‘Life changing’ degree inspires career change

December 6, 2011
Raina Delisle
Glenn Hanna

Glenn Hanna was ready to retire, when a chance meeting at a Royal Roads University recruitment event at University of Guelph-Humber in 2009 changed his course.

Hanna did his bachelor’s degree at University of Guelph-Humber and happened to run into a former professor at the event. At the time, Hanna was commander of the RCMP’s Toronto East detachment and was working on his thesis for his MA Leadership degree from Royal Roads.

Before the presentation started, Hanna and his former professor chatted about Hanna’s thesis, Fostering Trust within Toronto RCMP: People Not Process, and his tentative plans to retire from the force. The presentation started, cutting their conversation short. The professor found a napkin, scribbled a note on it and slid it over to Hanna. It was a job offer. In June, Hanna was appointed Assistant Program Head of Justice Studies after successfully teaching courses part time.

“So much for retirement!” Hanna jokes from his office at Guelph-Humber, recalling his surreal transition from student/police officer to professor. “It was a Sunday afternoon. I hit the send button on the final, final version of my paper. Monday I was in the office in red serge with my sword on for a big formal parade; it was my last day on the force. Tuesday I had a day off. Wednesday I started teaching. It was completely unplanned and it was because of my studies at Royal Roads.”

In addition to earning a degree that gives him the credentials to teach at the university level, Hanna says his experience at Royal Roads also opened his eyes to the importance of following your passion.

 “Personally, it was life changing. It changed my outlook on work. A constant theme in class was, ‘Work to your passion, not your pension.’ And I remember thinking, ‘That’s easy for you to say, professor.’ But as the two years went by, more and more that came to the fore.”

Another thing that changed Hanna’s outlook on work was his thesis on organizational trust within the RCMP, sponsored by his superintendent. Hanna worked for the RCMP for 32 years, living across the country and doing everything from inoculating sled dogs to homicide investigations. Having worked his way up the ranks, he had observed the issue of trust from many points of view.

“The bottom line was institution trust had been damaged,” he says in summary of his findings. “The only way to start rebuilding is with one-on-one personal trust. You have to start building personal relationships. People didn’t trust institutions or positions anymore. That came from the research participants. They wanted to look their leaders in the eye. They wanted to meet them. They wanted to see that they’re capable, they’re competent. They wanted that personal level of trust.”

In addition to presenting his findings to a Royal Roads panel, Hanna also forwarded his report to members of the RCMP and in October was invited to make a presentation at a lecture series on leadership organized by the RCMP in Windsor, Ont. Hanna hopes his recommendations for fostering a climate of trust will be taken forward by the force and he also plans to use his Royal Roads research as the basis for further study and for some of his teaching. “It’s nice to share practical experience and to be able to put that academic rigor around everything you’re doing in the class and I attribute that a great deal to what I was exposed to and what I learned at Royal Roads.”

“Glenn was a real leader in his cohort,” says professor and MA Leadership head Niels Agger-Gupta, who taught Hanna during his second residency. “He had tremendous energy, enthusiasm and persistence. To hear that he’s working in justice studies – that’s perfect. He has a real ability to impact many, many students in terms of his ideas around inclusion and the value of trust.”

While his thesis explored weaknesses of the RCMP, Hanna says his experience with the force was overwhelmingly positive. Agger-Gupta adds that he was impressed by Hanna’s appreciative process of exploring organizational trust. Instead of only looking at what was broken within the RCMP, Hanna also focused on what was working.

“I don’t regret my time in the RCMP,” says Hanna. “I enjoyed it right to the end, and I don’t miss it at all. It was time for a change. My studies at Royal Roads brought that home to me.”