Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D.
Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D., became the first person to serve as president of both the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University on July 1, 2022. He is responsible for leading two strong, respected Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts institutions.
Since his arrival, President Bruess has effectively lead implementation of an innovative ecosystem-wide change process. Strong Integration is designed to enable Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s to be nimbler and more responsive, assertively confronting the challenges facing American higher education and generating nationally laudable and increasingly more sophisticated institutional outcomes. During his first year, Dr. Bruess helped implement a new governance model for the Common Boards of Trustees; built the inaugural joint leadership team; redesigned the organizational structure around student learning; implemented academic program prioritization recommendations; launched a fast-paced strategic planning process; rebuilt the admission and enrollment processes; and completed an ambitious alumnae/i tour across the United States and The Bahamas to learn from our talented and distinguished alums.
Before coming to CSB and SJU, Dr. Bruess served as the 8th president of St. Norbert College, a nationally renowned Catholic liberal arts school in De Pere, Wisconsin. During his tenure there he guided St. Norbert to record enrollments and the most diverse student body in the college’s history; visioned and implemented a campus-wide focus on student success and retention; launched an innovative strategic planning process; enabled new academic offerings including integrated studies, data analytics, actuarial science and pathway partnerships for post-baccalaureate programs; introduced educational-centric financial management; created systemic change toward integrated inclusion and belonging; increased the college’s focus on outcomes, evidence-based decision-making and assessment; developed a new fundraising campaign toward student learning and doubling the college’s endowment; and guided the St. Norbert College board of trustees toward more generative governance.
Prior to St. Norbert College, Brian spent 22 years at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota, rising to serve with distinction as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. While at St. Kate’s he played key roles in the university achieving comprehensive accreditation and laudatory praise from two Higher Learning Commission self-studies and site visits (2003, 2013); guiding unprecedented enrollment growth of 27% (while women’s colleges saw 21% decline nationally) including 17 consecutive years of record enrollment; sustained success in building the diversity of the university’s enrollment—racial and ethnic, nonregional, generational, socio-economic and degree-level; establishing a collaborative, innovative approach to academic, student affairs, enrollment, financial innovation and planning which resulted in 17 new academic programs in six years; and designing/implementing a comprehensive academic program-prioritization process.
Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology from St. Norbert College (‘90), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in college student personnel/research and evaluation from Ohio University.
He and his wife of 32 years, Carol Bruess, Ph.D., live in Renner House on the College of Saint Benedict campus. Carol is Professor Emerita of Communication and Family Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. She is a relationship social scientist, active scholar, author of five books, a dynamic speaker on micro-moments of creating healthy conversations and human connection, and has a popular TEDx-Minneapolis talk: “Are All Relationships Messy?” Brian and Carol have two children: Tony, a 2018 Stanford University graduate and tech entrepreneur living in New York; and Gracie, a 2022 graduate of Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, currently attending medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. They are busy parenting four-legged George, a 92lb Bernedoodle who recently graduated as a therapy dog and has big goals: supporting CSB and SJU students.
About Saint John’s University
Saint John’s University students achieve excellent outcomes. Four-year completion rates at SJU significantly exceed averages for private and public colleges regionally and nationally. Fully 97% of graduates report that within a year of earning their degree, they are either employed, pursuing a graduate degree or in a full-time volunteer position. In 2021, for the third year in a row, Saint John’s was named the best college for employment placement in Minnesota by Zippia, a career website. Saint John’s is ranked #10 on the 2022 Money Magazine list of Best Colleges in the Midwest and is in the top 50 of Washington Monthly’s 2021 list of national liberal arts colleges. In 2022, SJU was once again ranked first for return on investment in Minnesota among private four-year colleges by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.