Alumni Success Story: Bill Smitley ’07

Since graduating with his MBA in human resources, Bill Smitley ’07 has quickly built a career as a corporate recruiter and human resources professional.  By packaging Bill’s energetic, service-driven personality and the MBA education he received at DU together, he was able to obtain his dream job as an HR Generalist at DP Fox Ventures. Bill believes the skills he learned and people he met while at DU prepared him for success, stating, “group projects helped me develop new approaches to resolving differences and providing feedback.” We are proud to feature Bill Smitley ’07 as our alumni success story this week. Read Bill’s full Alumni Success interview below.

Tell us about yourself, Bill!

I moved to Michigan 21 years ago from South Bend, Indiana where I was born and raised.  I graduated from Ball State University with a marketing degree in 1994. After college, I had an interesting career path. I had jobs at JCPenney in merchandising, Universal Forest Products in marketing, and Gordon Food Service in management. I worked at DU in admissions for a few years while I taught management, marketing and public relations courses online. I earned my MBA with a human resources focus from DU in 2007, soon after I started working at Service Express, Inc. as a corporate recruiter.  Over a year ago, I accepted the Human Resources Generalist position at DP Fox Ventures where I am responsible for employee relations and recruiting.

Why did you pick the MBA program with the HR focus at DU?

I feel HR is a perfect fit for my personality. I took a strengths finder test and the results were not surprising. I am “woo” and “communication.” I like striking up conversations with new people and building a great rapport.  I describe human resources as the vehicle that connects the dots for employees, almost like match making for careers.

What was your experience like at DU?

I really enjoyed my experience at DU. I received the hands-on experience I needed to obtain a job in human resources. The group projects helped me develop new approaches to resolving differences and providing feedback on performance, which has helped me greatly in my role as a HR Generalist. Davenport set me up for success.

Tell us about your job as a HR Generalist for DP Fox.

My main focus is employee relations.  I help with recruiting and retention, creating avenues for employee empowerment and enforcing policies and regulations.  One of the coolest things about my job is the variety of jobs I get to recruit for.  DP Fox Ventures is a diversified management company with interests in real estate, transportation, fashion, sports and entertainment. A lot of the recruiting I do is for Fox Motors, which is fun.

What do you do when you are not working?

I enjoy spending time with my wife of 16 years and our three children. We spend a lot of time at their sporting events and activities. I also enjoy creating online scrapbooks.

What advice do you have for recent graduates?

Put your phone down and develop social skills. Don’t be afraid to talk to people face-to-face. I am a happy-go-lucky guy and I am not afraid to have fun at my job.

Spotlight on Your Impact, featuring Alpha League student Daronte Powers

Daronte Powers was one of the first members to join Davenport University’s Alpha League, a program launched in the fall of 2015 for African American males that aims to provide mentorship, brotherhood and leadership skill development for its members. I sat down with him to ask him about his experience at DU and what Alpha League means to him.

What made you decide on DU?

My younger brothers were being recruited by Coach Lou Esposito for the football team. At the time, I was at Ivy Tech Community College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and had been looking for a school to transfer to. I wanted to go to school with my brothers and I was interested in the football team so I decided to transfer to Davenport. I had been at Ivy Tech for a year and before that I had worked for a couple of years after graduating high school. It’s not the traditional route a lot of kids take to college but I needed that time to find my purpose and get a better vision of what I wanted to do so that I wasn’t wasting time or resources.

How did you get involved with Alpha League?

When I started working with Admissions, I met Terry Rostic and he was in the process of building this program [Alpha League]. My brothers and I, along with some of our football teammates, were some of the first members he approached to join.

And how has Alpha League impacted your time at DU and your success here?

The opportunities I’ve had would not have been possible without Alpha League. For example, the scholarships that were available, the brotherhood outside of football with classmates like ourselves, the networking with businessmen in the community where you actually get 1 on 1 time with them. Also, it’s great to have a mentor – in Terry Rostic and Javontae Ford along with all of the people that have come to speak to us – people with the desire to give back and show you how their experience got them where they are today.

What would you like people who aren’t familiar with Alpha League to know about it?

