Like mother, like son: Duo reflects on earning master’s degrees together at LU

Erika Thomas with son Quincy Walter


After a 10-year hiatus, going back to earn her Master of Business Administration degree wasn’t an easy decision for Erika Thomas, but she focused on her future vision for her career. What she didn’t see coming, however, was that she would be graduating alongside her son Quincy Walter. The mother-son duo earned their MBA degrees in spring of 2022 and now, three months later, the two reflect back on their journey together at Lamar University as summer commencement nears for new graduates.

Thomas currently holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Education in Reading Literacy. After several failed attempts, the El Paso native said she never imagined going back to earn her MBA.

“Once I finished my master’s in education, I enrolled in school to start my MBA in 2012, but dropped out a few months into the program. In December of 2020, my son Quincy and I discussed going to school to obtain our MBAs. At first, it was kind of a joke, but then we started having serious discussions about what school would meet our needs. We settled on Lamar University due to the support we received during our online inquiry.”

The two started their journey together in January of 2021 and quickly became study buddies. It’s an experience that Quincy said was indescribable.

“My favorite part about the program was being able to be in the same classes as my mother. It was cool to help her out and give each other understanding when things were not adding up mentally,” he said. “It felt good to be students at the same time as my queen; things were easier when I could count on my mom as my support system. I love my mom so much and it felt good to accomplish something with her that we will be talking about for the rest of our lives.”

Thomas added, “We held each other accountable. When he did not understand something, I was able to explain it further. When I did not understand something, he stepped in and explained it to me. We were definitely each other’s stronghold.”

“Relentless.” “Motivated.” “Beautiful.” Those are the three words that Quincy used to describe his mother and classmate. Thomas is an army spouse, a mother of three adult sons and a grandmother, or “MiMi,” to four. She currently serves as an educational diagnostician for her local school district, facilitating assessments on special education children and then analyzing the data. Quincy said his mother has a drive like he’s never seen and her accomplishments motivate him daily to do great things in his own life.

“My mother is someone that doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and is always one step ahead in any challenge she may face. She is beautiful in the things she does out of love for her family and puts herself last to take care of those around her first,” he added. “My mom is easily motivated by the love that she receives around her because it gives her self-confidence to do anything she sets her mind to.”

For her, Thomas said, it wasn’t just about earning her degree, but about continuing a family legacy that came before her. 

Bettie and Milton Carter

“Quincy and I are not the first mother-son duo to graduate in our family. My grandmother, Bettie Carter, and her son, my Uncle Milton Carter, walked the University of Texas at El Paso stage together in 1981. We had big shoes to fill, but we were able to carry on the family legacy.” 

While their time as classmates at LU has come to an end, their journey to reach their goals together is far from over.

In the future, Thomas plans to transition out of education and into an analyst position, but said she’s enjoyed watching her son excel alongside her.

“I’m so proud to see Quincy taking life by the horns,” she said. “He keeps pressing on to continue to reach his goals.”

Quincy, on the other hand, said he’s working to follow his mother’s blueprint for success.

“I am actively looking for better career opportunities and building a better future for the family I hope to have. I’m also currently in school for my second and preferably my last master’s so I can catch up to my mom’s educational accomplishments.”