Davenport University Building For The Future


    GRAND RAPIDS—The Davenport University expansion program, begun during the reign of retired Chancellor Donald Maine, is starting to surface.

    The school’s aggressive building plan, partly funded by its “Invest in Success” campaign, is putting the final touches on a new Holland facility, renovating the main grounds on Fulton Street and planning a new campus for southern Kent County.

    Davenport officials are scouting south side parcels around the Beltline for its South Campus, including a site in Caledonia near the currently-under-construction South Beltline, or M-6, expressway. Whichever locale Davenport finally chooses, the school will need at least ten, and maybe up to twenty, acres to properly develop the campus.

    “We’re obviously committed to being state-of-the-art for the facility and its technology. As we look at our physical assets across the whole system, we envision any new construction being sort of a prototype of what the future of higher education ought to be,” said university president Randolph Flechsig.

    “Frankly, I think the South Campus is open for any of our programs.”

    Davenport is growing. But, at the same time, is landlocked at its downtown site. The Fulton Street campus can’t accommodate the growth university officials see in the future.

    “As we look to some of the ways we want to build enrollment over the next decade, we can see not only a graduate program and some of our technology courses on the South Campus, but maybe our full array of programs to supplement what we are able to offer downtown,” said Flechsig.

    “If we’re going to grow like we think we can grow over the next ten years, we’re going to need more space.”

    In the meantime, a renovation project recently began on the university’s Fulton Street campus. That work is being done in three phases, will take a few years to complete, and includes additional classrooms and the latest computer labs.

    “One of our challenges is how to dovetail that phasing on Fulton Street with the idea of a new site,” said Flechsig. “We’re going to invest strategically, and we’re not going to build for the sake of building. We want to be very careful as we create physical assets, that these are well-positioned and give us the long-term view.”

    By that, Flechsig means that the university has to find a balance between what it does now and what it will be doing in the future. A key player in that balancing act is Davenport’s new Holland campus at 643 Waverly Road, a location that gives the university the western presence it wanted. The project will be finished this fall.

    The building program is being partly paid for by the university’s “Invest in Success” campaign. All the money raised will be spent in Davenport’s western region, which includes, of course, Grand Rapids and Holland. Some of the funds will go toward building projects, while some is dedicated to student scholarships. The campaign’s goal is $15 million, and, as of this month, the university had received $13.4 million in contributions.

    Davenport expects to grow in at least three areas over the next decade. Flechsig said the university feels more students will enroll in its online offering. And if the online enrollment does increase, the number of  in-classroom students will also rise — as Flechsig sees the two types of offerings becoming more integrated in the next few years.

    In addition, Davenport expects to be serving more international students in the future. Although currently a small percentage of the university’s overall student population, Flechsig said that group has been growing at a significant rate over the past few years.

    The university also expects its adult population will grow. Flechsig said Davenport’s small classes appeal to continuing-education students, and the university’s curriculum also fills their workplace needs with courses in fields like e-commerce.

    “The other thing we’re doing is increasing our partnerships with community colleges. In Midland, we just finalized an articulation agreement with Delta College. We call it the ‘Two Plus Two’ program. Student do two years in the community college and then they enter the Davenport system,” said Flechsig.

    “Students get their associate degrees at community colleges and then get their bachelor degrees at Davenport. That’s a way for us to continue to grow our transfer population.”

    Davenport had these types of agreements in place with most community colleges in the state and in northern Indiana, before it added Delta to the list a few weeks ago.

    Davenport is one of the region’s oldest educational institutions, having been founded in 1866 as Grand Rapids Business College. Even though the school’s name is different and its campuses have grown from one to 27, Flechsig pointed out that the university’s focus hasn’t changed. He said Davenport still maintains the same purpose, and that is to provide training and education for careers in business – not always a simple task in a constantly changing business climate.

    “One of the great challenges we have, and all businesses have, is that the environment is so fast paced and the change is so radical, that we keep all of our options open,” said Flechsig. “As we’re continuing to look at Fulton Street, we’re also looking at what we might do at another site in Grand Rapids.”

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