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In Retrospect: Kathryn Hanna

The longtime faculty member reflects on her time at the University of Minnesota.

Kathryn Hanna retired earlier this year after more than two decades at the College of Biological Sciences. During her tenure at CBS, she served in leadership roles including assistant and associate dean for faculty and academic affairs. As a faculty member in the college’s Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, Hanna taught and mentored students in career planning and leadership through the Biology Colloquium Program, a biology internship course and freshman seminars. She was also involved in student efforts to launch Minnesota Medical Leaders, the Forensic Science Club, and Future Leaders Aspiring in Science and Healthcare. 

How did you become interested in the life sciences?

I had a great 10th grade biology teacher, Mr. Nutting. He made it so interesting that I would hang out in his classroom after school. I remember the day that we dissected perch, my mother had made fish for dinner. It seemed like I could connect biology to so many things around me.

What has changed and what hasn’t changed at the U of M since you arrived?

My career with the University of Minnesota started when I was hired to teach biology at the University's Waseca campus (UMW), which I did for over 20 years. I served as vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at UMW for two years before the campus closed in 1992. Soon after, I joined the College of Biological Sciences as a faculty member and assistant dean. I was involved in many major changes during that time including the college admitting freshman directly (students used to start in CLA and transfer to CBS their junior year), conversion from quarters to semesters, and the initiation of the neuroscience major. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career besides the wealth of new knowledge in the life sciences is in teaching technology. When I started teaching we had typewriters, ditto machines and stencils. There were no copy machines or computers. Faculty shared a secretary who typed tests, manuscripts, etc. What hasn’t changed is how fun it is to work with students, see them get excited about a subject and mature as they learn.  

Who stands out from your time here, whether leaders, colleagues or students?

As an educator one is always learning from students and colleagues. I have interacted with many students who have left an impression. Some of them I’m still in contact with after many years, especially with social media such as LinkedIn. It is a pleasure to see students go on to interesting careers—everything from forensic science to drug development to dolphin research to health care.  

As an educator, what’s the most important thing you tried to convey to students?

Think critically, be respectful, have fun with learning, try things you’re uncomfortable with, plan ahead, don’t hesitate to ask for help, communicate well.

What are you going to do in your retirement?

I have many projects waiting for me at home such as sorting out the old family photographs that I inherited. I’m also on the board of the Fan Association of North America, a group of folks interested in collecting hand fans of all sorts. Along with some friends, I also plan to sell “stuff” on eBay. I definitely won’t be bored!


May, 2016