, on school reform initiatives in post-Soviet societies in the 1990s. Hlebowitsh says it was a pleasure to work alongside such a good friend and colleague during his time at the College of Education.
“Every interaction with him was fun, usually involving some admixture of his unvarnished political views, a display of his incredible recall of historical knowledge, some crazy use of old-fashioned anachronistic terms, complaints about how miserable the Cubs are, and always a recognition and gratitude for the important people in his life,” Hlebowitsh says.
Hlebowitsh says he was glad to have the opportunity to work alongside Hamot in helping to develop several strong graduate students and working in common cause on issues relevant to the livelihood of the college and university.
“The College of Education is losing a great teacher and a magnetic personality. It was easy to be his friend,” Hlebowitsh says. “I was lucky to have him in my life and look forward to meeting him in Chicago when I finally retire.”
Hamot says his work at the College of Education similarly works to inform students about their role as educators and in helping shape future citizens of democracy.
“My point to them has always been the same; you're all teaching human beings, and not all of them are going to be historians or sociologists or whatever. Maybe one of them will become a historian. What are you going to do with all the other students?” Hamot says. “They're all going to become citizens. So, your role as an educator is really to consider how does my content area make them better citizens of democracy.”
Hamot has been recognized for his numerous contributions to the field of education. He has won the Human Rights Exemplar Award, Outstanding Service to the Profession, the Audrey Qualls Commitment to Diversity Award, the John Haefner Award for Service to Social Studies Education in the State of Iowa, and, most recently, the UI Center for Human Rights Founder’s Award.
In his retirement, Hamot plans to move back to his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, where he is involved on the boards of the American Wind Band and the Northwestern University Marching Band Alumni.
“My students are truly my most fond memories. Just to see the development of these students into master teachers and university professors, it's just a joy to see,” Hamot says. “That's the most lasting memory, will be those students and my colleagues, too, who I got to know very well over 25 years."