Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

Mike and Emily Ziema

mike and emily zieman
Mike and Emily Zieman on their wedding day in 2009.

Mike and Emily Zieman bond over Baja  

Where are you both originally from and how did each of you end up at Auburn and in the College of Engineering?

Emily: I grew up on a beef cattle farm in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes and gravitated toward math and science. I thought I wanted to go to Georgia Tech for various reasons, and happened to visit Auburn during the same trip and fell in love with the town and campus. I had heard of Auburn before and remember thinking “that’s a big football school,” but in all honesty I had no idea where it was and wouldn’t have visited if not for its proximity to Atlanta.

Mike: I was born in Alabama but my family has lived all over the Southeast. I realized at an early age that I should consider becoming some sort of engineer. This was apparent as early as fourth grade recess when I was far more intrigued by studying the electrical, mechanical and telecom systems of the school buildings than I was interested in playing soccer for the fourth time that week.  Even then, I had a fantastic appreciation for systems that somehow made our world better, and I felt a strong desire to master those systems and help create the new ones that would take things even further.  Later I realized my specific calling was for software systems, and I nearly ended up at Mississippi State, but at the last minute decided Auburn had a stronger software engineering program.  Not a single person I knew ended up at Auburn with me, so I was determined to branch out and find the next group of friends that little did I know at the time, would become my best friends for the next 15 years and counting.

What year did you both graduate and what were your majors?

Emily: I graduated in 2002 and 2004 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering, respectively.

Mike: I graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering.

How did you meet?

Emily: We were both members of the Baja SAE team.  At the time, we actually had an all-women team so we technically didn’t work on the same car, but we worked in the same shop.  All the members of the team were quite good friends, though we did have an unwritten “no inter-team dating” rule, which I suppose we broke!  We did attempt to keep it professional. We recognized that we had a great cohesion among all the team members, and neither of us is very outgoing when it comes to PDA!

Describe your first date:

Emily: My favorite part was the phone call when Mike asked me out.  I planned to go to a car race in Georgia for the weekend, along with several other Baja team members, but then realized I couldn’t go because of schoolwork. After I decided not to go, Z (I’ve always called him Z) called, and unknowing to him I wasn’t going to the race said, “you can’t go to the race,” and I almost blew it by saying “well I wasn’t going to go anyway,” and then I paused and said “wait…why can’t I go?”  He responded saying “Because you’re going out to dinner with me.”  We had been friends for a few years and gone out to lunch or dinner, usually with other friends, many times. I kind of laughed and said ok.  I got off the phone and said to my roommate, “you’ll never guess who just asked me out!”  It turns out that she already knew, but she replied “who?” to which I responded “Mike Z…,” in both a confused and surprised state.  The next night we went to Outback Steakhouse over in Opelika and I don’t remember a great deal of the conversation, other than telling him he didn’t need to be weird or nervous around me, as we were already good friends.

How did Auburn Engineering bring you both together?

Emily: To be blunt, we are both engineers and think like engineers. We easily sympathized with each other when school was extremely time consuming and stressful and understood the commitment that each other had both to school and the Baja team.  Plus, we did little things to help each other out; like knowing he is a night owl, I used to drive him to his 8 a.m. senior design class every day!

Mike: Engineering gives us a mutual respect for each other’s abilities that I think is rare among typical couples. In our family, there is no real “breadwinner” or “boss;” each of us brings certain skills to the table and we know where we can (and need to) rely on the other to do our best.

When did you get married and where do you both live now? Have kids?

Emily: We got married on May 16, 2009 in Point Clear, Alabama. We live in Madison, Alabama.  We don’t have kids yet, but we consider our two dogs and cat to be enough to handle in the meantime!  In addition, we have numerous surrogate children between our church youth group and the kids with whom Emily skates at the local figure skating club.

Where do you both work?

Emily: I’m a civil servant for the U.S. Army and work as a liaison from the Joint Attack Munition Systems project office to the Apache project office, specifically supporting weapons integration on the Apache attack helicopter. Currently I’m serving a six-month developmental assignment in the Army Systems Acquisition Review Council at the Pentagon and will return to Redstone Arsenal in March.

Mike: Since graduation I've had the opportunity to do some great work for a global mapping and telecommunications leader as well as an amazing small defense contractor; both providing big customers with new, agile technologies that help them become more successful and efficient.  I've also played a substantial part in several technology start-up companies whom I feel I have been able to grow, shape and advise along their path toward success.  I enjoy using my education along with the right mix of people, technology, engineering and business sense to create real value for customers and better the world around us.

Best memory you both have as an Auburn Engineering couple?

Emily: We have lots of good substantial memories, of course.  Things like Baja races together, football games, graduation, etc.  I think my favorite memory was when we’d meet each other for lunch during a regular school day.  Engineering school is challenging in itself, and being on the Baja team is akin to at least another full time job.  Those times where we got to stop for a little while and just laugh with each other were the sweetest.

Mike: My favorite moment was recently when Emily received a special young alumni achievement award from the College of Engineering and was invited to speak with and among other distinguished engineering alumni at a reception.  I realized that night how outstanding she is and was so proud that we have the privilege of representing the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering together in such a special way as a family.

Last Updated: 2/26/15 2:49 PM