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From Virginia Beach to Guantanamo Bay: When It Comes to Your Career and Your Life, Terell Dixon Believes There Are No Limits

Terell Dixion, Wake Forest online project management student
Terell Dixion, Wake Forest online project management student

The Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies backpack is no stranger to going international, having ventured into households across the globe. But when we noticed that one landed in Guantanamo Bay, our curiosity took hold: What was the story behind the American Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies (Wake SPS) student living in Cuba? 

Originally from Virginia Beach, Terell Dixon and his family have lived at Guantanamo Bay since October 2022. With a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Old Dominion and his Six Sigma Green Belt, Terell is an industry expert in logistics, operations, and engineering. Today, he works as the Utilities Commodities Manager for NAVFAC SE. When a former colleague mentioned the opportunity at Guantanamo Bay, he was interested. Terell was familiar with the emotions and logistics of making big moves and living in unconventional environments. The son of a military father, he spent 16 years growing up on a base in Japan. “I knew Cuba’s slower pace and sunshine would benefit my family,” he notes. “It really hit me when we woke up on Christmas morning, and it was sunny and warm.”  

In January 2023, four months after he arrived to work at Guantanamo Bay, Terell started to consider what graduate work would look like in the context of the recent move and his new job. “When I was working as an engineer at Newport News Shipbuilding, I ended up managing a lot of projects, which was something I never knew how to do,” he begins. “Next thing you know, I’m in engineering management, working on schedules, cash flows – I’m learning on the job.” It turns out he was a natural at the role. “Everyone was telling me how amazing I was doing. That’s when I decided to pursue my Master’s Degree in Project Management.”

Terell always had his eye on Wake Forest. “During my undergrad, I was accepted to Wake Forest and offered a scholarship, but there wasn’t an engineering program at the time,” he remarks. “I ended up going to Old Dominion to be closer to home. My dad was overseas, and I’m an only child. Staying close to my mom felt like the right thing to do.” Another Demon Deacon bonus? “My favorite basketball player is Tim Duncan,” he says with a chuckle. (Tim Duncan attended Wake Forest University from 1993-1997 before he was drafted in the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft; he would go on to play for and coach the San Antonio Spurs from 1997-2016.)

When Terell chose to pursue a Master’s Degree in Project Management, his first thought was to consider options with Wake Forest, still holding out on his dream to go to the same alma mater as his sports idol. As fate would have it, Wake SPS had recently added Project Management to its program list. “I was like, ‘Oh man, they’ve got it!’” he exclaims. “I jumped on the opportunity.” 

So how does Terell juggle family, work, and a degree (all while living in a foreign country)? It’s a question that confronts many when debating whether to go back to school. Terell says that the program structure was one of the biggest draws. “I talked with Eric, my Student Success Manager, to understand how the courses were broken down. I like the idea of taking one class at a time before jumping into the next. It helps me focus and manage my time, so I can work around my family and job schedule.”

When we asked Terell what he would say to someone who is hesitant about returning to school later in life, his answer was simple – just go for it. “The longer you wait, the more opportunities you might miss,” he points out. “And then you might look back – say, five years from now – and think if I just made the decision then, I would already have this degree done.”

Part of Terell’s joy in pursuing a graduate degree is discovering what you’re passionate about and knowing your strengths. “It takes time to find out what you want. But once you find your niche, everything falls into place. Just like when I found the Project Management program at Wake Forest. It was a long journey to discover who I am and what I’m good at in order to land on this decision,” he says. 

Wake SPS’s Project Management program has allowed Terell to test the waters in a new avenue in his career to match the exciting new chapter in his life. As for what’s next, he wants to keep taking his education to the next level. “Once I complete the program, I want to pursue the PMP. That will allow me to manage more major projects, or maybe I’ll get out of engineering and transition into project management altogether,” he notes. “I don’t want to limit myself.”

Learn more about Wake Forest online Project Management Masters Degree and Project Management certificate.