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portrait of Adam Hanna

Adam Hanna

Assistant U.S. Attorney

Criminal Justice

Graduated in 2007

Explain your career path

After graduating from Southeast in 2007 with a B.S. in criminal justice with a minor in business administration, I attended law school at the University of Missouri - Columbia, where I served as associate editor in chief of the Missouri Law Review. I graduated with my J.D. in 2010. I was lucky enough to move back to Cape Girardeau after graduation and joined Bradshaw, Steele, Cochrane & Berens. I passed the Missouri and Illinois bar exams on my first attempts and stayed in private practice until 2014.

In the spring of 2014, I started the application process to join the Department of Justice as an assistant United States attorney. I hoped to join the office in Cape Girardeau, but no positions were available at that time. I was offered a position in the Southern District of Illinois and started on July 14, 2014.

As an attorney in my office's civil division, I focus primarily on defensive civil litigation involving medical malpractice and civil rights. I handle a few criminal cases as my caseload allows. My work has allowed me to travel around the country for depositions and witness interviews, but most of my time is spent in the office, or in the federal courthouses in East St. Louis and Benton.

What was your major at Southeast and what led you to that?

After starting in the business department, I moved to criminal justice after deciding that I wanted to work in law enforcement. I made the change because I wanted to be taking classes that related to my preferred career path (and because some of the math prerequisites for business were really, really hard).

Why did you choose to attend Southeast?

I considered a number of universities in the area including SIU Carbondale and the University of Illinois, but ultimately the size, low cost, and outstanding reputation of Southeast drew me to attend. I knew that it was the best fit for me by the end of my tour.

Who influenced you most during your time at Southeast?

I was fortunate to be the student government president for two years, and that gave me the opportunity to work with Ken Dobbins a great deal. His inclusive leadership style and laser focus on improving the student experience influenced me greatly.

Share your best college memory.

My best memory at Southeast was the day that, after months of work, we kicked off the WINGS off-campus shuttle. It was amazing to see a big project come to fruition.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Southeast?

The most important lesson I took away from college was the importance of being organized and following up on promises. Every project we took on became possible by developing a plan and working in an organized fashion to carry it out.

Describe Southeast in three words.

Learning by doing

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

My greatest professional accomplishment is the job I hold today. I am proud to serve the public as an attorney in the Department of Justice.

How did your education at Southeast prepare you for what you are doing today?

My criminal justice classes gave me the foundation I needed to understand the federal criminal justice system. I think back to my classes with John Wade, Michael Brown, Andrew Fulkerson, and Linda Keena on a regular basis. I apply many of the principles they taught in my job today.

In addition, my education at Southeast prepared me very well for law school. My classmates at Mizzou included graduates of prestigious private universities, and I felt confident from the first day of classes that I was just as well prepared for the experience as they were. My undergraduate studies at Southeast gave me the critical thinking skills that are crucial for success in law school.

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?

Go to class. Do the reading. You will not be successful in college or graduate school unless you show up prepared to learn. Seek out a mentor who is doing the job that you want to have, and learn from your mentor's mistakes.

What do you wish you had known before graduating and entering the "real world"?

Before graduating, I thought that simply having a college degree would be enough to have a great job. The reality is that college degrees are prevalent in today's job market, and the degree alone is not enough. To set yourself apart, you must have a set of strong job references and a great reputation for hard work.


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College of Humanities and Social Sciences
One University Plaza
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701