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Machines merge with management in alumnus’ 30-plus year career

A man smiles at the camera while driving a boat.

Art Braun, BS EE ’75, MS ME ’77, spent 28 years working for MTS Systems Corportation in Minnesota. He and his wife, Nora, relocated permanently to Columbia two years ago and now works as a consultant.

After more than 30 years working in industry, Art Braun is happy to sit at home in his music room, strumming away on his newly acquired Line 6 guitar. With a turn of a knob, he changes the guitar model, one moment sounding like a Fender Strat, then a Martin D-28, and comments how any engineer would appreciate the technology behind such a piece of musical machinery.

“Engineers — we spend so much time being analytical, we need to find creative outlets and use both sides of our brains,” he said.

Braun grew up in St. Louis and graduated high school in 1971. He said a teacher in his high school electronics class influenced him to pursue engineering in college, and while music remains a passion — his college band introduced him to his wife, Nora — he realized that his career might have more promise if he pursued engineering in college.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1975, but after finding an on-campus job in the “engineering experimental station” lab, he switched to mechanical engineering for a master’s degree, which he completed in 1977. After that, he began work on a doctorate, but left in 1979 to take a job with MTS Systems Corporation — manufacturer of many of the testing systems he learned to use while working toward his master’s degree — near Minneapolis.

Over the next 28 years, Braun said he spent a majority of his career with MTS, developing testing systems that analyzed the strength and durabilities of materials and structures. Eventually, he took on a leadership role, which sent him back into the classroom.

“There’s a point in your career where you have to decide whether to become a manager or remain technical,” he said. “I decided to become a manager, which required a lot of leadership and general business education.”

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Braun held a variety of managerial positions at MTS before becoming director of sales in 2003, and vice president in 2005. It was during this time that he completed management courses and programs from the University of Minnesota-Carlson School of Management and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

“Throughout your career, it is important to focus on lifelong learning,” Braun said. “You never stop learning throughout the course of your career. Anything you can do to keep learning will be a benefit to your career and your life in general.”

Braun left MTS in 2007 for what he jokingly calls his first “retirement attempt,” before being recruited as a marketing manager for the Bose Corporation. There, he managed a small business unit in the Bose ElectroForce division again developing test system solutions utilizing some unique new Bose technologies.

He and Nora relocated permanently to Columbia two years ago, and Braun retired from Bose in June. They were recently joined by their younger daughter, Sarah, and her family, who also moved to Columbia this summer. The couple will soon welcome a fifth grandchild from older daughter Alison, who lives in Seattle.

Braun is now consulting, as well as serving as a member of various engineering technical organizations, including the International Standards Organization, and as a career-long member of ASTM International, where he was made a fellow in 1996.

He also has served on the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department’s Industry Advisory Council (MAE IAC) for the last five years.

“It’s just nice to be able to give something back to the college,” he said. “I enjoy when we hold the student forum in the fall. All they do is fire questions at us, and it’s just always a great dialog. It’s fun to see the students pick up that information, and for us [IAC members] to find what out what’s on their minds.”

Being on the MAE IAC also gives him a chance to pass advice on to students who are about to enter the workforce.

“Find something you love to do,” he said. “My personal motto is: If I’m not having fun, I need to find someplace where I’m having fun.”