If photography, traveling, reading, finding the best natural light for her plants, and spoiling her puppy were not enough activities to fill her time, Rebekah Brau also has a drive for researching why humans do what they do. Brau, a recent addition to the faculty for the global supply chain management (GSCM) program at the BYU Marriott School of Business, thrives off of sharing her many passions with her students.
During her undergraduate years at BYU Marriott studying business management, Brau initially thought her dream job would be working at the executive level of Goldman Sachs. However, on a Women in Supply Chain association trip to Wall Street in 2012, she realized that corporate life was not what she wanted. Instead, Brau decided she wanted a career that could give her more flexibility and creativity in her day-to-day life.
The year after that fateful school trip, Brau completed an internship with Overstock.com’s social responsibility initiative Worldstock, which helped her discover her niche within the supply chain discipline. “I learned how to acquire goods from several towns in South Africa and move them all to one warehouse to be shipped to the United States,” she explains. “I gained insights into what is happening in supply chains, especially in developing countries.”
Returning from her internship, Brau looked for assistance in defining more clearly her newfound interest. “I spoke with my professors at BYU Marriott, who helped me hone in on my passion, which was studying organizational behavior across the entire supply chain,” says Brau. Her interest led her to eventually pursue five more years of education.
After graduating from BYU Marriott in June 2016, Brau wanted to expand her knowledge in psychology to help her learn more about organizational behavior to complement her new focus. She started working toward her master’s degree in instructional psychology and technology (IP&T) at the David O. Mckay School of Education at BYU.
“I have always been fascinated with what motivates people,” says Brau. “I wanted to have a deeper understanding of the theories on human learning and the cognitive mechanisms that work within our brains.” Brau graduated with her master’s degree in IP&T in December 2017.
With a desire to further her education and her knowledge in behavioral supply chain, Brau immediately started working toward her PhD in supply chain management at the University of Arkansas; she graduated in May 2021.
Directly following her graduation, Brau signed on to become an assistant professor at BYU Marriott for the GSCM program. “BYU Marriott is an outstanding business school with amazing connections to the supply chain industry and with some of the brightest minds teaching and studying here,” she says. “But as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what I was truly drawn to was the ability to stand up in front of the classroom and testify of my Savior Jesus Christ. I can’t do that at most universities.”
Brau adores teaching her students at BYU Marriott and using her expertise on human behavior to help her students fall in love with learning. “My favorite thing about teaching is when I see students who are able to change their mindset,” she explains. “When their mind suddenly shifts from learning for just a grade to actually wanting to learn and even loving to learn—that is when I know I have done my job.”
In September 2021, Brau was recognized with the Doctoral Dissertation Award by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) for her dissertation on integrating human judgment in machine learning. Brau felt overwhelmed with gratitude when she was announced as the winner at the CSCMP conference. “During my first year in my PhD program I attended the CSCMP conference and I remember thinking about how cool winning the dissertation award would be,” she recalls. “Being announced as the winner was such a surreal moment for me because this was something I had worked toward for four years.”
Brau is currently focusing on developing more research on human and organizational behavior within the supply chain and is working on submitting several peer-reviewed articles to scholarly journals and magazines. “I want to push my research out into the world so all that I have learned can start gaining traction and cultivating conversations,” she says. “I believe my research is how I can have a little bit of impact on improving the world in which we live.”
Even though Brau has many hobbies and passions, she pours her whole heart into teaching. “One of the things I care about as a teacher is making sure everyone has a safe space to learn and grow,” she says. “Learning how to learn is the absolute key to being successful, and I want all of my students to know that.”
Writer: Bethany Benham