Davenport's Campus Sited Near M6

August 30, 2004
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CALEDONIA — With the June 18 groundbreaking of DavenportUniversity's future main campus — the $22 million W.A. Lettinga Campus in CaledoniaTownship — the school has begun the largest expansion project in its 148-year history.
On 43 acres at
6191 Kraft Ave. SE
, the campus will include the 127,000-square-foot, three-story Richard M. DeVos and Jay Van Andel Academic Building, the Margaret Sneden Library and TechnologyCenter, a fitness center, food service, and the Peter and Pat Cook Residence Hall.
Upon completion of Phase I construction, Davenport will serve 2,000 students in fall 2005, and eventually as many as 4,000. Phase II will include additional classrooms and laboratories, two more residence halls and a gymnasium.
Historically oriented toward the working professional, the new campus will give Davenport the appearance of its traditional counterparts — and some may wonder if the university will shift its focus toward that traditional market, as well.
"There's always a role for any university in a traditional market," Davenport's president, Randolph Flechsig, explained.
"Our core market is preparing people with a practical education to be immediately effective in the workplace, and our mission continues to be in preparing students of whatever age at whatever point in their career to either advance, be promoted, or to enter a new job field.
"The adult market is something that Davenport has long served historically and we'll continue to do that," he said. "The new campus is not designed to attract a different population; it's designed to better serve our existing population."
While Davenport has, through development or acquisition, expanded into 27 sites serving 14,000 students across Michigan and Indiana, the landlocked
Fulton Street
campus and corporate headquarters has no room to grow.
The university was being crunched by growing demand and competition in its core market, with much of its competition sitting in brand-new facilities within walking distance. In addition to that, the Kentwood campus on
Eastern Avenue
is nearing capacity, as well.
What Davenport needed was growing room.
The new campus will allow for a restructure and expansion of both Grand Rapids-area sites.
The majority of the business curriculum will be moved to the Caledonia site, while some of the Kentwood programs will move downtown. The corporate headquarters will remain on
Fulton Street
, where the campus is slated for renovation as part of the expansion project.
Plans to expand its health-care options into a nursing school are being discussed for the extra space created at the downtown site. Neither a nursing program nor a nurse assistant program is currently available in either the downtown or Kentwood sites, although medical coding and billing are available.
Flechsig said the downtown campus would be a prime location for expanded health-care offerings, especially with
Michigan Street
's "Pill Hill" only a few blocks to the north.
Not only does the establishment of a main campus provide the satellite university with a flagship site, it does so without dramatically inconveniencing its Grand Rapids market.
Davenport's demographic research indicated that the majority of its student body was not from Grand Rapids proper. In fact, the smallest percentage of its base came from the city of Grand Rapids.
Instead, Davenport is a clear-cut commuter school with students coming from a broad area across Kent and Ottawa counties, a slightly larger portion of them from the south side of those counties. With the upcoming completion of the new M6 South Beltline, the Caledonia campus — near the Broadmoor exit — may be more accessible to the majority of its students than the site in downtown Grand Rapids
"We looked closely at how our students come to choose Davenport," Flechsig said. "The students that come (downtown) will go (to Caledonia); this doesn't change the dynamics of the drive or the education.
"And we will still continue to have programs at
Fulton Street
. This location, we think, is very convenient and accessible to employees from throughout KentCounty and West Michigan. It's not a change at all; it's just giving us a chance to do a better job of what we've been doing for decades."
According to Flechsig, the profile of a "traditional" student is changing. There are now more people in their early 20s who have joined the work force and are going back to school, and according to the U.S Census Bureau, the percentage of students nationwide past the age of 25 had grown to 37 percent in 2000.
Although the shift in what is perceived as a "traditional student" may mean increased competition for Davenport's working professional student base, it may just as well signify a growing need for Davenport's model of education.
"Career orientation is something that we apply to any student, regardless of age," Flechsig said.
We don't leaden our curriculum with courses that are typically considered more liberal arts. If you come to Davenport and you want to go into marketing, you will get exposed to marketing right away. Which means you are learning what you need to apply on the job, and you can apply it on the very next day at work."
The presence of residence halls on the new campus does not signify a change for Davenport either, only for the location of its students. Davenport currently has 150 beds scattered through different buildings near its downtown campus. Eighty beds will be replaced in Phase I, with the balance of housing eventually being moved to Caledonia, as well.
In the distant future, Flechsig would like to develop Davenport's curriculum through its business training partnerships, possibly into a cooperative model similar to that of KetteringUniversity, formerly General Motors Institute.     BJ

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