Getting to know … Sam Hammer

Sam Hammer likes to bicycle, enjoys chick peas, and enjoys botany -- but can he speak Spanish? "People in Mexico just prefer for me to point," he says.

Sam Hammer is a bicyclist and a botanist -- but can he speak Spanish? "People in Mexico just prefer for me to point."

In the first of an occasional question-and-answer series exploring the people and personalities that comprise the BU Online community, we introduce Dr. Sam Hammer.

The Academic Coordinator of the Undergraduate Degree Completion Program, Sam has been teaching classes online since that program was hatched in 2004, winning an award from the United States Distance Learning Association for the “Food Stuff” course that was subsequently adopted as a template for future courses, then assuming his Coordinator duties in 2007.

Born in Chicago, Sam earned two master’s degrees and worked for two years in Chicago with new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, hosting about 1,000 new immigrants a month! Everyone from concert violinists to doctors, engineers, even a family of shepherds fleeing political oppression and religious intolerance. Sam came to Boston in 1998 so he could begin work on a doctoral degree from Harvard University. Upon completion he started teaching at BU in 1993, and his fieldwork – sponsored in part by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation – has taken him to spots of unbelievable beauty and natural interest as far afield as the Pacific Northwest, the Florida Panhandle, Australia, New Zealand, and the French Pacific colony of New Caledonia.

Click through for more on this father of three, who now lives in Cambridge with his wife, his youngest daughter, and an avocado tree.

Q: What do you like the best about teaching online?
A: From a professor’s point of view, the opportunity to get ideas across using a range of creative ideas and media. From a human standpoint, the incredible community bond among our wonderful students.

Q: Which course is your favorite to teach, and why?
A: I love all my children, but I have to say I love BOTANY WITHOUT BORDERS the best. It’s a real blend of ideas and it brings in information from all kinds of different disciplines. Plus, it’s pretty. My partners at Distance Ed did an amazing job getting it set up.

Q: Choose one word that describes you best.
A: Curious.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A: I garden all year. I also spend a lot of time in the ceramics studio at BU. Every time I bring something home my wife is like, “Oh honey, another ashtray, how sweet.”

Q: What is the most played album on your iPod or in your car?
A: Yikes. I haven’t figured out how to use iTunes yet. Dr. Mozart is my fave composer, Brahms is a close second.

Q: If you were going to have someone cook your favorite meal, what would it be?
A: Something simple. Maybe with chickpeas.

Q: What is THE best place you have ever been?
A: I’m going back to the Yucatan for the third time this winter.

Q: Do you speak another language?
A: I used to be a social worker working with immigrants from the former Soviet Union. At that time (late ’70s) I spoke pretty awesome Russian (mostly learned on the job). I speak some lame Hebrew and my Spanish is abysmal. People in Mexico just prefer for me to point.

Q: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
A: I’ve never gotten any good advice about careers unless you count “keep under the radar.”

Q: If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
A: Sam the Man Jajajajajaj (Spanish for hahahah).

Q: What is the most important trait needed to succeed?
A: Sticktuitiveness

Q: What is your favorite movie of all time?
A: Mmmmmm. Maybe “The Shining.” I think we all have a little Jack Nicholson in us.

Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island with a famous person, who would it be?
My wife. (-:


samuel hammer posted on December 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

That was a lot of fun to read. My intro says I worked in the Soviet Union, but I didn’t. I was working in Chicago and the USSR came to me! We hosted about 1000 new immigrants a month during 1977-1978. It was incredible. Everyone from concert violinists to doctors, engineers, even a family of shepherds (!) fleeing political oppression and religious intolerance. It was a real experience and like in any job, I had to learn a lot by the seat of my pants. (-:

BU Office of Distance Education posted on December 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Whoops! Sorry Sam, we’ll fix that 🙂 We had fun getting to know you better as well.

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