Prof. Hazel Gamec received the inaugural Icograda Education Award at Design/Culture: Icograda World Design Congress in La Habana, Cuba. Created to recognise achievement and innovation in design education by an individual, Prof. Gamec was selected from a call for nominations to the Icograda Education Network member institutions. The award will be presented biennially during the Icograda General Assembly.
A graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), she also studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to her current position, she ran an award-winning design consultancy in Minneapolis and taught at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Professor Gamec was teaching at Osaka University of Arts, Japan, on exchange when she first visited New Zealand. The visit, which included a stop at the Wanganui Community College, led her to apply for a MCAD faculty enrichment grant to develop and implement an international design programme in Wanganui, New Zealand.
Today, Prof. Gamec is the Academic Manager of Wanganui School of Design of the Universal College of Learning in Wanganui, New Zealand. She started the Wanganui School of Design in 1987 and has built it up to be one of New Zealand's premier design schools:
- In 1989, Wanganui received accreditation to offer a Certificate and Diploma in Computer Graphic Design.
- In 1990, the school was officially opened by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer.
- In 1993, Wanganui obtained accreditation to run a 4 year Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design.
- In 1996, Wanganui obtained accreditation for a three year Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design, a design degree for Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design (Honours) and a Postgraduate Diploma Computer Graphic Design, Master of Computer Graphic Design.
- In 1997, Wanganui established the New Media Research Lab and it was officially opened in 2000 by Prime Minister Helen Clarke
- In 2002, Wanganui achieved accreditation for a conjoint degree with the University of Waikato.
Throughout her career, she has played a major role in transforming New Zealand into a world leader in design education in the areas of communication design, multimedia and animation. Wanganui graduates work all over the world and have provided Wetta Workshop (Peter Jackson/Lord of the Rings) with a consistent supply of talent.
Prof. Gamec created Wanganui's Design Survival Camp concept in 1990, enabling local students to meet and work with international design leaders. The biennial event was inspired by similar Design Camps she was involved with in the United States. The Design Survival Camps have had a major impact on developing design in what is a very isolated part of the world.
Prof. Gamec has also had a significant impact on the Maori community in New Zealand - it was her search for a book titled "The Maori's of the Whanganui River" that brought her to Wanganui in the first place. She is held in extremely high regard for actively integrating Maori visual culture within the school and assisting many local Maori's to pursue careers in design. Throughout her tenure at Wanganui, she has changed the lives of many. The long list of success stories includes a local Maori youth who was living on the streets. Prof. Gamec took him under her wing and today he holds an Undergraduate Degree, Masters Degree and is currently a member of the university's academic staff.
Wanganui staff and students (past and present ) worship her and refer to her as a legend. Although originally from the United States, Prof. Gamec is regarded by New Zealanders as one of their Living Treasures. She retires at the end of this year and to mark this milestone has published a book, It Was mid-August 1987: a retrospective of the past 20 years of the Wanganui School of Design.