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Bruer appreciates building relationships at Monmouth

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College professor Shanna Bruer has discovered that when it comes to teaching marketing to college students, smaller can be better.

The newest member of the College’s Department of Political Economy and Commerce, Bruer came to campus after studying and teaching at large state universities, as well as living in Chicago and New York City.

A native of Pontiac, Ill., Bruer earned two bachelor degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois – where she took a class from current department colleague Ken McMillan – specializing in food and agribusiness management and in consumer and textile marketing. She then attended Ohio State University to pursue a doctorate in economics, in part to answer a call for the need for more women in the field.

“But my heart was not there,” she said of economics. “It wasn’t something where I was going to get up every day and be excited to go to work.”

So Bruer changed course and completed a doctoral program in textile and apparel marketing at North Carolina State University after earning a master’s degree at Ohio State. Her interest in marketing stemmed from a class she took in the subject while pursuing economics.

“I took a marketing class and fell in love with it,” she said. “That led to an internship with a clothing company.”

A passion for marketing

From there, Bruer landed a marketing position with Cotton Inc., handling consumer insight and data analysis.

Bruer said her time in the textile and apparel industry was “fun, exciting and dynamic.” Now she can convey her passion for marketing to Monmouth students, and sometimes to faculty colleagues, too.

“I had an extensive conversation the other day with a professor from another department about the ethics and values associated with marketing,” she said. “That’s something I never had at the other places I’ve been. Each department was in its own bubble. Here, we were able to have a really good discussion and were able to truly understand each other.”

Being a teacher and mentor

After Bruer and her husband, Marcus, returned to the Midwest with their three daughters, she taught marketing for five years at Western Illinois University, her fourth large-university setting. She said that she welcomes the opportunity to not only teach at Monmouth but also serve as a mentor to students.

“I’ve never been at an institution this small, so I’ve never had an opportunity to engage at this level,” she said. “I was used to teaching in auditoriums with 200 seats, and maybe one or two students might ask to talk to you after class. Now, there’s only one or two students who I don’t know really well. ... These students are a lot more hungry for information and knowledge, and they’re able to put together concepts from across disciplines.”

Bruer said that studying marketing lends itself well to a liberal arts education because of those multi-disciplinary concepts, and also because of the personal relevance of marketing.

“We’re not learning formulas or writing techniques,” she said of her classes. “Most of the concepts we learn in marketing are a combination of concepts gathered from economics, from ethics, from anthropology, from communication. You can use those concepts and be creative with them or analytical, depending on what your passion is. Marketing is not just about advertising – it’s taking the whole liberal arts education we’re getting here.”

Bruer said she aims to teach students that marketing has many dimensions and applications.

“Marketing is the only part of a company whose job is to create revenue,” she said. “Without marketing, no company – no school – can really function properly. But it’s important for individuals, too. If you’re an artist or a writer or a musician, you’re still going to have to sell yourself. You’re going to have to identify what value you bring to your institution, and what price that company will pay for those benefits.”