By Dave D’Onofrio
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University in 2007, Taraje Williams-Murray knew he wanted to continue his education and quickly begin pursuing his master’s — but in order to do so, he first had to find a program that would fit the challenges of his overflowing schedule.
By then, Williams-Murray had begun training for his second Olympics as a member of the United States’ Judo team, and training for the Beijing Games was obviously a time-consuming commitment. He needed to find a school that would allow him to balance his athletics and his academics, while simultaneously setting him up for short-term success on the mat and long-term success in life.
“Having the flexibility to be able to train and travel while continuing to pursue my education was important to me,” he said.
And with Boston University, through Metropolitan College’s online Master of Science in Banking and Financial Services Management program, he found just what he was looking for. Without interrupting his athletic endeavors. Or even having to move away from his native New York.
Enrolling at BU six years ago, Williams-Murray is one course away from being eligible for his master’s degree, and when he does graduate he may do as one of the most accomplished athletes among the roughly 6,000 Terriers who have graduated from BU online over its first 10-plus years.
First taking judo lessons and falling love with the sport when he was 8, by the time he was 19 he’d qualified for U.S. National team and traveled to Athens to compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Fighting in the 60 kg division, he won a match at those Games, then followed it up by finishing ninth in the 2005 World Championships and seventh at the 2007 Pan American Games.
He won a bronze medal at the Pan-Am games the next year, positioning himself for another go at the Olympics in 2008, and in Beijing the 5-foot-6, 145-pound Williams-Murray began the tournament with a brilliant upset win over Japan’s Hiroaki Hiroaka — the top-ranked fighter in the tourney, and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist. Check it out:
That triumph put him into the round of 16, and while he was eventually eliminated, it didn’t take away from an experience he’ll carry with him forever.
“The opening ceremony always sticks with you,” he said when asked about his favorite Olympic memories. “Those are images that never really dull in my mind. I also recall vividly all of the moments of competition and those shared with other athletes and family. Having gone to two games there are lots of stories. It is tough to pick out one.”
Describing himself as an “intelligent fighter,” Williams-Murray says he always took a cerebral approach to his matches, pouring a lot of time into preparing strategies and tactics for all of his potential opponents. And while his days as a competitive fighter are over — beyond occasionally practicing judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu, and delivering seminars — he says some of the lessons he’s learned over his many years on the mat have translated and helped him in the business world.
“My career in martial arts has provided valuable experiences whose lessons are directly applicable in finance,” he said. “I learned concepts such as risk/return spectrum, asset allocation, and opportunity costs within the context of planning to make an Olympic team. Unfortunately, other lessons like the value of sticking to the plan and executing those tactics, were learned through losses on the biggest stage.”
Taking classes through BU has taught Williams-Murray plenty, too – and not only what he’s learned within the content of the online classroom. Specifically, he says he’s ascertained quite a bit about time management. “The program is fast-paced and one can easily make it more challenging by falling behind,” he said, noting that his advice for incoming students would be simply, “mind your time,” and adding that those new students are entering a BU online environment that has positively evolved since he was in their position.
“The online education experience has improved since I started in the program,” he said. “It is far more interactive and collaborative now, more closely resembling a classic classroom setting.”
Williams-Murray recently launched a registered investment advisory firm in New Jersey called Coroebus Wealth Management, which he founded with the mission to “inspire entrepreneurs to prepare and execute bespoke strategic plans to achieve specific goals.” He says it’s the only independently owned firm of its type in Newark — but if another should open, we assume he’d be up for the competition. Two Olympic judo appearances say he enjoys that sort of thing.
Plus, with a BU master’s degree coming soon, he’s eager.
“My ‘what’s next,’” he said, “is GROWTH.”