Monthly Archive for February, 2016

Thank You Comfort Zone Alumni Volunteers!

We would like to give a huge “thank you” shout-out to alumni leaders Chris Sanders ’10 ’12 ’14, Jason Russell ’13, Shannon Wiersma ’12, Carrie Moskal ’07, Benjamin Brewer ’14 ’15 (pictured in order above) and Brian Behler ’03 (not pictured) who volunteered at the Comfort Zone Challenges at the Alumni Power Hour and Shark Tank events. Without the generous support of alumni volunteers, this event would not have been possible. If you are interested in volunteering at Davenport events in the near future, email the alumni office.  

Alumni Success Story: Maria Gustinis ’89 ’95 ’96

Challenges are no match for alumna Maria Gustinis ’89 ‘95 ‘96. While earning two bachelor’s degrees in Computer Information Systems and Business Management, Maria overcame layoffs, job transfers and personal challenges that shaped her career path. Now the Quality Program Manager at GE Aviation, Maria collaborates with engineers, manufacturing workforce, and auditors ensuring AS9100 Aviation Industry Standards are met. Though “fun” and “exciting” are not words to describe legal and regulatory affairs, Maria enjoys her role at GE Aviation. We are proud to feature Maria as an alumni success story this week. View her full interview below.

Tell us about yourself, Maria!

My story is probably unlike many other alums that you may have interviewed. Throughout my career, I have held so many unique jobs in different industries while overcoming layoffs,  job transfers and personal challenges. At the same time, I spent 14 years earning two bachelor’s degrees from DU, ultimately earning my BBA in General Business Management in 1995 and a second BBA in Computer Information Systems with a minor in Communications in 1996.  I had jobs in banking operations, mainframe programming, engineering, project planning and tax law, all of which have taught me persistence, perseverance and hard work while preparing me for my current role at GE Aviation as a Quality Program Manager.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

I am a Quality Program Manager at GE Aviation in Grand Rapids. Let’s face it “fun” and “exciting” are not words normally used to describe compliance and audits, but I enjoy the challenges of my job. In this role, I collaborate with our quality engineers and manufacturing workforce to identify and mitigate product risks and ensure we are in compliance with the AS9100 Aerospace Industry Standard.  I also review and document processes and procedures per AS9100 standards to maintain our AS9100 Certification.

How did Davenport help you get there?

My experience at Davenport was great. Throughout my 14 years at DU, I went from being a part-time student while working full-time, to a full-time student for two years, then back to a full-time employee and part-time student, and then to taking one class a time. Davenport supported me throughout my whole education career and prepared me for success. They showed me how to persevere toward a goal, work hard and make strategic decisions. I was able to build my technical and leadership skills while applying hands-on, applicable classroom experiences to my job.

What advice do you have for recent graduates?

My advice is to be open to opportunities. Sometimes you don’t get a job in your desired field, but always do it with integrity.  When you show your value and work towards your goals, you will be rewarded.  Work hard and be persistent in everything you do.

What do you do when you are not working?

I ride a Harley. It was a birthday gift from my late husband.  I have put 20,000 miles on it.  I am a member of Stilettos on Steel Female Riding Group.  Last summer, I rode more than 2,400 miles to include the Upper Peninsula, down to southeast Ohio and around the Great Lakes. When I’m not traveling, I enjoy sewing.  I helped my friend, Jill, make a t-shirt quilt that was raffled in a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen charity. I am a core team member with a group of volunteers called “Crafters for a Cause” at GE Aviation. We make quilts for babies in the children’s’ hospital; hats, mittens and wheelchair bags for veterans; prayer shawls for cancer patients and many other crafty projects for those in need. I also enjoy remodeling my house, and just completed renovating a large craft room in my basement to accommodate my love for crafting.

Call for Alumni Awards Nominations

2016 Alumni Awards Nominations

The Davenport University Alumni Association is currently seeking nominations for the 2016 Alumni Awards and we need your help identifying outstanding DU alumni. Do you know someone from your class, network or company who you believe should be recognized for their accomplishments, service to others and contributions to the community? If your answer is yes, what are you waiting for? Celebrate and honor the exceptional alum today!