It’s still about education. It’s inspiring; there are motivational aspects about it. We’re being held accountable to a standard. We treat our Alpha League meetings just like we would a sport. There’s no excuse to miss a meeting, there’s no excuse not to be on time. It’s reinforcing all of the habits that school teaches us – being organized, time management. It reinforces ways to be more effective in the classroom, more effective in the community. The program is kind of aligned with Davenport’s DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). In our meetings we talk about the history of our culture, educating ourselves beyond just the classes that we take.

Anything else you want to share about Alpha League?

The experiences we’ve had, through Terry’s hard work and the work of Davenport, they would have been harder to obtain if it weren’t for Alpha League. It’s all about creating change – you have to start somewhere.

A big thank you to Daronte for sharing a bit of his story with me and to the generous donors whose support will help ensure this program is available to students like Daronte for years to come! For more information or to assist students in Alpha League by supporting their program fund, contact Sarah Mitchell or visit our website to make a donation.

Call for Nominations for the DU Excellence in Teaching Award

Did a Davenport faculty member have an impact on your education?  Your career?  Your life?

The Office of Performance Excellence is seeking nominations for the second annual DU Excellence in Teaching Award.  This award recognizes outstanding adjunct and full-time faculty who:

  • Show enthusiasm for teaching and subject matter
  • Connect with students, demonstrating a genuine concern and caring for student learning and success
  • Exceed expectations in helping students learn
  • Consistently achieve student learning outcomes
  • Demonstrate mastery of current knowledge of subject and effective learning delivery methods

Winners will be honored at Davenfest 2016, DU’s all employee meeting.

Submit your nomination online before March 25, 2016.

Alumni Success Story: Rebecca Dutcher ’99

Innovation, optimism and leadership are words that come to mind when describing this week’s alumni success story feature, Rebecca Dutcher ‘99. As a self-proclaimed “marketing nerd,” Rebecca credits her hands-on experience in the DU marketing program as the springboard which launched her into her career as the director of the web division at 834 Marketing & Design. Read Rebecca’s full interview below.

Rebecca Dutcher '99 - Alumni Success Story.jpg


Q & A with Rebecca

Tell us a little about yourself, Rebecca!

I recently started a new position as the Director of the Web Division at 834 Marketing and Design, an integrated communications agency providing specialized support to West Michigan businesses. I am responsible for everything web-related, including  digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), development and analytics. I know enough about the technical aspect of programming and coding to be “dangerous,” yet am able to articulate client wants and needs to our developers.

In my former positions, I did everything from simple logo development to complete brand overhauls to video creation and more, on both the client side, as well as the ad agency side. I have spent years in the digital world including director of business development for Mindscape at Hanon McKendry and most recently Senior Account Executive for BluFish Consulting in Marshall, MI.  I am currently the VP of Programming and Immediate Past President for  American Marketing Association of West Michigan and a board member for Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW).

Surprisingly, marketing was my not my first career choice. I wanted to be a horse veterinarian and be the vet at the Olympics. In my last semester in high school, my plan took a complete 180. I took a marketing class and really enjoyed it. I found the marketing field had both the creative and analytical process which was intriguing. I am not the type of person who likes to be tied to a desk all day or do the same thing over and over. So, marketing is perfect for my personality. It is so many things, and always a little different.

What was your experience like at DU?

I was a non-traditional student at the downtown campus. I took most of my classes at night because and even weekends, because I also worked full-time. I really enjoyed the flexibility of DU’s program because it allowed me to excel in the classroom as well as in the workplace. I finished in 1999 with my BA in sales and marketing with a minor in international business.

What is one of your favorite memories of DU?

Davenport was innovative and ahead of their time. We learned about things that are applicable to the world now in my intercultural communications class. My professor, Marti Lamphear-Van Horn, brought real world experience to the classroom. She taught us how to understand different cultures and generations, and the impact those differences have on communication styles. I remember going on “field trips” to explore cuisine from different countries and discussing current news from around the world. I really enjoyed this class.

Did DU prepare you for success?

Absolutely, Davenport prepared me for success through the hands-on experiences and real-life projects. Especially since I went through college without email or Google.

