Brunet moves to College of Engineering dean's office



Marie-Christine Brunet
Marie-Christine Brunet

Marie-Christine Brunet, who had served as chief advisor in the ECE Department since 1998, is now an assistant dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering. In that new position, she’ll take the knowledge and skills she’s gained as an advisor for ECE and translate that to a collegewide advising role.

In her new role with the College, Brunet does many of the same tasks as in ECE, the focus has simply shifted to all engineering students. “The common thread is helping the students, just on a larger scale,” she said.

The advising can be of several varieties. Students could be having trouble in a class that someone in the dean’s office needs to handle. Or it could be a personal crisis of some type. For either type, Brunet can be the student’s source of solution to the problem. “We are the primary contact after their department,” she explained. “We have contacts with the Counseling Center and Financial Aid. For example if they need to withdraw from classes, they would come here.”

In addition, Brunet teaches ENG 101: Engineering at Illinois. “It’s a very informative class,” she said, “a showcase of the different departments, what they have to offer in terms of course curricula, but also career prospects, and how you would transfer to some of those departments. I’m going to be in charge of that.”

The class helps students who are interested in engineering, but who are not currently enrolled in the college, learn more about the various departments within the college and to figure out how they may best find a fit for themselves within the college.

“The population is freshman and sophomore mostly,” she said.

Teaching this type of course has long been part of Brunet’s repertoire. After joining ECE in 1994, she was soon teaching ECE 110. At that time, it was still a pilot course, but it was poised to become a required course known to students today, and more instructors were needed.

In 1998, Brunet was asked by ECE Professor Bruce Wheeler, who was then the associate head for undergraduate affairs, to join him as a department advisor. “I knew nothing about advising,” said Brunet. “It was such an interesting challenge. Obviously, I stayed for so many years because I loved it.”

Working in advising and teaching ECE 110 have been rewarding. “The combination of ECE 110 with the advising was absolutely perfect,” she said. “I saw a lot of incoming freshmen. It was nice to have such a powerful impact and help on those students.”

Brunet hopes that working through the dean’s office will bring similar opportunities to have a real impact on students’ careers. In particular, her new responsibilities for scholarships will be a new experience for her.  “This is the new part for me,” she said. “That’s what’s so exciting—you can really make a difference for some of the students in need.”

Having had so much satisfaction with her position at ECE, moving to the College was a difficult decision. “It was a hard decision for me to apply,” said Brunet. “I really loved what I was doing.  But then I realized it was time for me to do new things. I took so much, I gave so much.  It was quite the journey.  I’m excited to be here, but there’s a part of me that’s sad to leave the ECE family.”

When she thinks about the things she’s most proud of, Brunet again mentions the students. “I have a box of all the thank you cards I had from students over the years,” she said. “I’ve kept all of them. This is what keeps us going.”