Rebecca Hannagan: A real life-long learner

Rebecca Hannagan

Rebecca Hannagan

Like many kids, Rebecca Hannagan had a laundry list of dream jobs that intrigued her as a child, including astronaut and fighter pilot.

While teaching runs in the family – her father was a social studies teacher – it wasn’t until she was introduced to politics as an undergraduate at College of Saint Benedict that she realized there were other ways to shoot for the stars.

“I became really interested in politics, and my family was really apolitical, so I don’t really know how I got into that,” Hannagan said. “It certainly wasn’t genetics.”

Hannagan later transferred to University of Nebraska where she spent the majority of her collegiate career, and left with a Ph.D. in political science in 2006. Later that same year, she moved eastward to NIU and embraced her first teaching job. She teaches courses in Political Psychology, The Origin of Politics, The Psychology of War and Scope and History of Political Science.

Former student Adam Brown credits Hannagan for inspiring him to continue his education and attend graduate school.

“Unlike so many other courses in my undergraduate career, which rarely – if ever – strayed away from the field’s introductory textbook, Professor Hannagan was unafraid to tackle the newest, and indeed most challenging, research in her field,” Brown said. “I firmly believe that it was her willingness to challenge her students and to make us think critically that inspired so many of us to go beyond the basic requirements.”

Hannagan says that, in a sense, she has never stopped being a student. Each time she walks into a classroom, she said, a new learning opportunity presents itself.

“Teaching political science is like being a student again, and again, and again,” Hannagan said. “When you teach, you learn new things with every class because everyone is sharing different life experiences. Students are sharing different opinions on the same books, same ideas and theories. Then, something emerges. It’s pretty awesome.”

As a recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, Hannagan believes that the honor is a reflection of her students’ passion and willingness to learn.

“I try to challenge my students to put into their education what they want to get out of it, and I’ve been so humbled by the excitement they bring,” Hannagan said. “That’s what I think this award means – it’s that gratitude. I really don’t think it’s about me; it’s about what we’ve done together.”

Hannagan is a resident of the Chicago suburbs, and is currently on sabbatical in Oregon where she is a visiting professor at Portland State University.

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