What advice do you have for recent grads?

Get your hands dirty and go the extra mile. Work hard and go above and beyond to achieve your goals. When you volunteer to help out or take on a project outside of your normal role, you learn how to do new things. Be willing to do your own research and figure it out instead of asking simple questions of your supervisors.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I get nervous before networking events and big presentations. I am actually a bit shy. I was in speech competitions in college with BPA. Everyone thought I was so confident, but little did they know that I was nervous too.

What do you do when you are not working?

Well, I am workaholic that likes to find balance in the midst of my busy schedule. I enjoy spending time with my husband and son. We like to go out to eat as a family, especially for Sunday breakfast. I love to exercise and stay active, kickboxing is my favorite way to reduce stress.

The beauty of the work I do, and the Team at 834 Design, is it allows me to work from home or anywhere I need to be. I’m able to go on field trips with my son or volunteer on community boards.


Thank You!

This past week was our first ever week of giving – and we are blown away by the results. We set a goal to raise $10,000 in one week. We raised more than $11,000 – because of you!

Through your generosity, we have established the new Founder’s Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship will provide support for DU students forever.

Thank you so much for your support. We’re proud that you’ve helped us kick off DU’s 150th year with such gusto—and we’ll keep the Panther Pride going strong!

You make all the difference to students at Davenport.

With gratitude,

Peggy S. Luy

Executive Vice President for Alumni & Development

Today is the day! #DU150

The #DU150 Challenge starts today and we have exciting news: a generous group of friends has agreed to match the first $5,000 raised. This means if you give $25 your gift becomes $50 for student scholarships. Take advantage and double your gift now!

To celebrate Davenport University’s 150th anniversary, we’re holding our first-ever giving week and inviting you and all of our friends to join us.

The Challenge will run 150 hours, starting today. We have set a participation goal, which means that each and every gift counts towards our goal of 150 people. All money raised supports the Founder’s Endowed Scholarship.

Ways to give include calling our office at (616) 233-3416, emailing or using our secure online giving platform by clicking here.

Your help is critical to reaching our goal of providing student scholarships.

If you have already made a gift to Davenport University this year, thank you! We appreciate your support. If you would like to make an additional gift for #DU150 or help us reach our goal by sharing Davenport University Alumni’s Facebook message your own wall, we will appreciate it.

P.S. Double your gift for students at Davenport University today! Every gift, large or small, counts towards our goal.

#DU150 is just 3 days away!

This year marks Davenport University’s 150th anniversary. To celebrate, we’re holding our first-ever giving week and inviting you and all of our friends to join us!

The #DU150 Challenge will run 150 hours, starting at 8:00am January 25th and ending on Sunday, January 31st. We have set a participation goal, which means that each and every gift counts towards our goal of 150 people. All money raised supports the Founder’s Endowed Scholarship.

Anyone, anywhere can get involved in #DU150 and give back in meaningful ways. You can give by calling our office at (616) 233-3416, emailing or using our secure online giving platform by clicking here.

Your help is critical to reaching our goal of providing student scholarships.

If you have already made a gift to Davenport University this year, thank you! We appreciate your support. If you would like to make an additional gift for #DU150 or help us reach our goal by sharing Davenport University Alumni’s Facebook message on your own wall, we are grateful!

We are only 3 days away! We know we can count on you to help us make a difference in the lives of students!

Alumni Success Story: James Nelson ’12

DU Basketball star turned healthcare advocate for Spectrum Health

James Nelson ’12, is not a stranger to wearing multiple hats.  As a DU student, he was a star basketball player, volunteer and leader. His current role as a Physician Liaison at Spectrum Health is no different. Motivated by the loss of his mother at a young age and the support of his family, James puts his passion for healthcare and business education from DU to work at Spectrum Health. He is responsible for supporting relationships with primary care physicians throughout the greater Grand Rapids area, helping to develop post acute care services, and emergency medicine within the United and Kelsey Hospital systems. His goal is to provide excellent health care options for our community. Read James’ full Alumni Success Story interview below.

Q & A with James Nelson

Tell me about yourself, James!

