A Q&A with MICDS’ New Director of Enrollment Management, Eric Brunt

Director of Enrollment Eric BruntIf there’s an epitome of the MICDS term “lifer,” Eric Brunt ‘02 fits the bill! He attended MICDS as a Junior Kindergartner all the way through 12th grade. After a successful college career at Vanderbilt University and early business career as a recruiter in Washington, D.C., Eric was presented the opportunity to move his family back home to St. Louis and the chance to make his mark as a member of the MICDS Admission team. In fact, it was a phone call and push from Athletic Director Josh Smith—Eric’s Upper School advisor, math teacher and football coach—that swayed him to apply for the position at his alma mater. And what a great decision that was—for both Eric and MICDS. For nearly eight years, Eric has been a leader on the admission team, serving as associate director of admission for both the Upper and subsequently Middle School, while serving in leadership roles for the School’s ISACS Self-Study and 2015-2022 Strategic Planning process. And that’s not all! He also coached 7th grade football for seven years—evidence that it’s true what they say, “At MICDS, you really can pursue your passions.”

During his tenure, Eric has become a pro at engaging prospective families and welcoming them into the MICDS community. Concurrently, the world of independent school admission has also changed, and with that change has come an increasing need for what is formally called “enrollment management.” Leading that charge at MICDS—Eric Brunt.

We sat down with Eric to ask him a few questions about his new role as director of enrollment management and how he plans to make further waves for the betterment of the MICDS community.

Q: In laymen’s terms, what is enrollment management? And why is it important for MICDS?

A: Enrollment management is a strategic approach to how a school builds a student body that will contribute to and be best served by the community. This involves institutional research and data analysis, an evaluation of program and student outcomes and a focus on retention. Of course admissions is one huge arm of enrollment management, and in tandem with marketing and communications, is most successful when understood and well supported by all members of the school community. Luckily we have that at MICDS.

This is essential work for MICDS as we are in the fortunate position of not simply “filling seats” to meet enrollment and tuition revenue targets, but enrolling the strongest, most diverse (in every definition of the term) student body in St. Louis.

Q: How do you see MICDS adapting to changes in the way prospective families make decisions about their children’s education?

A: More and more, families want to know the value of their tuition dollar, and that their child will be well known and cherished as a unique member of the community. Millennial families in particular are not swayed by advertising, but rather by authenticity. Therefore, our goal is to personalize the admission process—to partner with parents in finding the right fit for their child’s unique passions and strengths. We help them discover how the many opportunities we offer at MICDS can best serve their needs. This involves building personal relationships with prospective families and showing the value-add of the MICDS experience.

Q: You have children of your own. How does your role as a parent impact you in your position?

A: Having children of my own puts me in the shoes of every prospective and current parent with whom I work. I want the exact same things for my kids as they do for theirs: to provide the best opportunities for my children so they can cultivate a love of learning, develop compassion for all of the world’s people and prepare for the rigors of life. Being able to understand that as a parent myself has allowed me to make deeper empathetic connections with parents. And it helps me more fully understand the emotional investment parents make in their children’s future.

Q: How did your own MICDS education prepare you for this role and the world in general?

A: Going back to my days at Vanderbilt, I was leaps and bounds ahead of my peers in two areas: time management and the ability and willingness to seek help from professors. These are two hallmarks of the MICDS education that remain today, as our students are involved in competitive athletics, the arts, service, extracurriculars and more. All on top of a challenging academic workload. These two skills really set our graduates up for success in college and beyond.

In my current role, MICDS prepared me to work with people from different backgrounds who share different perspectives. The ability to listen, understand and connect with people who are different from you is an essential skill in today’s world. This is important work that remains a central focus of our curriculum today, not only with students but also with the adults in our community. It is an area that is never finished, and I remain passionately engaged in creating a welcoming and inclusive community for all of our students and families.

Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to prospective families looking for the right educational “home” for their child, what would it be?

A: The St. Louis educational market includes a variety of great school options, and many St. Louisans already have preconceived notions of a school’s culture or what each school offers. It’s a small community, and people talk about education often. In many ways, we have a hard time overcoming the “where’d you go to high school” mentality.

When considering this reality, my advice would be to go into the search process with an open mind and with the best interests of your child at the forefront. Try not to have preconceived notions of what School A or School B is all about before you’ve had a chance to visit the campus, talk to teachers, students, parents, and administrative leadership, and research their website. What’s perhaps most ironic about this process is that, families who are relocating to the St. Louis area are often in the best position to truly evaluate schools based on present-day metrics as opposed to past perceptions. Local, and even alumni families, ought to take a similar blank slate approach when researching schools!

Q: As an alum and now member of the administration, how have you seen the School evolve from your time as a student?

A: Many of the traditions—the bonfire and pep rally, May Day, Blue Whale Cafe—remain the same, as well as the hallmarks of academic prep, time management and the strong relationships between students and faculty.

At the same time, what has impressed me the most has been the commitment to professional development for all in the community. MICDS does not rest on the laurels of reputation and tradition. Rather, we are a community of professional learners, always seeking best practice and innovative methods based in research. I may visit the classrooms of one of my former teachers, and their ability to connect with their students and deliver content remains the same, while the method of delivery and engagement may be completely different.

Q: Do you LIVE at MICDS?!  What do you do to get away and decompress/have fun?

A: Ha!

I have a wonderful family and love spending time with my wife, two little girls (four and one), and dog. We love going on walks in Forest Park and escaping to Innsbrook. In addition, I maintain a pretty active athletic career, continuing to play men’s league ice hockey, and getting out on the golf course when I get a chance, often with Director of College Counseling Matt Essman! And my Dad, brother, Tim Brunt ‘06, and I recently climbed to the summit of Mt. Rainier outside Seattle, Washington, which is the largest glaciated peak in the continental U.S. It was an incredible physical and mental challenge, and the landscape and views were spectacular. I love to travel and am always looking for the next adventure!