Student Spotlight: Karena Heitzman
“Never tire of your dream.” It’s the advice Karena Heitzman would give all incoming freshmen to Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. And it is advice she has embraced during her past five years as an Auburn undergraduate. The fifth-year architecture major from Huntsville, Alabama, will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in May. Upon graduation, Heitzman, who has had a lifelong dream to design and build theme parks, will be moving to Orlando, Florida, where she will be working as an architectural designer in the themed entertainment industry.
“My dream became a reality during the summer of 2022 when I joined the attraction development team at Universal Creative as a facility design management intern on a new major theme park in the United States,” Heitzman said. “I am incredibly lucky now, to be in the position to serve the themed entertainment industry on a professional level, and I hope to inspire future generations of theme park designers.”
For Heitzman, her childhood dream of designing theme parks was nurtured during her time at Auburn. She said she has seen a lot of personal growth since she first arrived on campus. “At Auburn, I’ve accomplished things I have dreamt of my entire life, and then some,” she said. “In the moment it is easy to get caught up in what’s next. It is always the next thing, the next executive position in an organization, the next internship, the next event. Now that I can look back on my college career and at all these little steps, I can see that they have cumulated into my greatest adventures. My Dad likes to use the Latin phrase ‘Festina Lente,’ translating to ‘make haste slowly.’ That’s exactly the motto I would say explains my journey in college.”
In addition to excelling at her classes, Heitzman has been involved with the College of Architecture, Design and Construction Ambassadors as well as the Theme Park Engineering & Design group, serving as president for both organizations during her fifth year.
Katherine Chastain, administrator for student recruitment for the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, has worked with Heitzman through her leadership position as an Ambassador for the College. “Karena has served as a CADC Ambassador for four years holding a Vice President position last year and serving as the President for the organization this year,” Chastain said. “She is truly a one in a million student. I am so proud of her resiliency as her college experience was definitely not what she planned due to COVID, but seeing what she has accomplished, in spite of what the world threw at her, is truly remarkable. I am excited to see her make the shift into industry as I know she will continue to do incredible work and be a light in the lives of everyone she meets.”
As she moves on to her next chapter, Heitzman said she will carry fond memories of her time at Auburn and CADC. “The day that I graduate and walk around Dudley one last time with some of my closest friends will be hard, as the memories I have made in the CADC have shaped me into the person I am today,” she said. “I will always look back and smile remembering the many site visits, late studio nights, and caffeine runs.”
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Katherine Buck Chastain