By: Joe McAdory
AUBURN UNIVERSITY - Running
into your brother or sister on campus is not unusual for siblings enrolled on
the Plains. Bumping into your father as a fellow student is quite rare, though,
and might be considered awkward – but not for Xavier and C.J. Uzomah, a father
and son duo pursuing their goals through Auburn University and its Raymond J.
Harbert College of Business.
C.J. has been working toward
an NFL career since he was 6. And why not? A prize recruit at North Gwinnett
High School in Georgia, he became the starting tight end on Auburn's 2013 SEC
championship team and scored three touchdowns on 11 receptions last season –
including the dramatic game-winner in the closing seconds against Mississippi
"But at the same time, I know
that if that doesn't work out then there are other options for me," said C.J.,
a senior marketing major. He's a passionate soccer fan who also ponders a
future as a communications/marketing representative for an international
"I'm a pretty outgoing
person," he said. "I figured that marketing would be something that I could
talk to people professionally. I feel that I'm pretty persuasive in some
His father, Xavier, is an
experienced financial analyst from Atlanta who wants to climb the corporate
ladder. That's why he earned an Executive MBA, or EMBA, degree from Harbert
"I was a 5-star EMBA prospect,"
joked Xavier, a May 2014 graduate who kidded that recruiters told him, "I've
seen the way you can handle that pencil."
Together, the father and son
tackled academics on the Plains, sharing some of the same courses and
"It was weird at first
because I saw him on campus and people are like ‘Hey, I think I saw your dad
but I'm not really sure because I don't know why he'd be here,'" said C.J. "It
was a fun experience – him being able to take me out sometimes and talking
about his schoolwork. It was kind of eye-opening—to see how much fun he was
having with his classmates and the opportunities that they were able to come
The EMBA program blends
on-campus residencies and distance learning, which appeals to business
professionals nationwide – allowing them to work full-time while earning an
MBA. During his EMBA residencies, Xavier managed to visit his son, while
respecting his freedom.
"We tried to have dinner once
every week I was here," said Xavier, who earned his undergraduate degree in
business administration from Southern Mississippi in 1997 and has worked for
the likes of SunTrust and the Southern Company. "I tried to stay out of C.J.'s
way. He's 21. I wanted to let him have his own experiences."
While C.J. competed on the
field, he also competed, in a sense, with his father off of it. After his
freshman year in 2011-12, the athlete established a reputation among professors
as a bright, attentive student. Little did he know that some of those same
professors would soon be comparing his father to him.
"My dad was like ‘Some of the
professors said that you were a good kid, nice student, and all this stuff and
so, obviously I have to be better than you at this,'" C.J. said with a grin.
"It's something where we kind of competed with each other a little bit, tried
to make it a ‘let's see who can do better' type of thing. That was fun for me.
My dad worked his butt off. He stayed up until 4 in the morning some nights
doing some things and I was like ‘I'm going to go ahead and go to sleep.' I
think he had the upper hand."
C.J. said his father admitted
to him at graduation in May that his own passion for schoolwork and success
"inspired him to pursue this and get his EMBA. That was a jump-start for him."
"Seeing him going through the
process – getting his picture taken in front of the Auburn University sign and
getting his diploma, inspires me to not only get my undergraduate degree but
hopefully to be able to get my MBA from Auburn," C.J. said. "It really was a
fun experience – hearing his name called, and next year it should be me."
Academics are obviously
important in the Uzomah household. C.J.'s mother, Stephanie, is a kindergarten
teacher and holder of a master's degree in education. C.J. said he believes
that one day returning to earn his MBA, or possibly an EMBA, will give him a
competitive edge in the workplace.
"Attending my father's graduation I was observant to the plethora of students that graduated with business degrees—meaning the business world is becoming a hot commodity and there is going to be fierce competition when I graduate," he said. "I believe it will be to my benefit to get my MBA in improving my chances in this competitive field."
COURTESY: Auburn University Department of Communications and Marketing