From Astrophysicist To Accounting Professor, Brunner Disrupting Future Of Business Education

Robert Brunner’s degrees in physics and astronomy might make him an unlikely accounting professor, but as an astrophysicist he’s naturally curious and focused on solving problems, just like accountants.

“I’ve always had far more questions than I have answers,” Brunner said. “While it can drive people crazy, the process of asking questions, of experimenting, of being comfortable with not having answers is the essence of disruptive thinking. And at Gies College of Business, we have innovative, thoughtful leadership that sees disruptive thinking as highly valuable.”

So valuable, in fact, that Dean Jeffrey Brown tapped Brunner to be the associate dean for innovation and the College’s chief disruption officer, a role that’s unduplicated in any other College of Business, says Brunner. He will help Gies Business pioneer the next leading-edge breakthroughs in business education while also remaining abreast of current trends in technology and identifying future opportunities with a preemptive approach.

Brunner is the director of the University of Illinois-Deloitte Foundation Center for Business Analytics, which develops in-demand data analytics curriculum and offers it for free online. He is also a professor of accountancy and Arthur Andersen Faculty Fellow.

“The wealth of data and information available today has fundamentally changed our world,” said Brunner. “It impacts businesses everywhere, and it also dictates the way we deliver business education. Thanks to visionary leaders like Dean Brown, Gies Business discovers ways to positively disrupt the market, and we will teach our students to develop fresh ideas to solve important societal problems.”

Brunner sees his position as two-fold: working with academic and industry partners to identify and address disruptions in the business world and staying on the leading edge of business education.

“In today’s world, you’re either part of the disruption, or you risk being disrupted,” said Brunner. “Gies College of Business is taking a pro-active approach, like no one else in the country. We are not business as usual, and our students will benefit greatly because of it.”

This is the latest chapter in the rich history of educational advances at Gies College of Business. The College revolutionized access to business education with its online MBA (iMBA) and online master’s in accounting (iMSA) programs. Gies’ one-of-a-kind curriculum and dedication to impactful research provides students with unparalleled hands-on experiences both inside and outside the classroom, making Gies a world leader in redefining business education.

“Innovation separates the best from the rest,” said Dean Jeffrey Brown. “From day one, I’ve prioritized opportunities to disrupt the marketplace. That’s what keeps us among the very best business schools in the nation. We continually push the envelope, and we encourage our students and faculty to do the same.”

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