Editor's Note: This profile is part of a series that features the stories of graduates whose outstanding journeys have culminated in a UMGC degree.
Chad Mayfield had just finished his first semester at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), studying toward a Bachelor of Science in Computer Networking and Cybersecurity. It was four days before Christmas in 2018, and it was shaping up to be a routine day at his job as a junior traffic technician with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation in Maryland. He was splicing a fiber optic cable connected to a surveillance camera on the side of a road when he heard a crash and looked up to see an out-of-control vehicle headed straight at him.
“I tried to get out of the way, but it hit my left hip. The car hit me at 55 miles an hour, dragged me under it for 30 feet, and slammed me headfirst into a rock retaining wall, breaking my neck,” said Mayfield.
What followed was a medical leave from work and withdrawal from all his scheduled spring 2019 classes. But Mayfield kept his eye on a degree and this month he is among the UMGC graduates receiving diplomas. The former U.S. marine from Texas will celebrate the achievement with his wife, who is nine months pregnant, and the couple’s two children, aged 8 and 10.
“The online classes allowed me to continue living a life with my family while working full time. This degree is helping me advance my career within Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation,” he explained.
Mayfield joined the county transportation department when he left the U.S. Marines in 2016, after a decade working as an avionics electronics technician. When he enrolled at UMGC, he received 35 credit hours for military training he had taken at the University of Florida, helping jumpstart his degree program.
His wife, Amanda, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, was the impetus for his UMGC enrollment. She completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in small business management and entrepreneurship at UMGC in 2020. About halfway through her degree program, she began urging Mayfield to use his GI benefits, like she did, to continue his education.
“I wasn’t planning on ever going back to college. Then seeing my wife do it, and the rest of my family has degrees, I thought maybe I could do it,” he said.
In fall 2018, he enrolled. For a time, he and Amanda both juggled classes and the demands of parenting young children.
“We did tag-team. I’d do a semester when she took a break and vice versa,” he said. “Sometimes we’d read over one another’s papers or bounce ideas off one another when we were stuck.
“Still, we were on two different degree paths. I’d sometimes watch her write those 26-page papers and think, ‘I’m glad that’s not my homework!’”
Mayfield said he studied better at UMGC than when he was in high school. He also set a standard for himself, based on the Marine Corps telling him that 80 is a passing grade and anything below is failing.
“Sometimes I’d call our children over to look at our grades, telling them that this is the standard we were upholding in our household,” he said.
Medical issues persisted after the car crash, including some that complicated his studies.
“There’s a memory gap. I don’t remember three months before or after the accident, so I had to re-study some of the stuff I originally learned,” he said. He also suffered from migraines, which made it complicated to read sometimes. He worked around that using technology designed for people with dyslexia, a condition he has also dealt with since childhood.
He had to wait for seven months after the accident before doctors deemed him ready for needed spinal fusion surgery.
Even before this month’s graduation, Mayfield saw two job promotions due to being enrolled in college. He is currently a traffic systems technician III.
His graduation celebration will include Mayfield’s wife, children, brother, and sister-in-law but, sadly, not his father-in-law. In 2021, Mayfield opened his house to his father-in-law, Robert Edmiston, who had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He helped Amanda with her father’s care until Edmiston’s death shortly before Christmas that year.
What’s next for Mayfield? “I am at this moment planning to take a year off from school then most likely start a master’s degree program in cloud computing at UMGC,” he said. “I also would like to move to a job in the Department of Technology in Montgomery County. One of the requirements is a master’s degree.”