Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Maggie (McLinden) Layfield

Maggie with her husband, Daniel
By Maggie (McLinden) Layfield, Class of 2010, Integrated Language Arts major

“English majors can do anything.” I heard that more than a few times (both in college and out), and it sounded like the desperate chant of people trying to convince themselves that they could do something with their degree. Well, something aside from attempting to write a novel while working as a coffee shop barista. I suppose my family was grateful that I declared myself an Integrated Language Arts Education major (after a brief stint as a Math Education major), as it at least meant I could get a job as a teacher. Upon graduating, I did just that, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

At the age of nine I boldly declared to my neighbor that I wanted to be a poor English teacher living in a shack with my husband and many children. He chuckled and patronizingly patted me on the head, which only served to motivate me further. When it came time to graduate and plan my future, I knew I belonged in education and I belonged at Ashland University. From the first moment I visited there, I considered no other colleges. It knew it was the perfect blend of small town feel with the diversity that my own small town decidedly lacked. Not too far from home but not too close, and above all, the home of one of the best education programs in the state.
Maggie with Daniel on their wedding day
What I didn’t know until my first day of classes was how life-changing my time there would be, thanks in large part to the professors and classes. It wasn’t enough to simply learn how to teach and have a general knowledge of your subject; we were expected to push ourselves, expand our ideas, and challenge the material in front of us. I fell in love with reading and literature all over again as I took courses in everything from South African literature to 18th-century English novels. The last two years at Ashland were spent composing my Senior Thesis for the Ashbrook program, a labor of love that is, to this day, one of my greatest achievements and sources of pride.

Through a connection with another education major post-graduation, I found myself interviewing, accepting a position, and moving to New Mexico all within the span of a week. My time as an English teacher was short-lived, as I moved back to Ohio. I intended to get back into the classroom, but the market was incredibly competitive and it never happened for me. However, my time with Sylvan Learning and another fortuitous connection with an AU grad (who also happens to be my best friend), led me to Georgia, where I became an admissions advisor with a university in Atlanta and met my husband, Daniel.

Traveling for work in Sacramento with her coworker, Donna
To end this slightly chaotic journey, I now find myself as an account manager at NetSupport, a software company that specializes in tools for education. The classroom has changed so much with the influx of technology, and my goal is to help equip teachers with tools to make it more manageable so they can spend their time doing what they love—teaching. Most of my days are spent in communication with everyone from classroom teachers to IT directors. This entails a lot of phone calls and emails, and I am able to develop my own templates and work with marketing on campaigns as well. I serve as the unofficial copy-editor for all materials that go out, and occasionally they even let me out of the office for conferences! I’ve had the chance to travel across the country, including California, Oregon, Colorado, Texas, and Florida.

I never expected to end up where I am, and if you’d told nine-year-old Maggie she would end up working for a software company, she would have scoffed. But life has taught me that it has a wicked curveball, and all you can do is prepare yourself for what it will throw at you next. English Majors are critical thinkers and creative problem solvers, taught to examine things closely and look at all possible interpretations. We succeed when others fail because we know what it is to spend 8+ hours up to our eyeballs in books as we research a specific phrase that a character used. I can say with conviction that we can, absolutely, do anything.