Corporate look is intentional at Davenport


The $17-million Donald W. Maine College of Business will feature a three-story atrium and classrooms that resemble office spaces. Rendering by Integrated Architecture

Eleven years ago, Davenport University bought a flat piece of green land along Kraft Avenue.

Now, more than $90 million worth of investments later, Davenport’s W.A. Lettinga Campus is full of new buildings, and university officials hinted at looking for more space to accommodate future expansion.

The campus development partnership of Rockford Construction, Integrated Architecture and Davenport is constructing a $17-million business college facility, which Davenport President Richard Pappas said is fitting as the school started 150 years ago as a business college.

“We were running out of space with the increase in our arts, sciences, tech and health care programs,” Pappas said. “We really wanted to have a facility that is reflective of what we want to do.”

The new Donald W. Maine College of Business building is meant to replicate the kind of modern corporate environment students will encounter in the work world, said Michael Corby, vice president of Integrated Architecture. The structure features a three-story atrium and lots of window/curtain walls for natural light, as well as adaptable classrooms to accommodate large, small and web classes.

The atrium will have a large video screen and a café for students.

“We didn’t want to design a traditional business school,” Corby said. “We wanted to see the trajectory of corporate America and want the school to be shaped off that.”

The campus sprouted from the open field much quicker than Davenport administrators expected when planning began in 2005, but Pappas said his expectations were large when he began his tenure in 2009 and that it has been fun watching the campus grow.

The campus started with the Richard M. DeVos and Jay Van Andel Academic Center, then two residence halls and a student center, which was Integrated’s first project in the development.

The Robert W. Sneden Center soon followed, and a south residence hall came next. Each piece has been designed to continue the flow of growth and expand with the university’s needs, said Shane Napper, president of construction at Rockford.

Now, with the new business college on the way, the campus is vastly different from the one Napper saw for the first time.

“It was a big piece of grass,” Napper said. “It’s hard to say we could have pictured it like this 11 years ago.”

Since Integrated began working on the campus, Corby said he’s wanted benchmarks to help design each building. Each project has included a day-long planning session to get input from students and faculty, as well as trips to see the best examples of similar buildings that could be incorporated into Davenport’s concept.

“We looked at the best of the best, and our facility looks nothing like them,” Corby said of the student activities center. “We didn’t just go to talk about how nice it is, we talk to the people who live with it, which steered us away from things and directed us toward the good aspects.”

For the business college facility, the team went to “cutting-edge” corporate headquarters.

The building also was built to adapt and change with growing class sizes or more dynamic smaller sessions, Corby said, and it can be expanded on three sides should Davenport need more room for classrooms.

The same flexibility to expand with enrollment growth is applied at the school’s athletic complex near the Lettinga Campus, where Davenport football will launch its inaugural season this month.

Davenport relaunched its athletic program in 2002 and is beginning the transition to National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II from its current National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Pappas said while athletics can generate revenue, the program’s focus is in a different direction. Last year, Davenport student-athletes had a 3.31 grade-point average, he said.

“It brings the university together, that camaraderie. Building campus life is the reason,” Pappas said. “The emphasis is academics. I love athletics, it teaches a lot, but the fact our athletes are great students is important to me.”

Pappas’ tenure started with a challenge from the board to increase the quantitative education stats, such as enrollment, retention and graduation rates. He said since he started, Davenport’s graduation rate has doubled, the retention is the highest it’s been, and the school will have more new students on its 11 Michigan campuses than ever before this fall.

Pappas said two more degree programs will be announced this fall that have employment guarantees similar to the one accompanying the accounting program, and by 2020, he expects 25 percent of the degrees to have employment guarantees.

With a goal of increased educational quality and degree benefits, Pappas said more buildings to help facilitate growth could be needed in the future.

“We’ve achieved many of our goals, and now we’re projecting it to grow dramatically over the next four years,” Pappas said. “The goals drive us, but the facilities should be a reflection of what we’re trying to do. We want the buildings to reflect the commitment to excellence and support the mission.”

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