Monday, March 24, 2014

A Positive Epidemic grows at Mount Michael Benedictine

Mr. Eric Crawford '00
Admissions Director
In 2000 author Malcolm Gladwell published his New York Times Bestselling book, “The Tipping Point.”  In his book Gladwell explores how ideas, behavior, messages, and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. He examines various social epidemics that surround us daily.  In an interview Gladwell said that he hoped his book showed people how to start “positive” epidemics of their own.  He believes that the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, social behavior or social epidemic crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.
At the end of my senior year in 2000, when our enrollment was approximately 130 students and Fr. Richard roamed the floors as a dean, one goal and dream I had was to someday come back to work at the school.  I can vividly remember thinking to myself how great it would be to not just come back but to come back and be the admissions director.  I remember imagining how awesome it would be to talk about something I love (Mount Michael) for a living.  Starting out as a residential dean I thought that I’d be here a year or two and move on to graduate school or a career outside of education.  Ten years later I am still here and find myself thinking a lot about Mount Michael and how it relates to Gladwell’s idea of “The Tipping Point.”
When I first took over as the admissions director one of my long term goals for the position was to reach an enrollment of 240+ students.  One of the obstacles I found when I set out on my journey to accomplish this was that Mount Michael was Omaha’s best kept secret.  Lots of people knew someone that went here or had heard of us or at least Coach Kane but we weren’t in the mix.  We weren’t a buzz word in the community and flew under the radar.  Now in 2014 with nine consecutive years of record enrollment and on the verge of a tenth I think we have finally let the cat out of the bag.  I believe we have successfully shared our secret with others and we have begun what I think Gladwell would refer to as our own “positive” social epidemic.  Along the way there have been several milestones that show our growth.  Whether it’s being a National Blue Ribbon School or just seeing more junior high boys wearing “Mount Michael Class of 2019 or 2020” shirts around town it’s all a sign of our progress.  It’s a sign that we’re growing and that we aren’t just that small, all boys school way out in the middle of the country anymore.  We are becoming much more than that.
Our student body does not just come from the Omaha metro but includes students from Iowa, Missouri, all over Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Wyoming, Benin, China, Germany, Lithuania, Rwanda, South Korea, Vietnam and it looks as though we will add students from Maryland, Minnesota, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and Spain next fall.  We now market ourselves all over the country and attend boarding school fairs in New York, Dallas and abroad.  We receive interest from schools/areas in Omaha that we use to see very little from, have families from coast to coast visit our school and get emails and calls from all over the world.
We are more diverse and stronger academically than we’ve ever been and have had the luxury in recent years of being more selective with the students we accept.  Our growth shows that we aren’t just one of the premier schools in Nebraska but we have become one of the premier schools in the country.  Our growth is exciting, it’s a sign of improvement and progress.  Enrollment is the foundation of all schools and growth shows that our foundation is strong.  It's a sign that the Benedictine tradition is alive and well in Elkhorn, NE and that more young men than ever are learning how to be Benedictine and embrace a life of community, hospitality, integrity, service and moderation.
Gladwell believes that the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on people and their social gifts.  He shows how outbreaks of epidemics can be traced back to a small group and how a small group can be responsible for starting a trend, making something popular and moving it closer to its tipping point.  He classifies the people in this small group as connectors, salespeople or mavens.  In short connectors have relationships with all sorts of people, salespeople are charismatic and persuasive and mavens have a strong compulsion to help other consumers make informed decisions.  To continue our growth and our positive trend it is important that everyone in the Mount Michael community acts as a connector, salesperson or maven.  Something as easy and small as a student referral or a casual conversation about Mount Michael can grow into something much more.  We are dependent on the support of our small community and rely on them to help our "wildfire" to continue to spread.
This fall it is very realistic to think that Mount Michael could be full and have waiting pools for every class. It appears that we might have finally reached the year that we hit that magic number of 240.  With all of our continued success and growth it’s hard to argue that Mount Michael hasn’t started its own “positive” epidemic; maybe we have reached our “Tipping Point.”
Proud to be a Knight,
Eric Crawford ‘00
Director of Admissions

Mount Michael’s Admissions Milestones 2004-2014
  • 2004-05- School year begins with 164 students.  Camp Mount Michael has third largest group of campers in camp’s 47 year history with 347 campers.
  • 2005-06- Largest graduating class in school history (45 students) including Mount Michael’s first four year international students.
  • 2006-07- Second largest graduating class (43 students). Seven day boarding program is restarted and the school begins to recruit more international and out of state students.
  • 2007-08- Largest group of 8th grade testers in school history (83 students).
  • 2008-09- School year begins with the largest freshmen class ever (73 students).  Total student population goes over 200 students for the first time.
  • 2009-10- Mount Michael ties the record for second largest graduating senior class (43 students) and joins the Private Boarding School Review to expand its national marketing.
  • 2010-11- A new record is set for the largest graduating class (46 students).  Over 100 7th and 8th grade students visit campus and an overnight shadowing program is started.
  • 2011-12- Another record is set for the largest graduating class (57 students).  Mount Michael has its largest open house attendance ever with over 100 families and sets a new record for 8th grade testers with 85.  Over 100 students submit applications and there is a waiting pool for the freshmen class for the first time.
  • 2012-13- School year begins with the second largest freshmen class ever (65 students) and the school admission office attends boarding school fairs in New York, Dallas and Shanghai for the first time.
  • 2013-14- School year begins with a record 233 students including 14 sons of alumni.  This spring Mount Michael will set a new record for largest graduating class (58 students).  Over 120 student visitors and counting have visited Mount Michael already this year.
  • 2014-15- Student population projected to exceed 240 students for the first time including 11 sons and one grandson of alumni.
* Mount Michael has averaged over 20 transfer applications per year for the last five years.  In that same time period Mount Michael has averaged accepting ten transfers per year (six sophomores and four juniors per year)
**Over the last three years Mount Michael’s student retention has been at or above 95% each year.
***During the last three years Mount Michael has averaged approximately 100 applicants per year for the 65 available positions in its freshmen class.