Colin Hannigan: CSB/SJU assistant professor, political science

How did you decide on your majors and minor at CSB/SJU?

Colin HanniganWhen I arrived at CSB/SJU, I only knew one thing — I wanted to become a lawyer. As it turns out, I was wrong. In the certitude of early adulthood, though, I decided to major in political science because I was interested in politics (plus, I figured it was the appropriate step in the direction of law school) and Spanish because it was fun. Soon, and thanks to the excellent Political Science and Hispanic Studies faculty — a vague interest in politics grew into a fascination for international relations and a simple enjoyment of speaking Spanish developed into a passion for learning about and experiencing Latin American cultures. Then, when I realized I could study politics in Spanish class and study Latin America in political science, I was hooked! After working my way through my majors and studying abroad in Chile, my Latino/Latin American Studies minor was kind of a happy accident. During my senior year, Bruce Campbell and Corey Shouse alerted me to the fact that I was exactly one capstone project away from earning a minor if I wanted it (and, well, I did).

What was your experience like taking Spanish at CSB/SJU? How does this help you in your day-to-day life?

My experience taking Spanish was unforgettable. In fact, just the other day, my friend Mary sent out a group message asking if we all remembered a poetry book from one of Corey Shouse’s classes (AmeRícan by Tato Laviera). There was a crew of us that sort of ‘grew up’ together in the major/minor. Having a regular group of compas in each class makes an already interesting subject that much more engaging (and provides solidarity and accountability when necessary!). Spanish classes were hard work made worth it by fun classmates, passionate professors, intellectually rich materials for study, and clear, celebrated improvements in reading, writing, and conversational skills. The reading skills I developed in the major have proven particularly useful in my current work, allowing me to incorporate Spanish language primary and secondary sources that document Latin American conflicts.

Academically, in what specific ways did CSB/SJU challenge you? How did this help you grow as an individual?

During my senior year, I was working on three different capstones while applying to graduate school, attending classes regularly, and trying to figure out the rest of my life. Finding a balance between my schoolwork, my life planning, my job, my friends, and sleep proved to be quite challenging. With practice, though, I started to develop more effective time management skills (which are still a work in progress!) and I learned that it's okay to ask for help and support when things get tough. Above all, I think the most formative lessons that the challenges of academic life at CSB/SJU taught me were to persevere, to communicate with professors and ask for help and guidance, to find something interesting in everything I read, write or hear, and to make an effort to produce work that I can be proud of, because, a lot of times, that's more rewarding than any letter grade could be.

How did CSB/SJU prepare you for life outside of college?

For me, life outside of college meant more college. After graduation, I practically left Benet Hall and kept driving until I reached the University of New Mexico. CSB/SJU had prepared me well for the challenges of graduate school. For example, thanks to my CSB/SJU education, I was better prepared to read and comprehend dense theoretical texts, write clearly and analytically, and make the most out of seminar-style discussions. Also, even though I majored in Spanish and political science, I got to learn about things like history, poetry, theology, philosophy, and math, which (aside from helping me out in trivia games) all contribute to a broader foundation of knowledge that I find myself applying in all kinds of social and academic contexts, including my teaching. Plus, it was a new school, in a unfamiliar place, so I did what any Johnnie or Bennie alum would do: I started to build community! What started with study groups among colleagues and brief chats about the Albuquerque weather between neighbors turned into game nights and “Friendsgiving” dinners.

How did you decide that you wanted to teach? Specifically, how did you decide you wanted to teach at CSB/SJU?

My mom likes to remind me that I decided to teach when I was in the third grade so I could be more like my teacher, Mrs. M. Realistically, though, the thought of pursuing a teaching career didn’t really cross my mind until toward the end of my sophomore year at CSB/SJU. A few of my classmates and I had started a study group to work out some tough concepts when I realized that going over theories out loud helps me remember them and understand them better. As it turned out, processing things in this way was also helpful to my friends! I took that as a sign that maybe teaching is something I could pursue, and could be something that I enjoyed. Over the next couple of years, as I grew to admire my professors more and more, the thought of becoming a professor myself became increasingly alluring. When I ultimately applied to graduate school, I did so with a clear goal in mind: to come back and teach at CSB/SJU!

What has been your most rewarding experience while working at CSB/SJU?

All of them. I realize that sounds like a corny response, but I mean it. I get to research international relations, study Latin America, talk about politics with passionate students, and work with all of my former professors all day long. I have the most rewarding job ever.