Davenport University Distinguished Alumni AwardThe award categories are:

  • Hy Berkowitz Professional Excellence Award
  • Donald W. Maine College of Business Alumni Award
  • College of Technology Alumni Award
  • College of Health Professions Alumni Award
  • Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Nominate a deserving Davenport University alumus or if you would like to nominate yourself, please visit our website to learn more about the awards and complete the online nomination form.

Nominations will be accepted until April 8, 2016.

Any questions please contact the Alumni Association at 616-233-2535 or email:

Davenport University Career Fair

100 Employers and only ONE YOU – Career Fair!

Meet with recruiters from more than 100 leading employers and network with area alumni at the Annual Davenport University Career Fair on Tuesday March 15, 2016.This free event will be at the DU W.A. Lettinga Campus in the

Student Activities Center and will run from 1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. Full-time and part-time opportunities will be available in various industries. If you aren’t looking for a job right now, the Career Fair is a great place to network and build your brand!

Who: YOU!

When: Tuesday, March 15

Time: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Where: W. A. Lettinga Campus, Student Activities Center

Familiarize yourself with the employers attending, as well as the opportunities they are offering through Career Service’s Panther Jobs website.

Need more information? Contact Laura Ayotte at 616-554-5398 or email her at

Alumni Success Story: Mike Ohlman ’89

Driving Success at Berger Chevrolet

Mike Ohlman, ’89, combined two of his favorite passions, cars and accounting, to create a path to his dream job as the CFO at Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids. During college at Davenport, Mike worked in the parts department at Berger and used his hands-on accounting experience to earn a spot on the accounting team. Working his way up, Mike landed the CFO role a little over 18 years ago. Now, Mike is proud to say his son, Lucas, is following in his dad’s footsteps at Davenport. We are honored to feature Mike Ohlman as the alumni success story this week. Read Mike’s full interview below.

Tell us about yourself, Mike!

I graduated from Davenport University in 1989 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. I have been working at Berger Chevrolet since college and started in the parts department. I was a parts manager for a few years, then worked my way up to be an accountant and I was promoted to CFO in 1998. I have been married for 30 years to my lovely wife, Deb. We have three kids and four grandkids. Our son Lucas plays soccer at DU. I also enjoy volunteering my time at the Michigan Fire Soccer Club affiliate as the Club President.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

As the CFO of Berger Chevrolet, I wear multiple hats. I focus the majority of my time on accounting and finance, but I am also responsible for the administrative, financial, and risk management operations of the Berger. My team and I develop strategies, create and measure metrics, develop and maintain accurate reports. I also manage the relationships with many of our partners and suppliers. I get to do fun things, like go to “driving school” to test out new cars and products.

How did Davenport help you get there?

Davenport set me up for success. As a full-time student and full-time worker, I really had to balance my time as a young man. Most of my classes were early in the morning (6-9 a.m.) or late at night (6-9 p.m.), so I loved the flexibility. The real-life, hands-on experiences were beneficial as well. I really enjoyed my experience at Davenport.

What motivates you?

My team motivates me. I enjoy working with the staff to make their job easier and more fun. Berger has 235 staff members in five departments, so things are constantly changing and growing.  It is a great place to be!

What is your dream job?

I am in my dream job now. As a numbers guy who loves cars, it doesn’t get much better than this!

What do you do when you are not working?

I spend a lot of time with my family. We always find ourselves near water. We enjoy traveling to Florida and Mexico during the winter months and Gun Lake in the summer. I also spend a lot of time at Davenport watching my son, Lucas, play soccer.

Volunteers Needed for BPA Conference

Volunteers are needed for the first annual BPA Middle Level State Leadership Conference. The conference  will be held on February 27, 2016 at Davenport University’s W.A. Lettinga Campus. Students will be required to demonstrate skill proficiency during demonstrations, oral presentations and/or interview simulations. Volunteers will be asked to judge competitions, help with registration, and  assist with hospitality.

WHO: YOU! Alumni & Friends!

WHAT: Volunteer at the middle school BPA conference

WHEN: Saturday, February 27 – Shifts between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Davenport University – W.A. Lettinga Campus

Visit the Michigan BPA website for more information or contact Michigan BPA Middle Level State Advisor Ron Draayer at

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.