Hankewich will assume the post in September, succeeding Christian Tiemeyer, who stepped down last year after leading the orchestra for 23 years.
One of five finalists for the position, Hankewich visited Cedar Rapids earlier this season for a series of interviews and a performance with the CRSO.
"Hankewich provides new youthful energy on the podium, a new direction...and new ideas about programming which will hopefully have broad appeal," said flutist Jane Walker, a member of the search committee. "His joy in the glory of the sound, his infectious smile, and his expressive and emotional gestures all create an inspirational and uplifting experience for both the musicians and the audience."
Hankewich said, "I am eager to alter thinking and perception that orchestras and the music they play are only for the elite."
The other finalists were Delta David Gier, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and music director of the South Dakota Symphony; Paul Haas, music director of the New York Youth Symphony and assistant conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic; Daniel Kleinknecht, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre; and Lawrence Loh, associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.