Davenport is meeting its selfset initiatives

August 26, 2011
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After a few years absence, Davenport University is starting to hold classes downtown again this week.

The 18,000-square-foot center at 45 Ottawa Ave. NW is welcoming students seeking MBAs in health care management and accounting this week, while the university is considering rolling out other MBA concentrations there possibly as early as this academic year.

“When we did a number of surveys and talked to a number of human-resource people, we found there was a real need for specific programs, and there wasn’t an MBA in health being offered and also an MBA in accounting. There might be others that are going to be offered, too, but those were the two driving demands,” said Richard Pappas, president of Davenport.

“When we saw the need, which was much more than we really thought it would be, we thought it would be great to be a part of the inner-city community, as well. So that’s why we’re in the city.”

The university’s downtown center also houses Davenport’s Institute for Professional Excellence, which assists local companies with leadership training for their employees, and also offers office and conference space for the school’s faculty and staff.

The building was one of a handful of strategic initiatives Davenport officials revealed last spring — five tactical ideas sparked by the university’s growth over the past few years.

A second initiative was to increase its presence in Lansing. Expanding that campus was a given. The only question was whether to renovate or build new.

“It’s more likely that we’re going to build, and it’s going to be an exciting facility. Lansing is one of our fastest growing campuses. We did a market study for every campus area we have throughout Michigan. We even looked at areas where we weren’t present to see where the high demand was. And we found that Lansing has a tremendous potential for health care and business, so we’re excited about having either renovated or new. But we’re thinking, at this point, it’ll probably be new,” said Pappas, who added that the city is firmly behind the university’s expansion plan.

“We’d like to have everything done and completed by a year from now. The decision won’t just be done by then; the actual project will be done by then.”

A third initiative was to expand the nursing labs in Midland and Warren, projects that now are finished. The university offers its nursing program in those cities, along with here in Grand Rapids, and the program is growing at each one. Pappas said all three campuses have received an influx of new technology.

“We have a large waiting list for all three campuses, and so that program could be a possibility for other campuses as we start expanding,” he said. “Last year, we had a 100 percent pass rate on our national boards for nursing, and this year, so far, it’s 100 percent.

“While nursing is a growing field, I think people really are starting to see that Davenport is not just a high-level business college; it’s a high-level health program, as well.”

Yet another Davenport initiative is to launch new academic programs at nearly all of its 15 campuses in the state. Pappas said the university has developed a process that has cut the development time for new programs from 18 months to 60 days, which gets the school’s latest offerings to the market much faster.

“One we’re exploring is an MSN —a master’s in nursing — and that could be for this year. And for next year, there are other opportunities in maybe occupational and physical therapy. We’re exploring new business programs now, new technology programs,” he said.

“When you have good data about the market — what the needs are and what people are hiring — it makes it a lot easier to develop programs. What I think you’ll see soon is a litany of what the new programs will be. At every campus now what we’re minimally offering is an MBA and also a BFN, bachelor’s of nursing completion. Because every campus we have is located by a large community college, there are all these associate degrees in nursing. Hospitals are demanding BFNs, so we’re offering a BFN completion. They will be able to get the rest of their degree through us.”

The fifth initiative is to close its Alma, Gaylord and Caro campuses in May, which will affect about 250 of Davenport’s 13,000 students. The students in Alma will be encouraged to attend the Midland or Lansing campuses, while those at the Caro campus will be directed to the Midland or Saginaw locations. The Traverse City campus will accommodate those studying in Gaylord.

“The funny thing about those campuses is, while they’re all making money, we couldn’t fulfill our vision of jobs and careers because there are no jobs in those areas, at this point. It was really clear as we did the analysis, so we are (closing those). But we are very, very committed to making sure that each student at any of those campuses completes their degree. Each one has an advisor, so it’s very important to us that they are still Davenport students,” said Pappas.

Davenport was founded in 1866 and has a rich past. But it is the university’s future that Pappas is excited about because he said the school’s initiatives are all about delivering improved quality, and he has the proof that Davenport is on track to complete that mission.

“One of the things that most people look at is metrics. We’re about to do a balance scorecard, which really measures our top-line outcomes for students, and one of those is fall-to-fall retention, also fall-to-winter. And just in the last two years, we went up three percentage points from fall to winter. In other words, 3 percent more (students) stayed from fall to winter and 2 percent more stayed from fall to fall. As we examine this measure, we’re also finding out reasons people haven’t stayed so we can continuously improve this process,” he said.

“The whole university is behind this — from the board of trustees down to every clerical staff member to every technical staff member to every faculty member to every administrator. Everybody is excited and focused on quality. It’s all about our students and our employers, so I couldn’t be more excited about our future. Things are good and all our metrics are improving.”

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