Experience Is Schrotenboers Teacher

June 17, 2002
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HOLLAND — As change swept through the company in the late 1990s, Craig Schrotenboer decided it was time for a different direction, too.

So after 25 years at Herman Miller Inc., he left his job as vice president for customer service and began the task of trying out what to do next.

Then one day, about for months later, he got a call from a friend and former co-worker who told him about a job opening at Davenport University’s Holland campus. The position, and the education field, turned out to be exactly what Schrotenboer was seeking — a chance to take his real-world background and experience in business and offer it to others, particularly when it comes to changing with an ever-evolving business world.

“At that particular time in my life, it was time to pause. It was time to give something back,” said Schrotenboer, who is now the dean of Davenport’s Holland campus and recently presided over a $1.4 million facility expansion.

“This allows me to be able to take 25 years of real business experience and bring a real appreciation for change to the university,” he said.

Schrotenboer, 50, joined Davenport University in November 1998 as the Holland campus’s director of advancement and alumni affairs. He had left Herman Miller several months earlier, a difficult decision that he looks back on now as the “absolutely right one to make.”

Eight months after going to work for Davenport, Schrotenboer was promoted to dean of the Holland campus, succeeding Al Wetherell, who earlier had been promoted to chief operating officer for Davenport.

The school’s mission of providing an education that blends academia and “real-world” business lessons drew Schrotenboer, a Holland native, to Davenport, whose typical student is 30 years old and presently employed in a professional position.

“The classroom should be a practicing field. Then you can leave here with some experience. You don’t just have theory,” he said. “Business is looking for applications and skills from their graduates.”

Since its 1992 opening, the Holland campus has grown steadily over the years and now boasts an enrollment of about 875 students. The recent addition of a new library and five classrooms with Internet, satellite, DVD, VHS and teleconferencing capabilities enabled Davenport to increase its technology course offerings.

The Holland campus, beginning this semester, also is offering Davenport’s Sneden Graduate School MBA program, and has added three one-year medical diploma programs: medical coder/biller, office specialist and transcriptionist.

The diploma programs, added at the urging of medical professionals in the area, fits with Davenport’s practice of molding itself and changing to the needs of the business community.

“It’s that constant change process. The institution is a life-long learner as well,” Schrotenboer said.

Schrotenboer hopes the Holland campus can further that role in the future. His plans are to expand on a successful program initiated years ago with the former Prince Corp., now Johnson Controls Inc., to offer classes on-site at the company’s facilities. Under that program, which Schrotenboer wants to expand to other employers in the area, Davenport now offer 12 business classes at JCI for its employees.

His goals are to also expand opportunities for students to study abroad and have the university more involved in working with high school students as they consider their career options.

Those ideas all signal plenty of changes ahead. Schrotenboer sees himself well-prepared to manage that change, given the significant changes he saw in the business during his 25 years at Herman Miller, as well as his own personal decision four years ago to alter his career course.

“That was another one of those life lessons that you bring with you for the students who attend here,” he said.

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