There’s a 13-hour time difference between Japan and the U.S., but Southern alumnus Austin Auger, currently living and working in Tokyo, is happy to talk by phone about his alma mater — even if it is 10:30 p.m. his time. Though he lives far from Connecticut, Auger is still able to visit occasionally, and has helped the School of Business in years past, speaking to students and holding classes on campus.
Auger is currently the director of business development for engineering and construction (Oil and Gas /Power Division) at CB&I’s (Chicago Bridge and Iron Company) Tokyo location. He is also a country representative director for CB&I Federal Services. In these roles, he advises companies and business partners how to engage with each other—especially those with different business practices. He is also, as he puts it, a “trouble-shooter,” identifying the root causes of issues between companies, helping them overcome problems to work cohesively together. This work takes him all over the globe, as do his teaching assignments. In addition to teaching courses on business culture challenges at several universities in the U.S. and abroad, Auger leads classes and workshops for such corporations as Japan Airlines, Sony, Toyo Engineering, Suntory Beverages, Shaw, and the Japan Atomic Power Corporation.
Auger didn’t plan on going into business when he was younger (his childhood dream job was to be a rock musician), but he was raised to understand the importance of education and hard work. A first-generation college student, Auger came to Southern with little idea of what to expect from higher education. “My grandmother, with whom I lived, wanted me to continue my education but did not have the means to support me. I had to work, save money and pay my rent and tuition. No one from my family knew how to advise me, so I was rather lost,” he says. Though he struggled at the beginning, Auger soon found his place at Southern, and worked hard both in and out of the classroom. He worked at a bakery on weekends and for campus security as a parking monitor. He joined the volleyball and track teams. The track coach at the time, James (Jim) Barber, was a mentor. “He is one of the main mentors of my life,” he says, “and his positive outlook and willingness to help others taught me how to work within a great team.”
Auger graduated from Southern in 1978 with a degree in physical education. “I wanted to be a teacher and wanted to make an impact on younger kids,” he says, but the timing wasn’t right to go into education at that point. Instead, he was recruited by the Marine Corps, serving America as an engineer. While enlisted Austin attended Webster University, earning a master’s degree in management and business. Now, he gives back to Southern because of the impact the school community had on him. “Having so many great friends and professors made me feel like I was home, which I never felt was the case in Japan,” he says. “I was finally accepted as one of the Americans and that was quite important for me. I am so thankful for the people I met and became friends with at Southern.”
Today, Augur is feeling at home in Tokyo. He keeps a handful of plants growing on his apartment’s balcony. He loves cooking, especially when he’s able to use his home-grown vegetables. The travel bug remains strong. Some of his favorite destinations include Italy, Columbia, the Scandinavian Peninsula, and Germany. He’s also been to all the states except for North Dakota and Michigan. He plans on officially retiring somewhere down the road, but will continue to teach classes, work on a freelance basis, and keep up with his volunteer work.