Peter McManus ’20, pursuing doctorate in physical therapy

Health, Exercise, and Sport Studies
July 17, 2023

Health, exercise, and sport study (HESS) majors have the flexibility to structure their courses in the ways that best support them in their career goals. HESS majors are successful in a huge variety of fields. In this series, our graduates share their stories.

The covid pandemic may have cut into campus time for HESS major Peter McManus ’20, but he still had time to create plenty of memories. The Akron native enjoyed club soccer with friends and fulfilling his cravings for Whit’s. McManus is currently at Northwestern University, pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy.

He adds, “I met amazing people and made lasting friendships, and my research with Dr. Winters is something I am very proud of to this day.

Why did you choose to major in HESS?

I felt that majoring in HESS would best prepare me for graduate school. I liked the idea of being able to do research as an undergraduate student, something many people do not get to do until graduate school. In addition, the classes were intriguing and offered a wide variety of educational experiences. The professors in this department are second to none; they truly care about the students and are willing to devote a lot of time getting to know them.

What has life been like since graduating?

Right after Denison, I became a patient transporter at a major hospital in Madison, Wisc. The following year, I moved to Chicago to begin graduate school at Northwestern University to get my doctorate in physical therapy. I am in my second year of graduate school, currently fulfilling my neurology clinical rotation. One of my highlights here is being able to make a lasting impact on community volunteers we get to work with as a student.

How did your time at Denison prepare you for graduate school?

Denison helped me to become comfortable participating in academic discourse and forming relationships with the people in my field. Many students who attend larger universities for undergrad have a difficult time making relationships with professors, but, luckily, I had practice doing that from Denison. I also felt like I had a “leg up,” because I had already done research at Denison, which was an expectation in graduate school.

Can you tell us about HESS courses or experiences that have been applicable to graduate school?

I took many classes such as anatomy, kinesiology, and therapeutic exercise that translated directly into the material I am learning in physical therapy. My first trimester definitely felt easier because I had these classes under my belt. In addition, participating in research helped me see a different side of academics, which is helping me in physical therapy school that is very research-focused on different treatment methods.

What words of advice would you give current HESS majors?

There are so many possibilities with a HESS major and many career options. Keep your mind open, truly follow your passions, and take advantage of the many opportunities within the major. Do not be afraid to make connections and learn from professionals in their field.

Denison has a great alumni network, and most people are more than willing to help out current Denison students. I also recommend taking advantage of the Knowlton Career Center so that you can put what you are learning into practice early on.

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