Font Size

content body

Q&A: Get to know College of Human Sciences' alumna Alina Braun

What was it about Auburn and the College of Human Sciences that made you want to complete your masters and doctorate in the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences?

During my teenage years, I held a deep-seated dream of becoming a fashion designer. However, my practical German parents expressed concerns about the viability of pursuing a career in that field. It was at this point that I stumbled upon Auburn University's College of Human Sciences and their Consumer and Design Sciences program. The program presented a remarkable opportunity to merge my love for design with research, thereby satisfying both my personal passion and my parents' practicality. This combination of focus areas was, and still is, incredibly rare. In Europe, I had been unable to find a similar course or tailored education that offered such a unique blend.

The program at Auburn allowed me to delve into a diverse range of fields and topics, including consumer behavior and design. Although I couldn't predict the exact shape of my future, I felt confident that this exceptional education would empower me to make a positive impact on people's lives and truly make a difference.

Alina Braun at desk

Alina Braun '18, currently works as the head of design research & psychology at BMW Group Design.

In your opinion, what were some of your favorite experiences while completing your master’s degree and doctorate from Consumer and Design Sciences at Auburn? How do you think the program prepared you for your future career?

While there are numerous aspects that make Auburn's College of Human Sciences exceptional, it is the people that truly stand out in my mind. The professors, colleagues, staff, students and even the beloved Aubie, all contribute to the unique fabric of Auburn. When people speak of the "Auburn Family," I initially struggled to grasp its true meaning. However, as time went on, I came to understand that the connections forged at Auburn are lifelong bonds.

Auburn's unwavering support and abundant resources created an environment where I felt like a valued member of a community, a family that genuinely cared about my success. It is through this support system that I was able to pursue my dreams and passions with confidence. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be an Auburn Tiger and to have been a part of Auburn's College of Human Sciences.

What were some of your reasoning’s for getting into a career path that deals with cutting-edge consumer and design research projects related to car design and consumer psychology?

When pursuing a doctorate in a specialized field, such as mine, it's natural to question whether our expertise will ever find practical applications in the real world. I often wondered if my findings would truly make a positive impact and improve people's lives. It was during this contemplation that I discovered the relevance of our studies to the automotive industry. The industry was seeking answers to questions that scientists like us had already addressed. It was a realization that gave me a true sense of purpose. However, I also recognized the need to bridge the gap between scientific findings and industry language. The fast-paced nature and high challenges of the industry demanded clear and understandable communication. Striking the right tone and level of complexity became crucial in ensuring that our research could be effectively translated and applied.

This realization brought back a memory from my student life. My major professor asked me to condense 30 pages of my dissertation into just three pages for clarity and conciseness. Although I was initially upset, I now realize the invaluable lesson she taught me.

Alina Braun in BMW

What has it been like living and working across three different continents? Did your time serving as an instructor and supervisor for the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy help prepare you for this?

Supervising the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program has been an incredibly profound and impactful experience in my life. Despite being born in Europe, I have learned so much about Europe and Italy, its rich culture, captivating art, delectable food and the warmth of its people. Living with the students in the magnificent Chigi Palace provided invaluable lessons in group dynamics, team spirit and personal growth. Witnessing Europe, particularly Italy, through the eyes of Auburn students has expanded my horizons in ways I never anticipated.

Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working in various countries, with different teams, and in diverse locations. However, the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program stands out as a crucial chapter in my journey of developing empathy and cultural intelligence. These skills have become increasingly vital in today's global job market, enabling individuals to thrive and compete on an international scale.

As well known, living and working across continents inherently pushes individuals to step out of their comfort zones, encouraging personal growth and resilience. It exposes them to a myriad of cultures, customs and ways of life, broadening their perspectives and enhancing their communication skills. Moreover, this exposure cultivates empathy and a deeper understanding of others, fostering harmonious interactions in an interconnected world. Thus, anyone who has the chance to be part of this truly unique program, will experience a positive life changing experience.

Just describe a few of the roles you play in your current position working in design research & psychology for BMW Group?

As a leading researcher at BMW Group Design, my role is to bring impactful insights from science to our design team. We strive to understand diverse human needs and desires, translating them into design solutions that make our future offerings both joyful and purposeful. Our goal is to create designs that make our customers' lives more enjoyable and less complex, working towards making the world a better place — one design at a time.

In addition to this, I also advise our design and management team to ensure that our offerings are future-proof and have market acceptance. We organize various events for design evaluations, actively seeking feedback from external experts, but also customers, to continuously improve our designs and the experiences we offer. By integrating cutting-edge research into our design process, we combine designers' intuition with scientific knowledge. This data-driven insight then informs the design strategies of different brands within the group. It's truly exciting to merge gut feelings and expertise with data, creating designs that resonate with our customers on a deeper level.

At BMW Group, I also prioritize passing on the Auburn Family spirit by providing positive mentoring and support to individuals. I believe in fostering a culture of growth and development, where individuals can thrive and reach their full potential. It's a rewarding experience to see individuals grow and succeed, both personally and professionally.

What have been some of your biggest achievements since you left Auburn in 2018?

It's difficult to pinpoint "the" biggest achievement in my career. However, I take pride in my contribution to bridging the gap between science and industry, regardless of whether I was working at McLaren, Lotus, Geely Auto group, or BMW Group.

I've had the privilege of opening doors that were previously closed. This has allowed for the application of scientific discoveries within automotive design teams, and even at the highest levels of boardroom management. Witnessing the tangible impact of my efforts has been both humbling and rewarding. It is a testament to the importance and reach of this field.

"It is essential to seek diverse experiences. Explore different companies, fields and even countries to broaden your perspective and find what truly sparks your interest and joy. "

Alina Braun

What would be your biggest piece of advice for future Auburn students interested in pursuing a degree in consumer and design sciences from Auburn?

I have three pieces of advice:

  1. It is essential to seek diverse experiences. Explore different companies fields, and even countries to broaden your perspective and find what truly sparks your interest and joy. While some workdays may be long, they become effortless when you find a task that genuinely brings you joy.
  2. Master the art of communicating your ideas concisely and precisely. In the industry, time is limited, and being able to convey your message effectively in a matter of seconds is crucial. Precision and focus are the keys to success.
  3. Early on, grasp the true meaning of the "Auburn Family." Here, you will forge connections that will last a lifetime. Embrace the sense of community and support that comes with being a part of this family. It is a network that goes beyond professional connections and becomes a source of lifelong friendships.