10 Questions with Jeremy Mani

Sarah Friedman, Senior Writer

Junior Jeremy Mani is a double major in medicine, health and society and psychology, a double minor in Spanish and biology, a tour guide, a VUceptor, a volunteer at the Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital and a member of a cappella group Harmonic Notion. The Hustler sat down with the campus superstar to find out how he manages to do it all, his most embarrassing moment on campus and the reason why he chose Vanderbilt in the first place.

1. You’re a pre-med student. What makes you want to be a doctor?

I want to be a pediatric oncologist. I really love interacting with people and helping people; it’s something that brings me joy. And I have found that medicine is one of the most direct ways to do it because you see a direct result. And it’s a cool thing because you can not only affect someone emotionally and make them feel happier and give them hope, but you can also physically help them and give them a chance. So that’s a huge reason why I want to go into medicine. My dad works in the cancer field as well, so I kind of grew up around cancer centers as well. Recently, one of our close family friends, a little kid who is about eight years old now, got T-cell leukemia, and so I keep him as my background on my laptop just as inspiration, because kids like him are always still smiling and still have hope. I had such an amazing childhood, so I want to give these kids a chance to experience the same thing. I got to go to prom, I got to graduate, I got to go to college. I want to give those kids a chance to do things like that as well. I’m always a “glass is technically full because there’s air in it” kind of person. I always look at the optimistic side of things. That’s just kind of how I live my life in general.

2. What did you do this summer?

I worked in Houston at the Texas Children’s Hospital, the medical center. I did research in epilepsy studies in the neurology department. It was amazing. It was a life-changing experience for me. I was always questioning whether or not I wanted to go into research, and I had an amazing opportunity to do a lot of research coordinating. I would actually go to these patients and to these patients’ families, ask them different questions about the clinical trials that they’re on, help calculate what dose they need of their medications, things like that. And because I was there for the whole summer, I got to see the results of a lot of the things that they were doing. It was a complete game changer. This wasn’t just sitting behind a computer — I was really hands on. And it only strengthened my resolve to continue being pre-med.

3. What has been the most interesting class you have taken at Vanderbilt so far?

Freshman year, first semester, WWII with professor Michael Bess. Only because so much of what I’m studying is pre-med and dedicated to things where everything is black and white. But I walk into this class and this professor is wearing shorts and a polo, and he says “I know this sounds like an awful and boring class, but all we are going to do here is focus on the controversial aspects of WWII, and I want you guys to question me every single day in class.” And I was like “What’s going on? What class is this?” And it was so cool and so refreshing to have a class where it was two-way the whole time. He admitted that just because he was the professor, he didn’t know everything. He wanted us to fight him and question things, and that tends to be the opposite of what happens in a science class. It was really intellectually stimulating for me, and it’s also cool to learn about WWII in general. We didn’t have a textbook, we just had this book that he wrote — it was an award winning book — and so even the structure of the class was different from anything else I’ve ever been in.

4. What has been your most embarrassing moment at Vanderbilt?

My first year, at the Country Music Hall of Fame, I decided that for cool, young, hip, single Jeremy, it would be a good idea for him to go use pickup lines on every girl I saw. I think at the moment, it wasn’t super embarrassing, but in retrospect, I regret everything. I met a lot of people that night. I went up to one person and was like “Are you a fruit? Because honeydew you look fine.” I met a lot of my best friends that are girls that night, people who I still hang out with.

5. You’re in the a capella group Harmonic Notion. What has this community brought to your experience at Vanderbilt?

I think one of the most important things it has taught me about is the importance of families. And not just the literal blood relatives. Our group is very family-oriented. We always hang out with each other, we watch out for each other. A lot of the impact of student organizations that you’re a part of isn’t necessarily just within that organization. When I’ve gone through hard times or needed help with things, they are there with me. It’s amazing because music is very important to me as well. And it’s cool because a lot of my fellow a cappella members are pre-med and engineers — it’s not just people who are only into music. It’s a place where I can find sanctuary.

