Davenport adds personnel to bring its Vision 2015 in focus


    Davenport University is launching a journey based on a five-year strategic plan with a goal to become a premier university in the face of Michigan’s economic struggles.

    The list includes a guarantee of employment for Davenport graduates, but there are another 31 goals for which President Richard J. Pappas is marshalling university resources and attention.

    Unemployment, fewer jobs and a lower-than-average population with four-year degrees in Michigan give Davenport University, with its main campus in Caledonia Township and 13 others across the state, an obligation and an opportunity to step up to the challenge, according to Vision 2015.

    “The vision became more and more crystal clear that it was going to be about quality — measurable quality,” said Pappas, who joined Davenport a year ago.

    At his investiture ceremony in March, Pappas laid out the five-year strategic plan and set its goals, including accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission’s Academic Quality Improvement Program and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality award.

    Pappas said Davenport wants to build on its career-education approach and three-pronged focus on business, health care and technology to help the state pull out of the recession and put people back to work. Several new administrators have been hired to implement the plan, which was approved by the board of trustees late in 2009.

    Pappas said he gathered input from a variety of people, including faculty, staff, students and local business leaders at all 14 Davenport locations.

    “I took it to just about every major CEO in this area, in health care and in business, and it got a tremendous response,” Pappas said. “They thought it was a really bold and exciting vision.”

    Among Davenport’s Vision 2015 goals are the creation of an entrepreneurial center to attract, retain and create new businesses in the state, and the development of “leading edge” programs that prepare students for developments in health, business and technology or other areas that may develop.

    Pappas said Davenport plans to leverage deep knowledge of its specialties and markets along with a streamlined process to foster the ability to create new programs within weeks.

    “Our programs will be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, relevant and directly tied to the needs of our students and the marketplace,” the vision statement reads.

    The university also plans to boost its corporate and on-site training revenue to $5 million as part of a strategy to reduce reliance on tuition from 90 percent to between 80 and 85 percent.

    Boosting its endowment by 50 percent in five years — and by another 50 percent by 2020 — and increasing alumni association membership by 25 percent are also part of the agenda.

    The university reported to the IRS total revenue of $114 million for the tax year that ended in June 2009, with a positive margin of $4 million.

    Other initiatives are aimed at achievements that would enhance students’ education and preparation for the workplace. Those include:

    • Increase enrollment from 13,000 today to 18,000.
    • Retention rates and graduation rate that rank in the top 20 percent.
    • Increase online enrollment three-fold.
    • Keep tuition charges in the bottom 10 percent of Michigan private colleges.

    Additional points focus on finances, workplace issues, goals for student achievement and involvement, use of technology, communications and marketing.

    “Every goal is measurable,” Pappas said. “It has to say something to the vision or progress to the vision, or we wouldn’t do it.”

    DU has hired or is in the process of hiring for several positions aimed at bringing the vision into focus. Some are new jobs, such as the executive vice president for quality and effectiveness, executive director of market research, dean for online education, executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion, executive director of marketing. Others have been revamped to tie in closer to Vision 2015, including positions in advancement, alumni relations, marketing and an executive vice president of enrollment and student development. The provost’s position also is open.

    Scott Epstein, executive vice president for quality and effectiveness, joined Davenport about four months ago from a job as consultant on higher education quality issues. It’s Epstein’s job to “help create an infrastructure” to support Vision 2015 deployment across the 14 campuses and online.

    “We’re in the early stages. I think I’d be naïve to say all 700 full-time employees are merrily rolling along, but what I’ve experienced in four-plus months here is minimal if any resistance. It will be interesting to see how it fits us — what will become the ‘DU Way?’”

    Epstein said he is working with employees to develop “key indicators” that will be used to measure progress toward meeting the strategic plan’s goals.

    “It’s really using data and translating it to knowledge … to be able to track our progress and make any corrections as we go along the way.”

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