Marie Coralie Brutus, who moved to the United States from Haiti as a teen-ager, has applied her engineering knowledge to projects in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
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At the age of 17, Marie Coralie Brutus and her twin brother came from Haiti to the United States, just prior to their senior year of high school, to join their two older brothers who were studying engineering at Stony Brook University. Her parents and younger brother stayed behind in Haiti though, so Brutus and her brother were cared for by their grandmother.
While her twin joined her brothers at Stony Brook, Brutus came to Binghamton University to study industrial and systems engineering. A fan of math and science her whole life, she said Binghamton’s engineering program sounded interesting and fit her personality perfectly.
Brutus plans to go back to Haiti someday, but for now she’s working hard to pull together every experience and skill she can to prepare her to make an impact when she does return.
“We have so many problems in Haiti,” Brutus said, including systems engineering issues such as decentralization. “Everything is happening in the capital and there aren’t many facilities in other parts of the country.”
“I still need to figure out how to help them,” she said, so during her four years at Binghamton she’s taken advantage of every opportunity to learn. She has participated in the first-year engineering community and served as treasurer of the Society of Women Engineers, president of Alpha Pi Mu (APM) Industrial Engineering Honor Society and vice president of the Orchesis Dance Club. She also worked in Harpur Advising during her first two years, and then as a Watson School peer advisor for the last two, helping with orientation, giving tours to potential students and advising current students.
“When I was younger I was shy and speaking with new people was difficult for me,” she said. “Working as a peer advisor gave me the opportunity to express myself and forced me to interact with new people all the time, and I’ve realized that I really enjoy helping people.”
Brutus also loves learning about new cultures and is extremely interested in the international facets of engineering. “I hope to apply the experience of improving other Third World countries to the issues in Haiti,” she said.
The summer after her junior year, Brutus participated in the Nicaragua service-learning project, and loved it. “It was an opportunity to help a Third World country and broaden my horizons,” she said. The group raised money to help fund construction of a family home in rural Nicaragua and also to give scholarships to children in the area. They also collected clothes and shoes to distribute in the rural areas, and were able to send shoes to Haiti after the earthquakes as well.
Her senior project has given her yet another invaluable experience. With a team of three other Watson School seniors, Brutus is designing and building a clean water system for a small community of 100 people in Rio Hondo, San Marcos Ocotepeque, Honduras. The current system of pipes is improperly constructed and damaged, exposing the water supply to contamination. Brutus traveled to Honduras last January for the initial planning meeting and again in April to finalize crews and plans for the build, set for after Commencement.
Her success in and out of the classroom is a testament to her drive. “I learned at an early age how to prioritize and set time for studying — how to decide what was important in the near future and get that done before anything else,” she said.
And her achievements don’t go unnoticed. “Coralie is attentive, highly motivated, well-spoken and intelligent,” said Sarah Lam, associate professor of SSIE and faculty advisor of APM. “Her academic excellence, her accomplishments in scholarly activities, her involvement in campus and community service, and her leadership make her an outstanding individual.”
Brutus is going “step by step to see where the path leads” and will attend Pennsylvania State University in the fall to study industrial engineering and operations research. She credits Watson School faculty and staff for pushing her to find what she really thinks and wants in life.
“Sharon Santobuono, Lorna Wells and everyone else in the Watson School have always been there for me,” Brutus said. “All of the faculty members, whether they were ISE or not, have been willing to talk. Having that support is what I’ll sincerely miss the most.”