Jun 29, 2022, 2:54
The Culinary Institute of Charleston Riding the Enrollment Roller Coaster with Innovative Ideas

The Culinary Institute of Charleston Riding the Enrollment Roller Coaster with Innovative Ideas

10 August 2020

The 2020 Entrepreneurship Award, sponsored by Kendall College National Louis University, recognized Michael Carmel for creative initiatives that drove the institution’s enrollment success.

By Lisa Parrish, GMC Editor

Riding the enrollment roller coaster can be a white-knuckle experience. The Culinary Institute of Charleston’s Michael Carmel CEC, CCE, can vividly describe the lows of 325 enrolled students across two campuses to the highs of 1,000 culinarians passing through the corridors. Think about how the coaster cars slowly, click by click, climb a steep hill. That gradual, meticulous, often harrowing march to the enrollment high is where innovation is born.

Carmel earned the 2020 Entrepreneurship Award, sponsored by Kendall College for ideas and initiatives that greatly impact the college and community and for thoughtful innovation in college operations.

“I always look to tomorrow to see what can be accomplished to make our school and its programs more innovative. If one thing does not work, you try to approach it from another angle. Each idea builds upon another, like the concept of scaffolding in learning,” said the Trident Technical Community College department head.

Carmel moved away from a traditional 14-week semester to a seven-week, twice per semester schedule. Additionally, he began offering courses in a certificate schedule, with four courses constituting one certificate and several certificates constituting a degree. The schedule allowed students to jump in and out of the program in accordance with their schedule. Carmel said that because of the schedule change Trident tripled their enrollment moving from 200 students to 600 students in a year.

“So many great chefs either never go to school or drop out because of other opportunities they chose to pursue. We marketed this program throughout the Charleston community and have gained traction,” Carmel said.

With an idea of filling empty classroom kitchens when not in use, Carmel turned toward creating a pipeline of prospective students in the summer by offering Kids Baking and Cooking Camps taught by professional chef educators. Through heavy marketing in areas such as Facebook, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, public K-12 schools, and neighborhood HOAs, they grew the program to 192 students per week in six kitchens for seven weeks. That equated to 1344 students, ages 7-17 for the entire summer. At $215 per student, the revenue for the program was more than $288,000.

“As a result of offering Kids Camps, we were able to utilize both culinary campuses, increase summer revenue when the college has very low enrollment, offer full-time faculty a full-time load throughout the year, and increase our exposure to the community,” Carmel commented.

“One of our strongest programs at Culinary Institute of Charleston is our symbiotic relationship with the continuing education department,” he said. “I developed the idea if we can begin a small continuing education, non-credit, certificate program that took in all types of students with very little start-up effort – without pre-requisites like a high school diploma or GED, admissions application, FAFSA, math, reading and writing - we might be able to build a pathway program into our for-credit programs.”

The program showed great success in its first year with 18 new students beginning the semester. In its second year, the program increased culinary enrollment by approximately 25 to 30 new students.

Carmel is quick to express the initiatives the Culinary Institute of Charleston accomplished, for which the program earned the 2020 Innovation Award and a $1,000 cash prize, were not easily attained. The 10-year process was similar to the roller coaster car slowly climbing the hill click by click. “This did not happen overnight, but has gained momentum by defining a clear purpose, creative ideas, and dedication to the education process,” he said. “The team of people I have been able to work with has allowed me to be innovative in my approach in figuring things out, and to build upon those things that have made a difference in our future.”

Click here to read the Gold Medal Classroom story, “Fearless Innovation in the Face of Unflinching Change,” featuring Michael Carmel from Trident Technical Community College’s Culinary Institute of Charleston.