After two decades in a variety of senior jobs at Algonquin College, Claude Brulé still gets excited to go to the office every morning.
The reason, he explained, is simple.
“The variety,” Brulé says. “I’ve had opportunities to stretch my wings outside of my core role.”
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The metaphor is right on point.
Before joining Alonquin, Brulé spent nearly two decades in the air force, earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree in mathematics from Royal Military College. He went on to become an instructor and eventually chief of staff at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics, with a stint as a math and computer science professor at RMC in between.
Brulé’s star continued to rise when he joined Algonquin in 1999. After starting out as the chair of the information and communications technology department, he became dean of the faculty of technology and trades. Seven years ago, he was promoted to the role of senior vice-president, academic.
His career ascent is now complete.
In mid-July, Brulé was named the college’s ninth president and CEO, replacing Cheryl Jensen. He will officially begin his five-year term on Aug. 12.
The former military man has been a driving force in pushing for new approaches to learning at the 52-year-old post-secondary institution, changes that could include offering students a greater choice of electives and more flexibility when designing their schedules. As VP academic, he also oversaw a recent move to cut academic terms from 15 to 14 weeks and give students a week off from classes every semester.
The goal of such changes, he says, is to remove as many obstacles to academic achievement as possible for 19,000 full-time and 25,000 continuing education students.
“Meeting students, helping students be successful – that is a big part of why we’re here,” the fiftysomething educator says. “Coming to work every day, being able to make a difference in someone’s life and watch them becoming successful and launching their own career? It doesn’t get better than that.”
Brulé says his military background gave him a solid foundation for his academic career.
“In the military, we do an extensive amount of training,” he notes. “We recruit people and then we train them, not only for military aspects of their career … but we also prepare everybody for their occupational roles. If you’re a pilot, you’ll go and learn to fly an aircraft; if you’re in the communication/electronics world, you’ll go and learn about electronics, you’ll learn about radios, radar and so on.
“A lot of that same preparation was very helpful to me when I joined the college because in many ways, there are similar aspects to how the training, the curriculum is developed.”
Among his top priorities is deepening connections to the private sector. Making sure Algonquin’s grads are job-ready is top-of-mind for the president-elect: He says connections to partners in industry are “critical” to aligning its programming with workforce needs.
Brulé has nothing but kind words for Jensen, who retired to much fanfare last month. He credits his former boss with leaving a “fantastic legacy,” including setting Algonquin College’s current strategic plan.
Brulé says he intends to continue the “great direction” set by Jensen, which includes a focus on innovation, sustainability and connections to Algonquin’s indigenous roots.
“Of course, I’m going to add my own flair to it,” he adds.
– With files from Craig Lord