A New Move Toward Tradition

July 29, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — David Fleming, Ph.D., has taken the reigns as the new provost at Davenport University, but this is just one of the changes the university is undergoing.

The school also is offering new specializations within current programs and moving toward a more traditional student atmosphere, while maintaining its appeal to working adults and its business-style approach to education.

Part of the new atmosphere at Davenport includes consolidating campuses and adding new programs and facilities to its main W.A. Lettinga campus in Caledonia.

Fleming took over as provost from Tom Brown, who had held the position since 2005 and retired on June 30 of this year. Fleming has been with Davenport for 13 years. He spent the majority of his career until the last few years on the east side of the state, where most of the campus consolidation is occurring, especially in the “thumb area.”

“We had, at the time, 21 locations. That’s just too many. You can’t run a good class with five people in it, because seven more students are going 20 minutes down the road to another location,” said Fleming.

Too many campuses in close proximity to each other also meant classes were sometimes cancelled because too few students were signed up.

“You can utilize your resources better when you have fewer locations,” said Fleming. “Really, the key element is the class size. You can’t run a class with four or five students, you can’t do group work.”

Davenport’s original location on Fulton Street just east of downtown Grand Rapids now mainly houses the university’s health programs. Fleming said these programs are very resource-intensive. Currently, the fate of the Fulton Street location is undetermined. Fleming said the university will probably build facilities on the Caledonia campus to accommodate the health programs sometime in the future. Any time frame to do so, however, has not been discussed.

“In our mindset right now, if a student is interested in a degree in health, they’re going to be in the Fulton Street location. If they want a business tech degree, they’ll be at Caledonia,” said Fleming.

Davenport’s main focus right now is on a student center and residence hall on its Caledonia campus. The university is just now finishing a student center where athletic programs can be held; it’s scheduled to open in late October. If approved, construction on a residence hall could begin sometime in September and be completed in about a year. The hall would add 300 beds to the campus; demand for it would be created by the addition of the student center and its athletic programs, Fleming said.

“Think about how that relates to athletics,” said Fleming. “An athlete only wants to come if they can live on campus, so really the first feeds the second.”

Davenport will commence seven new programs and specialties with the new academic year this fall, including combined bachelor’s and master’s of business administration degrees in strategic management.

“They learn the fundamentals of management at the fundamental level and the strategic decision-making at the graduate level,” said Fleming. “It allows them to complete, usually in five years, both degrees.”

Global project management is one of the new specialties; it can be combined with the existing management program or with one of the computer information systems programs. The specialty helps students prepare for the Project Management Institute certification. Davenport also has recently received approval to offer a master’s of public health degree this fall.

“(The new programs are) kind of recognizing how the business world is changing,” said Fleming. “That’s why we try to make sure our business programs, our tech programs and even the health (programs), as much as possible, all really are leading toward the same kind of leader.”

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