Student Spotlight

Brandman alumnus and adjunct is Oregon’s newest state senator

January 09, 2017 by Brandman University
Sen. James Manning

Oregon State Sen. James I. Manning is a Brandman graduate and adjunct faculty member.

At one minute after midnight on Jan. 1, James I. Manning became the newest state senator in Oregon.

It’s the latest in a varied list of career and life changes for the Brandman M.A. in Organizational Leadership graduate and recent adjunct professor for online students in the School of Business and Professional Studies.

Manning has also been a homeless teen, an almost accidental college student, a corrections officer, a police officer, a 24-year Army veteran, plant manager for Weyerhaeuser, commissioner on the Eugene Water and Electric Board and president of numerous foundations. He’s also a huge fan of Brandman University.

“I would recommend Brandman for a quality education to anyone. I know the faculty is absolutely committed to a quality education. They’ll make sure that you’ll get what you’re coming there for, the knowledge you need,” said Manning.

Emphasis on education

Appointed to fill a vacated state senate seat, Manning wants to make education one of his main concerns, with adequate funding from pre-K all the way through college.

“Oregon is 47th out of 50 in the nation for high school graduation rates. We do a disservice to ourselves and to future generations if we don’t provide more opportunities.”

For Manning, those opportunities include offering a greater variety of programs, such as the arts and vocational programs, so that more children can find what inspires them. He’s particularly concerned that the current emphasis on standardized tests fails to consider the challenges some students face

“I was one of those children. I came from a very challenging background. I was homeless at times, without shoes on my feet. I know what it’s like to struggle,” he said. While adding that those experiences shaped his character, it’s still something he doesn’t want to see others experience.

Manning got a break when he visited a high school friend attending Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri. Seeing what college life was like inspired him to pay an impromptu visit to the college president, eventually resulting in a grant to study law enforcement. “I had always aspired to be a police officer,” he said.

That dream eventually came true

James I. Manning

James I. Manning

but after a few other career shifts, he says he “got patriotic and thought I would do three years in the Army and three years in the Army Reserves. Twenty-four years and three months later, I retired.”

Brandman connection

It was the Army that brought him to Chapman University College, which was renamed Brandman University in 2009, and where he first met Glenn Worthington, who, at the time, was a faculty member at Fort Lewis in Washington.

“Glenn Worthington was very patient with me,” said Manning, who considers Worthington, now the dean of the School of Business and Professional Studies, a mentor and coach. Several years later, Worthington convinced Manning to give teaching as an adjunct a try, putting back in the classroom to teach the leadership and organizational skills he had acquired.

Manning’s new career choice doesn’t surprise Worthington. “Three things made Sen. Manning an ideal person to mentor:  He had a wealth of varied leadership experiences in the military.  His work ethic was extremely strong and he was a responsive listener.  It doesn’t surprise me that he has transitioned from providing patriotic and selfless service in the military to serving communities as a leader in civilian life.  I’m looking forward to enjoying a ‘reverse mentoring role’ in the future.  As a new senator, I know James will have a number of things he can teach me,” said Worthington.

The skills that made Manning a successful leader and student will now help him to help his constituents. The servant-leadership model learned at Brandman transformed him, he said. He began thinking of himself as working for his soldiers rather than having them work for him and that led to successful missions. It’s that same servant-leadership model he plans to keep in mind when working with the people he represents.

Consistent communication, he said, will be at the heart of what he does. “While we may not always agree, we’ll be able to come up with alternatives that aren’t just for one person but benefit everybody.”

“It’s not about me. It’s about serving the people.”

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