As the College prepares to send the Class of 2019 across the Cistern Yard May 10-11, The College Today will highlight how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what the future holds.
To get to the College from his home in North Charleston, Emanuel “Manny” Byas would park his car at the Battery and then hop on his customized Penny skateboard to cruise to campus.
“It was great,” he says. “I could get anywhere really quickly.”
But to say Byas skated through college would not be true. Although the geology major will graduate this weekend before doing an incredible, week-long internship mapping the Pacific seafloor with Robert Ballard (the oceanographer who found the Titanic), and then starting a great job in Houston, it has not been a smooth road.
“I really struggled my freshman year,” he says. “It was so different from high school.”
Part of the problem was the fact that Byas was also working more than 25 hours a week helping to run recreation programs for the City of Charleston. But as a proactive and hard-working student, he took advantage of the Center for Student Learning’s tutoring help. Often times, he wouldn’t leave the library till 1 a.m. He also found the Crossing the Cistern Scholarship program (CTC), which offers financial and academic support for sophomores and juniors who have a minimum of 30 earned credit hours and a GPA between 2.0 and 2.4.
“Manny is an outstanding example of what it means to intentionally engage in specific experiences that will greatly influence a thriving outcome and well-being,” says Chief Diversity Officer Rénard Harris, who runs CTC. “He has been engaged, focused and he has been doing it all with a smile because it led him to everything he wants to do with his life at this time. CTC put a framework around him, but ultimately it was Manny who knew when it was time to run with the wind.”
Switching his major from biology to geology was also key, along with getting in the BEAMS (BEnthic Acoustic Mapping and Survey) Program last fall. The goal of the training and research program is to develop a strong and qualified workforce for marine geology-related companies and research facilities.
The head of the BEAMS Program, professor Leslie Sautter, first met Byas when he took a seat right up front in her marine geology class.
“He immediately struck me with his intelligent questions and thoughtful remarks,” she recalls. “He clearly had a spark of interest in marine geology. I could tell he was latching on to it, eager to learn more than what was being taught in lecture and lab.”
In addition to learning a couple of complex computer programs that produce seafloor maps, Byas did a research project that he presented at the U.S. Hydro 2019 Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi, over spring break which drew the attention of Fugro, a Dutch company that is a leading provider of geotechnical and geoscience services.
“He did a show-stopping performance, discussing his work and methodology to several dozen scientists and hydrographers,” says Sautter. “Several colleagues of mine commented on his poise, presentation and research. They were very impressed, and startled to find he was an undergraduate rather than a graduate student. He was immediately courted by several companies and was offered a position with Fugro, one of the largest commercial marine survey companies in the world.”
Fugro also recruited fellow BEAMS students and geology majors Nicholas Burch and Dylan Coe, who will spend a lot of time at sea working on Fugro vessels doing marine geology and geophysics data collection.
In addition to his new job as a hydrographer, Byas also was awarded a prestigious internship with Ocean Exploration Trust, and he’ll set sail with Ballard aboard the exploration vessel Nautilus from June 11-21, 2019. Going from San Francisco to Hawaii, the 120-foot ship will map the seafloor in key areas that have yet to be explored.
“I can’t wait to meet Dr. Ballard,” says Byas. “I’ve never done anything like this before, so it will be a real eye opener and learning experience.”
Once he’s back on dry land, Byas will begin his job as a hydrographer in earnest at Fugro’s Houston office, where he’ll split his time between mapping harbors and intracoastal waterways around the world and processing the map data back in the office.
“I’m really going to miss my friends and family because I’ve lived in Charleston all my life,” he says. “But I’m really excited about what lies ahead. Literally a year ago I did not know what I was going to do, and then I got involved in BEAMS. It changed everything.”
Other notable Class of 2019 graduates from the School of Sciences and Mathematics include: Emma Collins, Hannah Hartley and John Cobb.