Courtland James (CJ) Manning, a sophomore at the Leeds School of Business majoring in finance and economics, was elected last week as a Representative-at-large for CU’s student government.
Born in Colorado, he graduated from Aurora Grandview High School and is involved in many on-campus groups, including the CU-LEAD Alliance, the inaugural Diverse Scholars Research Initiative and the Center of Corporate Social Responsibility within Leeds. Along with being a student manager and assistant for the CU men’s basketball team and a Daniels Fund Scholar, Manning also has a clothing line, Urban Ambition, and is currently writing a book titled “Blindfolded.”
This fall he ran for Representative-at-large on the Unite ticket, promoting sustainability, affordability, diversity and inclusion.
What made you run for a representative position?
I see that, here at the university, there’s a lot that could be done, especially creating change in areas that need change.
What areas are you referring to?
Like the things I promote — inclusion, diversity and affordability. Looking at those issues and how they affect the CU campus made me decide to run.
You ran on the Unite ticket. Did you target specific groups of students, e.g. minorities?
No. We wanted everybody to know who we are. Everybody should know.
What would you say distinguishes you from other candidates?
I do not like to distinguish myself from my group, because we are Unite. We unite (laughs). We have the same goals, the same visions. During the campaign a lot of students asked me why I ran and who I was.
And who are you?
CJ Manning (laughs).
So, looking back to your goals, can you explain what they mean to you?
Sure. Diversity is one of my goals, that I think needs to be increased. We have many freshmen coming in. When they get here they do not feel supported and leave. As for now, we are not retaining them.
To increase diversity we have to increase access to the university by increasing affordability. Tuition and all other fees need to be made more affordable to new students.
Are you mostly referring to minority groups?
I am talking especially about minority student groups.
How are you planning on achieving these goals?
(Laughs) Good question. I can’t answer that for now. We have a plan — the plan is to fix it. We just don’t know how yet. We haven’t come up with a strategy yet.
But when you were campaigning, did students not want to know how you planned on achieving your goals?
I admitted to my voters that I do not know how to achieve the goals, and I think that is what they respected about me.
You said earlier, “We haven’t come up with a strategy yet.” Who is “we”?
I work with other students, professors and directors from centers that support students.
When do you think you’ll come up with a strategy?
It is hard to say. We need to review research, put our heads together and figure out what we can do to make this happen. We are just at the beginning of the process.
Going a little away from CUSG now, I learned that you are writing a book called “Blindfolded.” What is it about?
“Blindfolded” is a book about how underrepresented children who grew up in undesirable circumstances, like poverty, have a psychological blindfold and can’t see themselves being successful because of their environment and lack of exposure.
Why are you writing it?
I am one who had that blindfold, and I was able to become successful by changing my environment. I discovered my potential and what I am capable of.
Would you say you reached the top of your potential yet?
(Laughs) No, I’m just getting started. It’s important to understand that it’s a process. Once you realize you have that blindfold and once you are able to remove it…that’s the process, each chapter is a different step in that process. I apply my personal story to these steps, and also some further research. If you remove your blindfold you have the tools that it takes to overcome life’s misfortunes. Once you remove it, you have a life full of opportunities. Many people are blindfolded and they don’t even know.
Keeping that in mind, what is your advice for CU students?
I can’t give that. That’s coming in the book (smiles).
When is your book going to be published?
The date is to be determined, but I look to summer 2015.
Writing a book and being involved in student government seems kind of odd for a business major. Why are you majoring in business and not politics or writing?
I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a business guy. Why I study finance and economics is because I want to be a shark. You know, like ABC’s Shark Tank? The student government is a way for me to identify an issue and directly address it and create a policy to fix it.
Are you planning on staying on CUSG until you graduate?
Oh, yes (laughs). I’m home.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Anna-Lena Schneider at email@example.com