Faculty Spotlight: Hannah Sunderman

Hannah Sunderman
Meet Hannah Sunderman, program director of NHRI Leadership Mentoring and assistant professor of practice with the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication.
January 5, 2021

About Hannah

I was born and raised in Aberdeen, South Dakota and my high school was, quite literally, in the middle of a cornfield (Go Eagles!). My first job was at my dad's local shoe store, my mom was my middle school counselor, and my grandparent's farm was an hour and a half away. I grew up organizing games for the neighbor kids, reading books, working to build a positive culture on our tennis team and being very involved in speech and debate. Much of what I loved to do then, I've built my career around now. After high school, I moved to Nebraska to attend UNL. Beginning as an advertising and public relations major, I changed my major a handful of times before graduating with a degree in psychology and minors in English and education. Heavily influenced by my experience as an Undergraduate Researcher through UCARE, participation in NHRI Leadership Mentoring, interest in statistics, and love of facilitating others' learning, I decided to pursue further education at UNL as a graduate assistant with NHRI and ALEC. Two years and one husband later, I graduated with my master's degree in leadership education. Another two years and more than a few late nights after that, I graduated with my doctorate degree in human sciences with an emphasis in leadership.   

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

I am officially the program director of NHRI Leadership Mentoring and an assistant professor of practice with the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln? 

I initially toured the University as a high school student because two of my friends were interested in attending, and I'm so glad they were! As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew that UNL was big enough to provide numerous growth-facilitating opportunities, while also small enough that I would be able to feel a strong sense of connection to the faculty, staff and other students. Over the past eight years, my initial hunch has proven true time and time again. The people at UNL, especially my ALEC colleagues and friends, have consistently rooted for me, believed in me and challenged me to do and be more than I thought possible.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

I so enjoy being able to teach, research and lead. While I always had an interest in education, working in academia has allowed me to contribute to the body of knowledge, as well as use that knowledge to transform my students' understanding. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I am most touched when a student or parent takes time out of their day to write a thoughtful and affirming note. I keep them all in one of my office desk drawers. I also consider it a great personal achievement that I convinced my husband to marry me, as he is a truly exceptional educator, cook and overall human.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I lived in Cusco, Peru for a summer during college working as an English teacher at a K-8 school and volunteering at a non-profit coffee shop that funded afterschool childcare for single mothers. While living abroad certainly had its fair share of challenges, I learned so much in that summer about connecting with people, the art of perseverance and cultural diversity.

What is your life like outside of work?

I enjoy being active and am a particular fan of running. I'm also an avid reader (I just finished "The New Jim Crow," and it was excellent). My husband and I also enjoy going on walks, watching a variety of television shows, participating in activities with our church and traveling.