Persistence boosts Austerman as Naomi Osborne Scholar recipient

May 8, 2023 |

Alex Austerman of Connersville, Indiana, is reaping the honors gained from his persistent push for perfection at Indiana University East.

He is the Naomi Osborne Scholar Award recipient, an honor given to the graduate with the highest grade point average, and will lead the graduating class during the alumni induction ceremony.

Alex Austerman is the Naomi Osborne Scholar for the Class of 2023. He was presented with the award at the Honors Convocation in April and will represent the class at IU East’s Commencement Ceremony on May 12. From left to right: Interim Chancellor Michelle Malott, Alex Austerman and Betty Austerman, his grandmother.

““I strove for perfection in my classes, and it just happened,” he said about finishing with a 4.0 grade-point average and being named the Naomi Osborne Scholar.

Those achievements reflect the thousands of hours he has put into gaining his Bachelor of Science in Business Management with concentrations in economics, finance, and marketing.
But they also reflect something more personal – his hard work with a heavy heart in his senior year.

His father, Bill Austerman II, died unexpectedly last summer (June 2022) while on the family’s annual trip to Disney World in Florida. Then his maternal grandfather, F. Duane Brandenburg, died in early December 2022 after a long illness. He was an IU East alumnus, graduating in 1980 with a degree in accounting.

Austerman was close to both, learning valuable lessons in persistence, altruism and the love of traveling. He has done volunteer work throughout school, including with the county fair, Salvation Army and food programs for the needy.

His current job-search goals mirror those attributes.“I am ready to jump in and work toward a brighter future,” said the 22-year-old. “I want to help people, either by working with a non-profit or with everyday consumers. Eventually I would like to help create a marketing campaign for a product or service that helps people.”

His IU East achievements resulted from a personal campaign for academic excellence.

He racked up 176 credits, including those he earned since he was a sophomore at Connersville High School.

He finished in second place in April 2022 at the Student Research Day for his presentation, “Marketing Perceptions on Consumers Opinion on Traveling Post-Pandemic.”

He earned entry into the Delta Mu Delta and the Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Societies.

“My Mom’s mom passed away (in late 2018),” said Alex, who graduated from Connersville High School as valedictorian in 2019. “I wanted to be close to my grandfather so that I was there to help him when he needed it” he said.

IU East already had played a major role in Austerman’s life. His father and mother, Trisha, met in 1987-1988 at IU East during a class taught by George Blakey. She graduated with a degree in General Studies in 1990, and associate degrees in business management and administration. Bill Austerman II would later graduate from IU Bloomington in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He worked for 31 years at Hills Pet Foods in Richmond.

Austerman applied to other universities but chose to attend IU East. He’s glad he did.

“I feel like I got a great education,” he said. “There is more one-to-one interaction because smaller classes allow professors to get closer to students. They made time for you even in the bigger classes.”

Austerman said many instructors were instrumental in helping push him to look deeper into his fields of interest and his career possibilities. They encouraged him and made accommodations for his family circumstances.

Alex Austerman (middle) with his grandfather, Duane Brandenburg, who was also an IU East alumnus, and Wes Gray, his cousin.

The instructors include Phyu Phyu Myint, assistant professor of management; Feler Bose, associate professor of economics; Sanga Song, assistant professor of marketing; and Chien-Chung Chen, associate professor of international marketing.

Song helped Austerman revise his research project. “She helped make my presentation better,” he said.

Austerman is attracted to many aspects of marketing and is considering going to graduate school and maybe even teaching later in life. He is looking for a first job that offers remote possibilities and the time to travel. “After I have traveled some, then I can put my roots down,” he said.

He believes it is fine for new graduates to be undecided about their career paths.

“The more important thing is … to make the choices that are best for them and to do what brings them joy,” Austerman said.

His life’s focus has changed since his father’s death. They talked about a trip to Disneyland in France the day before he died – and also had plans to catch a Manchester United soccer game at Manchester United’s home ground in Manchester, England.

He actually hated to fly until his senior year of high school. “Then I realized I wanted to see the world, to experience new things. You never know when it will be your last day, so you may as well live in the present with no regrets.”

For more information, visit the IU East Commencement website at