Coming from a family of educators, Marie-Line Brunet said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher but never knew where or what she wanted to teach.
Now, as an adult, Brunet has taught both English and French in France, England and the United States.
“Teaching allows me to share my culture and my language, and I feel very privileged to have been a part of so many peoples’ journeys,” Brunet said. “I’ve learned that teaching is very different across the world. The way we teach in France is not as interactive as the U.S., particularly at the college level. Here, we really have those student-centered classes, and it’s not just the professor lecturing, which is what I grew up with.”
Brunet was born and raised in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower from her window. It wasn’t until after she finished her bachelor’s degree at age 20 that she left to teach French at a school in Harrogate, Yorkshire, for the British Government.
A year later, Brunet moved back to France to get her master’s degree in French literature from Paris Nanterre University.
During her last year of study in 2006, she participated in a foreign exchange program with Indiana University where she finished her degree. Brunet said her original plans were to stay in the U.S. for one year, but after she was invited to complete her doctoral degree at Indiana University, she never left.
“In France, our standard English model was British English because we were so geographically close, so when I moved to the U.S., a part of my vocabulary was very British English,” Brunet said. “For example, I would call a Band-Aid a plaster. So, it was just small things that you don’t normally think about.”
With a doctoral degree in French Studies, Brunet was offered a three-year visiting assistant professor position at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, where she helped replace professors who were on sabbatical.
After her contract ended, Brunet said, she applied for many different teaching jobs across the country but ultimately took a job at Ball State as an assistant professor of French in 2016 and came back to Indiana.
When Brunet first came to Ball State, there were two other French professors who had been teaching together for about 13 years — Dorothy Stegman and Ellen Thorington.
Because they had been together for years, Stegman said, she and Thorington were unsure how Brunet would fit into the group, but they “all have really meshed nicely.”
“[Dr. Brunet] is just lovely, and she’s very precise,” Stegman said. “I like to say, ‘How did we get so lucky?’ She’s very adaptable and cooperative. She has more of a calm, ‘Let’s look at it this way’ approach to things. She has really added her own flair and personality to all of her classes.
“I think she has an excellent balance of service, teaching and research, which is rare because a lot of people will come in and do all research, research, research, and then teaching is secondary, but that’s not the case with her.”
Four years into her career at Ball State, Brunet has taken on entry-level French courses, a business French course and a course on French films, while also completing research for her book about a French director.
“I enjoy teaching all of the different levels,” Brunet said. “French is incredible because you start with students who have zero experience, and by the end of the semester, they can say full sentences. But, I’m also teaching the French business course, and it’s interesting to see my students in a different setting. It’s more formal. I also love teaching film because I’m a film scholar. So, I like teaching everything and anything.”
Currently, Brunet said she is receiving training from the French Chamber of Commerce, which will allow her to start a testing center at Ball State where students could come from across Indiana to take proficiency exams in professional French.
Brunet also said she consistently tries to encourage many of her students to study abroad. She received a grant from the French Embassy to help non-traditional students have the experience.
Last year, Brunet helped junior French and linguistics major Drew Shaeffer secure her study abroad trip to Quebec, Canada.
Shaeffer said she first took Brunet’s business French course, and afterward, Brunet helped her write her application for the scholarship that helped her go to Canada.
“Dr. Brunet warned me that [Canada] was going to be different, but she really helped coach me through all of the steps I needed to take to get there,” Shaeffer said. “Before I left, we did most of my application in English because that’s where my comfort level was at, but when I got back, I sat in her office, and we spoke in French for an hour.”
Even though Shaeffer only had Brunet for one class, she said she learned many useful skills in French, such as answering the phone and sending emails.
“On the first day of her class, I was so intimidated because she incorporates a very disciplined classroom, but that’s what made it so productive,” Shaeffer said. “She has been a really great support system for me, great faculty, just a fantastic professor.”
Outside the classroom, Brunet said, she likes to combine her two worlds in the kitchen by mastering both French and American cuisine, but she said she misses being able to walk down any street and find a bakery.
“I think I’m somewhere in the ocean between France and the U.S. because whenever I am in France, I miss the West and vice versa,” Brunet said. “When I’m here, I listen to a lot of French podcasts, music and films. I need to have that connection. But, when I’m home in France, I listen to a lot of American things. So, it’s just part of my everyday life to have both that now I need to keep them both in my life.”