I like to see the physical application of what I'm studying.
Craig Mackel first visited UMD as a high school Senior when deciding which college to attend. That was in March 2020. Days later, schools and businesses had closed down due to the rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Craig spent the last few months of high school taking classes online, and his first two semesters at UMD were also mainly online. In his third semester, Fall 2021, classes moved back to being mostly in-person. Craig, now a Junior in the CEE Department, has handled these difficult experiences at a defining point in his life with a resilience and perspective that will serve him well in his future work as a civil engineer.
Craig says taking classes online was lonely and less engaging than being in person, though moving to in-person had its own challenges, like learning to balance schoolwork with extracurriculars. While he says the transition was awkward at first, he acknowledges that it’s “natural for it to be awkward” for everyone, and he definitely prefers being in-person.
Craig is pursuing the Transportation and Project Management track. He originally gravitated to engineering because it seemed like the practical application of his talent in physics, but his choice specifically of Civil Engineering, and his particular interest in transportation, grew from a number of sources. One was his experience with city builder video games like City Skylines, which first made him aware of the importance and complexity of traffic management. Taking the Metro to school in high school and working for Fedex and UPS during the pandemic made him even more aware of the crucial role of transportation systems in everyday life.
One of Craig’s favorite aspects of being a CEE major at UMD is the relatively small class size, which allows students to get to know their peers in the department. Another favorite aspect is studying under professors who have real-world experience as engineers. Hands-on experience is something he also values in classes like ENCE300, Dr. Goulias’s ‘Fundamentals of Engineering Materials’ class, where students can work with materials in a lab. Similarly, the internship he had last summer with Whiting-Turner was exciting for him because it allowed him to see the physical applications of what he is studying, and to see projects he has worked on be built. He hopes to get more practical experience of engineering in his internship with Bowman Consulting this coming summer.
Craig is the Membership Chair of the Black Engineers Society here at UMD. His role includes representing the organization at tabling events as well as interacting with freshmen as part of the Freshman Committee. This committee helps students adjust to the Clark School through events ranging from mental health discussions to resume or study tip workshops, as well as fun events like pizza parties. Craig will be attending the BES conference in Kansas City over Spring break.
Craig is also a member of ASCE, and he plays basketball and volleyball recreationally. He likes to go for walks and just to be outdoors in general. “Sports and nature” is how he summarizes his main extracurricular interests. He is a videographer for the UMD football team, taking videos of both games and practices. This means a lot of opportunities to travel with the team. Balancing all these extracurriculars while maintaining a high GPA is a result of “time management and discipline,” he says. “The first hour of the day is the most important,” he believes, as it “sets the tone” to be productive for the rest of the day.
Craig’s plan is to graduate in Spring 2024. He hopes to find work in the transportation/ public transit sector. He also envisions traveling, and possibly eventually teaching. Whatever his path, he has already learned a lot about how to deal with life’s unpredictable challenges. It will be exciting to see the way he uses his knowledge and experience to positively impact the world around him.