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Jason Hanna

Jason Hanna

Philosophy of life

Jason Hanna teaches students to think critically, draw their own conclusions

If students were grading their professors, Jason Hanna would earn high marks both in and out of the classroom. The NIU associate professor of philosophy and 2016 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award winner tackles tough topics while challenging students not only to learn, but to think critically and form their own conclusions.

Former philosophy student Rodrigo Narbona said Hanna consistently made a positive impact in his life and those of fellow Huskies.

“His constant support and spot on feedback was inspiring and eye-opening,” Narbona said. “He is kind, insightful and incredibly helpful, traits that I one day hope to possess if I find myself in a teaching position.”

Hanna is passionate about philosophy, and displays a genuine interest and appreciation for the topic. The way he teaches and interacts with students - through carefully organized lectures, guided discussion, and group work – allows his students to discover first-hand what is exciting, important, and fulfilling about philosophy.

“Professor Hanna had a way of conducting class which was enthralling to me,” former student Brandan Rissman said. “He was able to capture my attention in a way that no other professor had before. He used just the right amount of wit, knowledge and analogies in his lectures to captivate his audience’s attention.”

Rissman said under Hanna’s direction and encouragement, he became an active learner which carried over to other courses.

“I seldom raised my hand in class before taking a class with Professor Hanna,” Rissman said. “What helped to smooth my transition from another body in a chair to becoming an eager student with a thirst for knowledge was Professor Hanna’s genuine interest in the success of his students.”

Before joining NIU in 2009, Hanna earned a master’s degree and doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  He currently serves as a faculty associate with NIU's Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy and was awarded the Young Ethicist Prize for best paper by a non-tenured philosopher from the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress. During the 2015-16 academic year, Hanna was a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs at Tulane University.

Hanna’s students leave class with more than an understanding of course material. They leave with critical reasoning and cooperation skills that are valuable not just in philosophy, but even non-academic settings.

“Professor Hanna does more than just teach classes,” Narbona said. “He is a vital part of the university community. He has more than earned this award.”