Emily Brunemann, MSW '16
As a former U-M All American swimmer and full-time college student, Emily Brunemann knows the challenges of trying to balance an academic workload, college life and the stress of living up to the expectations of coaches, teammates and fans. She attended U-M on a swimming scholarship and holds a Michigan school record in the 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyle. (Brunemann formerly held both a Big Ten and Michigan school record in the 500-,1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyle.)
Now Brunemann is drawing on her experience as a student athlete to help others at U-M manage the sometimes intense and overwhelming demands of mixing sports with studies. She’s in the second year of a unique field placement with the Performance Psychology Team under Barb Hansen with the support of Greg Harden of the U-M Athletic Department.
“Participating in team sports can have so many positive effects,” said Brunemann. “But the drive to succeed or exceed in their sport can add tremendous pressure and increase a student athlete’s risk of depression and other mental health struggles. Educating them about the risk factors and symptoms can help prevent illnesses that could jeopardize everything they’re working so hard to achieve.”
A two-year internship is an unusual arrangement in the MSW program, but Harden and Hansen created the opportunity for Brunemann to do back-to-back assignments with the counseling team because it’s the ideal training ground for a career in an emerging field: college-level athletic counseling.
“It’s very exciting to see the combination of sports and social work gaining traction,” said Brunemann. “U-M is one of only a handful of Division-I, -II and -III schools in the country with in-house athletics counseling. I’m very fortunate to have the support of the School of Social Work.”
Brunemann works with students who fall all along the spectrum of health and wellbeing. Athletes are encouraged to access counseling resources before there’s a problem.
“We can help them identify and understand the internal and external factors that affect their mental and physical health, as well as their athletic performance. An athletic counselor can make a real difference in the life of a young athlete at the beginning of their career. I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position to do that.”
Brunemann is currently a professional swimmer with the USA National Swimming Team and the was first American to win the World Cup in the 10K open water circuit (2013). She will earn her MSW (IP/Mental Health) in December 2016.