Bruess looks ahead to final months at St. Kate’s, next step as St. Norbert president

| December 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

Brian Bruess appreciates St. Catherine University’s era of growth as a time that prepared him to take the reigns as president of another Catholic college.

“So much of what I learned here in terms of how to be innovative, how to make a meaningful contribution to a really powerful mission and to have done that over 21[or] 22 years, has been a great teacher for me,” said Bruess, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the St. Paul-based university.

Brian Bruess

Since coming to St. Kate’s in 1995, he has seen the school expand enrollment and academic opportunities. He said St. Kate’s — which has an all-women baccalaureate program — has seen 21 percent growth in enrollment, while most women’s colleges have seen a 30 to 40 percent drop in enrollment.

St. Kate’s focus on developing academics programs with the market and workforce in mind has helped it, he said. The school particularly focuses on developing healthcare professionals.

“An incredibly innovative spirit is present on this campus,” Bruess said.

Bruess will leave that campus after the upcoming spring term to become the president of St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. St. Norbert announced his acceptance of the position Dec. 12.

“I’ve known for a good, long time that I wanted to be in Catholic higher education and have been discerning the possibility of a presidency for some years from a vocational point of view,” Bruess said.

Bruess, who graduated from St. Norbert in 1990, considers his work in Catholic higher education a vocation. It’s a family vocation, too, as his wife, Carol, also a St. Norbert alum, leads the family studies program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

“We’re going to miss the people and the wonderful communities,” Bruess said.

Brian Bruess’ discernment of the next step in his vocation became crystal clear when he learned of St. Norbert President Thomas Kunkel’s decision to retire in 2017. Kunkel has served there since 2008.

Under Kunkel, St. Norbert expanded with $140 million in construction renovations. Masters of business and liberal studies programs began during his tenure, as did a medical school partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“The primary focus will be to amplify that momentum,” Bruess said.

Bruess said he hopes St. Kate’s will likewise have continued success after he moves on.

“The thing about St. Catherine’s that is so precious to me is the mission of being a Catholic women’s liberal arts institution,” Bruess said. “The Sisters of St. Joseph have cared for and nurtured this mission for so many years.”

Bruess, who said the sisters had a great influence on his work, wants his time at St. Kate’s to be remembered for what the institution accomplished.

“I hope when people look back at this era of St. Catherine’s history, that they are most proud of the unbelievable growth and vibrancy of the impact that St. Catherine’s had on the Twin Cities and the region, and I would argue, the national scene of Catholic women’s education,” Bruess said. “It’s just a complete and total treasure in Catholic and American higher education.”

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