Union Leaders – Dr. Eric Hannel

Dr. Eric Hannel

Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 50 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the monthly series, Union Leaders.

This month Dr. Eric Hannel is featured.

Dr. Hannel writes and speaks extensively about Native American and veterans’ issues exposing discrimination and inequality. For example, in his recent article, “Centuries Old Practice of Removing Indian Children from Their Homes Continues,” he discusses the continuing practice of separating Indian children from their families without due process and in violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and human rights.

Dr. Hannel retired from the United States Marine Corps and later served as a congressional military liaison (2007-2011) and staff director and lead investigator for the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee from 2011 – 2016.

He is a UI&U Ph.D. graduate, member of the Board of Trustees and will complete his law degree specializing in Indigenous Peoples Law this summer.

Below are Dr. Hannel’s leadership insights and a profile of his professional career that sheds light on his mantra, “Work to positively impact one life and you can change the world.”

Q. How do you define leadership?

A.  Leadership is the dynamic process which creates and maintains an organization capable of willingly accomplishing reasonable tasks and goals using proven traits and principles. This is what I learned in the Marine Corps and it has served me well.

Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.

A.  As the Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigation my role as a leader required me to set the example for my investigative team. In doing so, I developed the investigative plan, trained the team, and supervised them as they investigated and maintained oversight of the second largest department in the federal government with the second largest budget in the executive branch. I didn’t task anyone with a job I wouldn’t do myself.

Q. What leader do you admire most and why?

A.  There are numerous leaders from whom I’ve modeled some aspects of my own leadership and I hold them in high esteem. Black Elk, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and numerous Marines whom I’ve had the pleasure of serving with, and the list goes on. I don’t have one leader whom I admire more than others. Everyone has something to teach, all we need to do is listen.

Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?

A.  I don’t have one favorite, I have many. William Inge: “It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion.” Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Black Elk: “The power of a thing or an act is in the meaning and the understanding.”

Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?

A.  I don’t recall ever feeling that I was a leader, per se. At nineteen years old I was in a foreign country, responsible for the well-being of a number of Marines, millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, and left to my own devices. I knew that I had a job to do, and that I was also an unofficial ambassador for the United States. One misstep could lead to an international incident, a death, or the end of my potential career. In such circumstances, you just lead; you don’t stop to consider whether you feel like a leader.

About Dr. Eric Hannel

Dr. Hannel’s passion for social justice led him to Union Institute & University’s Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, and later to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees. He earned his Ph.D. in 2014, majoring in both Humanities & Culture and Public Policy & Social Change and was the recipient of the Marvin B. Sussman Dissertation Award. He also holds a B.S. in History from Excelsior College and an M.A. in Humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills. He will complete his law degree specializing in Indigenous Peoples Law this summer.

Dr. Hannel writes and speaks extensively about Native American and veterans’ issues exposing discrimination and inequality. For example, in his recent article, “Centuries Old Practice of Removing Indian Children from Their Homes Continues,” published in Indian Country Today on March 2, 2017, Dr. Hannel discusses the continuing practice of separating Indian children from their families without due process and in violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and human rights. He also authored Reinterpreting a Native American Identity: Examining the Lumbee through the Peoplehood Model in 2015 (Rowman & Littlefield).

Dr. Hannel retired from the United States Marine Corps and later served as a congressional military liaison (2007-2011). Here he worked closely with other staff members in the development of two programs, both receiving the Liberty Bell Award in recognition of outstanding service in keeping with the spirit of the U.S. Constitution. Dr. Hannel was also the Staff Director and lead investigator for the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee from 2011 – 2016. In his latter role, he uncovered numerous scandals in the Department of Veterans Affairs that received extensive media coverage. While in Congress, Dr. Hannel also contributed to the amicus curiae brief presented to the Supreme Court of the United States regarding Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, spoke at length with the UK Defense Minister on veterans’ issues, and as part of the House Democracy Partnership, a Speaker-appointed commission to strengthen democracies in sixteen partner countries, addressed a delegation of twenty Members of Parliament from Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Peru, and Timor-Leste in a seminar on congressional oversight. In September 2016, Dr. Hannel again discussed the role and function of congressional oversight with the Secretary General of the Sri Lankan Parliament.

Dr. Hannel believes leaders are made, not born. Under his mantra, “Work to positively impact one life and you can change the world,” he continues his never-ending effort to address social issues and improve at least one life.

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