Director of continuing ed and online learning at UNC named dean of continuing studies at Rice University

Robert Bruce will head Rice’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies

Rice University has named Robert Bruce Jr., a higher education leader with 25 years of experience in administrative and academic roles, the new dean of the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. Bruce currently serves as director of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education and as director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Office for Online Learning (COOL). Bruce also serves as a teaching assistant professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce

“Rob Bruce will bring collaborative, creative and energetic leadership to the Glasscock School,” said Rice Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. “The Glasscock School plays a critically important role in Rice’s partnership with Houston, particularly as the city recovers from Harvey, and Dr. Bruce is fully committed to working with the excellent staff and faculty of the Glasscock School in this effort. His array of experiences — including extensive work with in-person, online and blended teaching formats — will help position us to become a national and global leader in continuing studies. We are absolutely delighted that Dr. Bruce has decided to join us at Rice.”

Since joining UNC in August 2011, Bruce has developed and successfully implemented a strategic plan for the Friday Center, led a team of 43 full-time staff and 200 instructors and managed the center’s $12.5 million annual budget. He launched the university’s massive open online course initiative and led the creation of the UNC CORE program designed to serve active-duty service members, veterans and National Guard and Reserve members with general education college opportunities. In July 2016, he established COOL and positioned UNC-Chapel Hill as a leader in online programming.

Bruce said his interest in continuing education stems from his work with the Center for Instructional Technologies at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, where he spent nearly 15 years in positions ranging from an admissions officer and curriculum director of the Distance Education Center to associate dean for the Division of Institutional Innovation and Assessment and finally as associate dean of continuing and innovative education. “I was learning more about different education delivery modes, and that led to more understanding of the different types of students — the nontraditional and post-traditional students — and the needs that they have,” Bruce said.

UT is also Bruce’s undergraduate alma mater, where he earned a B.A. in English. He earned a master’s and Ph.D. in English from Texas A&M University. He has maintained teaching interests in 19th- and 20th-century American literature, American cultural and social studies, Southwestern literature, realism, Mark Twain, World War II, American humor and film and has taught several community classroom courses on Twain.

Born in Richmond, Va., Bruce said his parents, who were high school teachers early in their careers, stressed the importance of service and lifelong learning not just when he was young but even today. His grandparents and great grandparents lived in the mountains of southwest Virginia and didn’t have a lot of educational opportunities. “They were self-taught and voracious readers,” Bruce said, “and if there had been a continuing studies program in the area, you can bet they would have taken advantage of it.”

Bruce said he is excited about getting Houstonians to take advantage of the Glasscock School’s offerings. “Rice’s international reputation and the Glasscock School’s strong foundation made this job appealing,” he said. “I’m honored to join Rice and work with President (David) Leebron, Provost Miranda, the Glasscock School team and the entire university community.”

He noted that Rice needs to continue to offer both online and face-to-face courses and programs and explore innovative models that provide both enrichment and career opportunities. “We need to offer a balanced blend of education delivery modes and formats,” Bruce said. “And we need to ensure that we’re serving the Houston community and reaching out globally.”

“The Glasscock School has become an incredibly important part of our relationship with the city of Houston and has begun expanding its reach beyond,” Leebron said. “Building on the very strong foundation built by (recently retired Dean) Mary McIntire, we are poised to seize an extraordinary opportunity to deepen and broaden our engagement at home and simultaneously extend our reach and impact around the globe. After a national search that produced a number of very accomplished candidates, we were convinced that Rob Bruce is the person to lead the Glasscock School into a new era.”

Bruce will join the Rice administration Nov. 1. He said Texas is “a wonderful place — big, bold, eclectic and diverse,” and he and his wife, Gretchen, are looking forward to moving to Houston with their teenage son, Jake, and middle-school-aged twins, Finn and Lily.

Bruce succeeds McIntire, who has been serving as interim dean since retiring after 31 years as dean June 30.

“The Glasscock School serves as the critical bridge between Rice and Houston – and with communities around the world,” Miranda said. “Dean Mary McIntire implemented a series of incredibly innovative programs to position the school as this bridge. We are very grateful for all that she has done for Rice, for Houston and for learners across the globe.”

The Glasscock School offers personal and professional development classes, online and hybrid courses and certificate programs, with additional offerings from the Center for College Readiness, the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, the Foreign Language program, the English as a Second Language program, the Master of Liberal Studies, the Diploma in Liberal Studies, the Master of Arts in Teaching and School Literacy and Culture. For more information, go to


About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.