A career change from astrophysics to diversity

Stephany Mejia, Assistant Features Editor

At the age of eight, Chief Diversity Officer Dr. McManus worked at his first job scooping ice for ice bags at the liquor store in front of his home. He would buy pants with his pay of five cents per bag.


Originally from Massachusetts, Dr. Joe-Joe McManus spent his youth playing basketball.


With his first name being Joe-Joe, Dr. McManus gets asked often about his name. He said his father was a fan of the Celtics Basketball team. Dr. McManus named is inspired from Jo Jo White, a Celtics basketball player and his father’s middle name and grandfather’s first name, being Joseph.


For his high school years, his family moved to Washington D.C. where his interest was mainly basketball even though he still excelled academically.


Dr. McManus received scholarships to play college basketball, but he was no longer interested in playing the sport anymore nor was college in his plans. He said his plan was to work in construction, but Florida Tech called him. His dad and friends encouraged him to go to college, making him a first generation college graduate.


As a young boy, Dr. McManus said he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. He studied astrophysics at Florida Tech and was the first American employee at the Soviet Academy of Science.


During his time in Russia, Dr. McManus was assigned to speak around the country about different topics. At one of his assignments, Dr. McManus was asked to speak about American holidays. He said he was excited for his speech because those were topics he really cared about. He spoke about Independence day, Thanksgiving and Juneteenth.


After that speech, Dr. McManus was asked to continue giving speeches about diversity issues. Dr. McManus identifies himself as Irish Jewish. He said he was aware of diversity due to growing up in a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious home.


Dr. McManus recalls many people approaching him showing him their passports and how they were marked for being Jewish.


After a year in Russia, Dr. McManus came back to the U.S. and said he realized social issues mattered to him more.


Dr. McManus said it was not an easy decision to change his path and it took some time for his parents to understand his choice. He said his family understood his decision after they saw him teach and were very supportive.


To receive his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Dr. McManus attended Florida A&M University. He describes the university as the first university he became attached to and the first one that made sense to his interest.


Dr. McManus says him and his wife converse about the different experiences his eight year old daughter Mikaila will live through. Him and his wife have exposed their daughter to diversity..


“I feel like I didn’t have any fears before I was a dad but now I am afraid of everything” said Dr. McManus while chuckling.


He said it can be difficult to explain to his daughter about the Me Too movement and Black Lives Matter.


“The reality is you don’t know what your child is going  through in life. She is gonna go through experiences I never had, so I can’t teach her about what to expect. She is gonna go through some things I wish she wouldn’t,” said Dr. McManus about his daughter.

Dr. McManus joined the CSUSM community in January 2017. He said that the discussions he had with the faculty and students of CSUSM gained his interest in the university. He said he had not realized until most recently that approximately 20 years ago while working on his Masters degree, he came to CSUSM to give a speech.