Focus and Higher Education

Davenport’s five-year plan builds on past accomplishments

Focus will be on student outcomes so graduates can compete for jobs with anyone.

August 21, 2015
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Davenport University is embarking on several innovative goals as part of its Vision 2020 strategic plan.

Davenport said its five-year plan, unveiled last month, will build on the success of its previous five-year plans and focuses on accelerating the quality of student outcomes to ensure graduates compare favorably with those of Michigan’s leading public universities.

To identify what is important to students and student outcomes, Davenport measures employee satisfaction, retention, graduation rate, student satisfaction, the university’s bottom line, fundraising efforts and employer satisfaction in its strategic planning process.

Richard J. Pappas, Davenport president, said during the past five years the university has dramatically transformed the culture and outcomes while working toward the goals in Vision 2015: The graduation rate has improved 110 percent, and fundraising is at the highest level in the institution’s history.

“Vision 2020 accelerates the quality of our student outcomes so our students can compete with anybody, anytime — and that is really important to us,” said Pappas. “It is not about being better than another university; it is about when our students go for a job, not only are they prepared and they get the job, but also they are prepared to do the job.”

The university aspires to “rank among the best of all colleges and universities in the Midwest” by the year 2020, and its five-year strategic plan highlights a number of goals in core areas, including academic and student success, workforce engagement, operational excellence and financial performance.

Davenport’s financial goals include becoming less dependent on tuition than in the past, annual fundraising generating $6 million to $8 million and an endowment fund approaching $35 million, and non-credit programs and corporate education producing revenues of $3 million to $5 million annually to support operations.

In terms of academic and student success, Davenport intends to maintain the highest level of student satisfaction, a retention rate in the mid-70s percentile range, a graduation rate approaching 80 percent, exploration of accelerated three-year degree formats, developing new programs based on market need, and expanding its pilot “employment guarantee” program to encompass roughly 25 percent of its degrees.

“Innovation is so important to higher education and important to us,” said Pappas. “(Vision 2020) is not just building on what we have done but also other innovative models. The largest priority is accelerating our student outcomes to the highest level.”

Since 2010, Davenport has launched a number of new programs, including a master’s degree cohort in the new College of Urban Education and a competency-based MBA program, and is in the process of developing its first doctoral program in physical therapy.

Through its strategic vision for 2020, Davenport plans to expand its curricular offerings in the College of Urban Education to include programs for principals and undergraduates, and explore more competency-based degrees in other disciplines.

The university also will expand its physical footprint as it continues to grow its W.A. Lettinga Campus with the Donald W. Maine College of Business and the Farmer’s Insurance Athletics Complex.

“Our Grand Rapids campus serves a broad variety of students,” said Pappas. “The addition of football (in 2016) and continued development of resident halls and a vibrant campus life will help us to increase our traditional student enrollment.”

By 2017, the university projects the construction of a new campus in the Metro Detroit area to complement its existing locations in Warren and Livonia.

“Part of our emphasis in looking at Detroit is having a greater impact in the largest community in the state,” said Pappas. “The challenge would be, can we be as successful as we are in Grand Rapids because right now in Grand Rapids we are making a difference, we are active in the community right now and our students are doing really well.

“We want to have the kind of presence we have here potentially in greater Detroit.”

Davenport’s Vision 2020 also includes an initiative to partner with some community colleges across the state to become part of existing University Centers or to establish new ones, according to a press release. The partnerships could include providing opportunities for students to continue their education with Davenport upon earning an associate’s degree and also developing new programs.

“We wanted to develop a stronger relationship with some community colleges. We think it is more strategic for us, like in Flint or in Kalamazoo, to really be on their campus and develop programs together,” said Pappas.

The two community college partnerships going into effect this fall are Mott Community College in Flint, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The partnerships will allow for Davenport’s current campus operations in Flint and Kalamazoo to shift onto the community colleges’ campuses.

During the upcoming fiscal year, Davenport will announce additional partnerships, merge its operations in Saginaw with the Midland Campus, and explore the feasibility of a new campus serving the entire Tri-Cities region of Michigan. The Battle Creek location will close.

During the planning process for Vision 2020, Pappas said the university conducted an environmental scan to gain insight as to what affected Davenport both internally and externally, such as legal, social and economic issues. Vision 2020 also incorporated feedback from employees, students, donors, alumni and the board of trustees.

“We want to make sure we are listening to our students, we want to make sure we are listening to our employees, and we want to make sure we are listening to our community,” said Pappas. “It is exciting, it is daunting — but we are ready to go.”

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