Dance minor. Future history teacher. Gamecock sports super fan. Meet Michael McManus, winner of the 2016-17 Chip Roberts Award and this month’s History Student Spotlight.
What made USC your college of choice?
I’m from Bennettsville, SC and went to Marlboro County High School. Growing up I was always a Carolina fan – in fact, my stepdad’s cousin played quarterback here [Syvelle Newton]. Before my senior year of high school, I came to a program called Summer Seniors where we spent four days and three nights on campus in the Honors Residence Hall, meeting students and learning about USC, getting to know the campus and the resources. This experience sealed my decision to attend college at USC.
Why did you choose to major in History?
I came to orientation as an Accounting major. However, I had done teacher cadets in high school and that experience really stuck with me. History was always my favorite subject back to third grade, but in high school I noticed how it really began to shape who I was. Ultimately I decided to change my major to History.
What has been your favorite History course so far?
I really liked HIST 350, Saving Africa: Development and Humanitarianism in Historical Perspective with Professor Josh Grace. I liked it because going in, I didn’t know a lot about African history – you don’t usually learn that in high school. It was so cool learning about history and colonialism and how it affects Africa today. I also loved the course because it was seminar-based and it was cool being able to bounce ideas off each other.
Another favorite was HIST 211, Black Experience in the United States to 1865 with Professor Nicole Maskiell. Growing up in South Carolina you kind of get the general textbook history. That class really gave me a broader understanding of African-American history that was maybe not shared with me before I got to USC. It allowed me to reflect on the struggle and perseverance of my ancestors.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned as a History major? How has it changed your life?
History is a really cool way to understand yourself and your history. Being African-American and albino that was something I struggled with, who do I identify most with? Learning more about history and specifically American history and people that came before me and what they’ve done, how they made a better life and how that was affected by history really inspired me. I think history can be inspirational. It can be sad, but even in those moments you’re inspired to do better than before. History allows you to find yourself.
How do you spend your time outside of school?
I love sports – I never miss a Carolina sports game. One of my best sports memories so far is freshman year when I went to Greensboro, NC to see the Gamecocks play in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. I took a shuttle bus there with other students who had the highest fan loyalty points.
I’m a dance minor and teach dance two days a week to students ages 12-18. I also do student choreography showcases. I went to an arts middle school and studied dance there and did dance team throughout high school so I wanted to continue pursuing dance at college in some form. Sometimes my Dance classes cross over with my History classes – I’m in a musical theater class now, learning about the progression of dance through the years. I did a presentation about “Hamilton” – it’s kind of revolutionary in that the music and dance are hip hop which not what historically goes on in Broadway. Now we’re in a youth-based movement.
Other than that, I love Netflix – my favorite shows include Gray’s Anatomy, 13 Reasons Why, and Marvel superhero remakes like Daredevil.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to teach high school US history. I am doing the five-year Master of Teaching track with my History major. I’m open as far as where I want to teach but wouldn’t mind teaching in South Carolina.
Primary source documents! (laughs) In HIST 111 (US History to 1865) we just read a document from the Civil War about why the Confederacy seceded, written by the Vice President. I found it fascinating to learn about southern nationalist identity and how that still affects us today.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I have a job as the student coordinator for the Multicultural Outreach Team, part of the USC Admissions office. I work with admissions events and recruiting. This is really cool because I get to be involved with the same type of programs that attracted me to USC as a high school student. I also serve on the Carolina Judicial Council and I’m a mentor with MAPP (Multicultural Assistance Peer Program). Being a mentor is important to me – I am from a small town and I identify with other students in that same situation. If you don’t do well here, you’re going to wind up back where you were.
Another way I’ve gotten involved in mentoring is being a University 101 Peer Leader. This has been one of my top 10 experiences at USC. It was great getting to encounter 19 students and helping them complete the first semester of college. I still talk to many of the students today. I didn’t take University 101 as a freshman so I got to learn along with the students.
I’m from a big family – I’m the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. In fact, I have a brother who is also named Michael so I had to go by my middle name growing up! My mother was the first college graduate in the family. She came very close to achieving a 4.0 college GPA so trying to keep up with her is a big inspiration for me.
You won the Department of History’s 2016-17 William G. “Chip” Roberts Scholarship Award (a competitive award given annually to an outstanding History major). What was that experience like?
I was at work at Admissions when I found out. I saw the email pop up and immediately texted my mom – she was screaming! I applied when a friend in another department told me I should check out History scholarships. I am thrilled to receive the award; it’s a great honor.
Michael receiving the Chip Roberts Award from Professor Kent Germany at USC Awards Day in April 2017.