6. You’re an obsessive Spotify user. How does music affect your daily life?

I make a series of very eccentric playlists. I have ones called “Middle School: The Glory Years,” “Eat Thin Mints and Cry” and “It’s Never Too Early,” (which is full of Christmas music). They all have about 100 songs in them. I think for me especially, music and emotions are very heavily tied together. Sometimes, you just need a nostalgic throwback, like a little bit of T-Pain, so you play “Middle School: The Glory Years,” or sometimes you need to calm down and let the sadness happen, so you listen to some “Eat Thin Mints and Cry.” Christina Perri is very heavily included in that one. And it’s so important to have those things readily available to you and to other people––that’s the cool thing about Spotify. I’m starting to get some pretty serious followage on “Middle School: The Glory Years.” [read: 34 followers]

7. How has being a VUceptor shaped your perception of Vanderbilt?

The one thing that it’s really changed is that I realize now how important it was for me to meet these upperclassmen. Because when you’re on the Commons, it’s almost like a separate life. And to have this link with someone who’s on the main campus, who’s an upperclassman, and hearing their stories about things is really valuable. I remember in retrospect how important it was for me to hear my VUceptor talk about these classes that he hated or loved, and to provide that very real perspective. College isn’t always going to be super shiny. One day, you are going to be in the ‘scomb. One day, you’re going to have to take bio and orgo together. And it’s not only important and refreshing, but it’s important to hear that from someone who’s up there.

8. Why is being a tour guide important to you?

I love tour guides. Especially this year now, a lot of people I gave tours to are actually at Vanderbilt. Talking to them and seeing them is really cool because it’s not that I helped them decide, but I helped them foster this love of campus. I think one of the most important things that makes Vanderbilt special is its campus and its people. The only way you can see that is if you take a tour. And I like to think of myself as literally a guide, I’m not directing them places, I’m just showing them these places and letting them experience it. I always like to bring in friends who I see on my tours and have them talk. I’m not sure how legal that is, but it’s something I really like to do because it’s really cool for people to get this real view of campus. Because when you’re on a tour, all you just see is the very face of it, but if you can peel back a few of the layers for them to kind of see what’s inside, it’s very tantalizing for people and people really want to come here by the end of the tour. I love that. I love how tangible that is.

9. Why did you decide to come to Vanderbilt?

When it came down to it, I was deciding between UVA and Vanderbilt, and I kind of looked through every single thing. I looked all the way down to a cappella groups on campus, student-teacher ratio, I even did online tours of Vanderbilt and had been to UVA. I messaged my classmates from high school that were here and at UVA and noticed how much effort each one put into it. At the end, I flipped a coin. But while it was in the air, I knew in my head that I wanted it to land on Vanderbilt. And it landed on Vanderbilt. And then literally a few days later, someone hit a (home run) and we won the World Series. Against UVA. It was too symbolic of a moment. College rankings are obviously important, but that only goes so far because you are living in a place for four years. And one thing that people always say about Vanderbilt is that our culture is super amazing. We have a great social scene, we live in a great city. It’s those things that make your four years special. Vanderbilt had that.

10. You’re SO busy. What keeps you going?

The way I view things, in college especially, is that I do a lot of stuff, but the only things I ever do are things I’m passionate about. So even when I’m tired and drained, I still know the reason know why I do things, and I think that helps me push through. I take a lot of energy from other people — people like my friends, and even random strangers every once in awhile. Vanderbilt is such an amazing campus. If you’re down, someone will stop by and be like “Hey, what’s going on? How are you doing?” And moments like that really keep me going. It’s the people that I surround myself with that keep me going. I do a lot of things — probably too many things. But the people at each one of them always remind me why I do it. Humans are weird, sometimes we can find energy out of nowhere. And I find that energy in every single person I see. Andrew Brodsky (a fellow Vanderbilt student) once said: “compassion and passion.” People are always caring for me and watching out for me, and people are always adding fuel to my fire, so that’s what keeps me going, because it’s definitely not eight hours a night.