I was born and raised in New Haven, MI.  My mom passed away when I was a kid and it changed my life forever. My sister raised me and my other two brothers. After high school, I originally went to Grand Valley to play ball and become a dentist. But, quickly learned it was not for me.  I transferred to DU to continue my career and earn my BBA.  I had a few different healthcare jobs after college on the east side of the state. I live in Grand Rapids now and work as a Physician Liaison at Spectrum Health.

What was your experience like at DU?

I loved my experience at DU. I had a great group of friends on and off the basketball court. The staff and professors were great. I can still remember talking international business with Frank Novakowski, organizational management with Marjolijn van der Velde, and sports marketing with Steve Project. The lessons I learned in the classroom were not just from the book, but real-life examples and hands-on experiences.

What was a favorite memory of your experience at DU?

Some of my favorite memories are from experiences with Campus Life.  In my junior and senior years, I became really involved.  I helped with Panther Prowl as a Panther Prowl Pack Leader, cleaned up the Grand River with the volunteer center and assisted with freshman move-in.  It was a great learning experience.

What do you do now?

Healthcare has always been a big interest of mine.  Between that and BBA in business, my role at Spectrum is a perfect fit. As a Physician Liaison, I am a link between Spectrum Health and the physicians in our community. My focus is on continuing care services and emergency medicine within the United and Kelsey Hospital systems. My overall goal is to be an advocate for patients by developing relationships and offering services to ensure excellent health care options for our community. I wear many hats, but it is a very challenging and rewarding job.

Define success.

My definition of success has changed every year. I believe success is when you do something that you love. As I grew older, I learned that is not about the money, but more about the happiness I had while doing the job.

What motivates you?

My family motivates me.  They cared for me when my mom passed away and I cannot thank them enough for always being there for me.  It means a lot to know that people care about me in every step of my life.

What is your dream job?

I would love to own a company that focuses on positively impacting the community.

What advice do you have for DU recent grads?

It takes time to define what success means to you. Your definition of “success” may not happen overnight. Be patient and do not give up!

What do you do when you are not working?

I still love to play basketball. I play 4-5 days a week.  I love spending time with my fiance, Lily, and our new dog, Ralph. We spend a lot of time planning our wedding and fixing up our house.

Student Scholarship Success Profile featuring Thomas Evans

Hometown: Grand Rapids
Graduation Year: 2019
Program: Network Design & Management
Student Groups: Pep Band & DU Gamers Club
Dream Job: Network Administrator

Thomas Evans is a first-year Networking Design and Management major at Davenport University. He is a first generation college student and was extremely honored to receive the Initech Global Scholarship this year. He loves DU for many reasons but says, “I feel like I belong here….Davenport chose me.”

Q & A with Thomas Evans

Tell us a little about yourself, Thomas!

I am native to Grand Rapids. I am a musician and started playing instruments and singing in the fourth grade. I play the drums, guitar, viola and violin. I also enjoy competitive gaming and designing new programs. Since I like engaging with customers and meeting new people, I also work part-time at McDonalds.

Why did you choose to attend DU?

I was adopted at two weeks old and raised by my aunt and two older sisters. When I was 15, my aunt passed away. My legal father, who was 77 at the time, adopted me. I grew up in Wyoming, so I knew I wanted to stay close to home.

I feel like Davenport chose me. Davenport had everything I was looking for in a college—the perfect program, pep band, and generous scholarships.

What is your favorite part about attending DU?

I feel like I belong here. The people are so welcoming and inviting. There are so many activities and things to get involved with on campus. So far, I have been involved with the athletic Pep Band and DU Gamers Club, and I hope to get involved with more things soon.

How has the Initech Global Scholarship helped you succeed?

When I found out I received the scholarship, I freaked out with excitement. I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I am thankful and happy that I can spend my time as a college student, focusing on my studies and being social and not worry about working as much.

Without this scholarship, I would have to work a lot more. I would not be able to take a full semester of classes and my grades would suffer. The scholarship has allowed me to work part-time, while taking classes full-time and participating in campus life activities.

What is your dream job?

I would love to be a network engineer at a local company. I think that DU will help me accomplish my goals because my instructors know where I want to go and will lead me in the right direction.