Get to know College of Business Dean Frédéric Brunel

August 7, 2023

Dean Brunel, who stepped into his UM-Dearborn role on July 1, says businesses have the power to help solve pressing problems and looks forward to interdisciplinary collaboration because “the thorny problems we face are too big for just one field of study.”

Photo of Dean Brunel standing on the second floor of Fairlane Center
Portrait of Dean Brunel in Fairlane Center. Photo by Scott Soderberg/Michigan Photography

Businesses have the power to solve many of the world’s most pressing problems from environmental, to social, to supporting economies that work for all. But, to get to that point, College of Business Dean Frédéric Brunel said business education and research are essential.

“Business education is a lot more than trying to optimize some parameters to squeeze more profit out of the equation. It is about educating globally aware, mindful and responsible leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

Brunel, who stepped into his UM-Dearborn role on July 1, looks forward to meeting the business leaders of today and tomorrow as College of Business dean — and inspiring the pursuit of successful ventures, both individual and collective.

“Leaders are going to have an incredible role and responsibility in finding solutions to many big problems. They will lead innovation and changes that will support an economy that works for all; an economic and business model that will emphasize stakeholder perspectives in every thing businesses do: from solving customers' needs, to providing meaningful career opportunities and well-paying jobs, offering access to healthcare, and promoting more sustainable and inclusive communities.”

Brunel is also eager to join forces with the other colleges at UM-Dearborn because, “the thorny problems we face are too big for just one field of study.” He said solutions and education must be multidisciplinary.

“When I chose to join UM-Dearborn, I was drawn to the ability to elevate people's lives and for them to be self-realized through the power of education,” he said. “Not all schools have the power to transform in the way that UM-Dearborn does. There’s socioeconomic diversity unique to the university, and I wanted to be a part of a school that has a mission of access and success — as well as rigor.”

Interested in Detroit’s resurgence, Dearborn’s important role in American industry and the hardworking first-generation student population that UM-Dearborn serves, Brunel knew UM-Dearborn was the right fit for him. A hardworking first-generation student himself, Brunel grew up in France and received his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with honors from Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers. 

With sights set on earning an education in the United States, Brunel took part in an undergraduate exchange program and studied at Illinois State University, where he stayed and earned his MBA. “I’ve always had an appreciation for the American entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. Next came a Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Washington, where he received fellowships and accolades for his teaching in addition to his research.

“I am a product of public education. I am a first-generation student. I am an immigrant. I am a minority based on sexual orientation. I am dyslexic. Educational opportunities have changed my life,” he said. “These self-referential qualities to my identity allow me to understand that higher education has an incredible power to elevate lives and make dreams possible.”

When Brunel learned of an opportunity to work at Boston University, he took it — spending 26 years there. He served in a variety of facets at the university, starting as a research scholar and culminating as the associate dean for BU’s Questrom School of Business, which is recognized globally among the best business schools. “I joined BU while it was in an ascending phase,” Brunel said. “Every year was a better year than the year before when you look at it over time. When I joined, Boston University was a second-tier school. Now they are a first-tier school. It was exciting to be part of that transformation year after year. This is the same spirit and intentionality that I hope to bring to my COB role.”

As a university leader, Brunel said it is important to focus on research that informs important problems in meaningful and practical ways, education that transforms and elevates lives, and relationships that give UM-Dearborn students experiential learning opportunities. “It’s an ecosystem that comes together in support of what we — the staff, faculty, alumni and community writ large — do for our students. Then it’s about what they go out and do for the world.”

Brunel said all of his experiences have prepared him for leading the College of Business. And he looks forward to championing a Michigan education in a city and region that’s globally known for innovation.

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.