Associated Student Body President, Truman Scholarship finalist Josh Mannery aims for a career in politics
It’s no surprise that the nonprofit that Josh Mannery created is called Anybody Can Be President.
In his senior year at the University of Mississippi, Mannery has served as president of the Associated Student Body, a student government organization that gives students a voice on campus.
But this post is just a start of what he hopes will be a major career in politics. He plans to attend law school at Notre Dame University, specializing in civil rights law, and then become a community organizer.
His ultimate goals are to reform the juvenile justice system to eliminate racial disparities and, eventually, to return to Mississippi and reform the prison system across the state – ideally as the state’s governor.
Mannery’s passion for politics is equal to his dedication to ending educational inequity in Mississippi – the mission of Anybody Can Be President. The organization aims to enrich public education by bringing mentoring and tutoring programs to public schools.
His allies in this effort have included the mayors of Jackson and Oxford as well as several state legislators.
A political science and English double major, he himself has been enriched by professors who are “top-notch and incredibly accomplished.” He knew going into college that political science was going to be one of his majors, but what really made him secure in his decision was the first day of his constitutional law class.
“The professor gave us a pop quiz on what constituted as a right or a liberty,” he recalled. “Through that quiz, my mind was blown at the things we take for granted that aren’t actually guaranteed by the Constitution.
“From that moment on, I have had a constant hunger to learn more and more about laws and their origins.”
Within the Department of English, he formed the organization Cover to Cover, which promotes networking and camaraderie among people “with any type of love for English. We meet and host different events like socials and community service in order to build up a safe environment for all interested.”
Mannery’s career goal is to be a political leader, and he got his start early on campus, becoming an orientation leader and program director for the Honors College Peer Group, a group he conceived to provide guidance and stability to freshmen as they transition into life as citizen scholars on the Ole Miss campus.
The zenith of his political career was serving as ASB president this past school year. He won an election-tipping 54% of the student vote in the first campus election to be conducted entirely online, and is the sixth African American student to become ASB president.
“When I won, it was just a lot of joy,” Mannery said. “African American student leaders here on campus have really helped me out because as a student of color running for a position like this, it can be pretty intimidating.
“You know, you have to try a little bit harder than the next person, so just having them helping me out and supporting me has been phenomenal.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, shelter-in-place orders across the nation and the university’s choice to shift school-associated activities online through the end of the summer, election night played out differently.
Some of his major goals as student body president were to strengthen student engagement with student government and encouraging students to have a political voice and use it. He also aimed to make sure that student government was “as diverse and inclusive as possible.”
Although busy with this role, Mannery was equally engaged with the political science department. He praised the professors for always being on the lookout for off-campus opportunities to give students real-world exposure to what they were learning in class.
“The level of opportunities and resources and ways to engage are incredible,” he said. “There are internships that professors are always emailing us about – from working in Jackson to working in countries across the world.”
Mannery was a Truman Scholarship finalist this year, a testament to his academic accomplishments.
A Jackson native, Mannery is bracing for the cold of South Bend, Indiana – average winter temperature 31 degrees – where Notre Dame University is located, but he’s glad to be moving to a new part of the country.
“If you want to be in politics, you have to get out of your own region,” he said. “I’m from Jackson and have lived in the South all my life, so I’m looking forward to a shift to the Midwest.”
Story by Abigail Meisel/College of Liberal Arts