Monthly Archive for April, 2016

Alumni Success Story: Roger Victory ’87

A Farming Wunderkind, Turned State Representative

As an undergraduate student at DU, Roger Victory ’87 created a business plan that would help him cultivate a career in farming, and later, a successful bid for public service. “The same principals in the business plan I created many decades ago have carried me through decades of success in the root vegetable farming industry.” Learn more about Roger’s journey on the farm and as a State Representative below.

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Tell me about yourself, Roger!

While I was in high school, I decided I wanted to be a farmer. I did not grow up on a farm, but the area I was born and raised, Hudsonville, was a perfect geographic location to start a farm. The synergy between the climate, soil and topography – being close to Lake Michigan – was perfect for growing. I saw a need for a niche produce market.

While in college at DU, I created a business plan for turnip production. That business plan helped me create Victory Farms while in college. After graduating from Davenport in 1987, with a BBA in logistics and business management, Victory Farms blossomed. Now, nearly 30 years later, I employ more than 30 employees who operate 800 acres of farmland.  We supply root vegetables such as turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, winter squash, and other niche crops to the Midwest and beyond.

While growing my farm business, I became involved in the community. I wanted the voice of the agricultural community to be heard, so I ran for the 88th State Representative’s Office. I am in my second term as a State Representative, representing the residents of Allendale, Georgetown, Tallmadge, Wright, Chester, Coopersville and Polkton townships in Ottawa County.

What was your experience like at Davenport?

I was initially drawn to Davenport because of their reputation of an entrepreneurial business school and the practicality of the course material. As I mentioned, I was in full swing of creating my farming business, but needed the business skills to run it. I wanted to take what I learned and marry it with the work I was doing at the farm. I learned from experienced professors who were developing business of their own. Also, I was working full-time running the farm, so I needed a college where I could still work all day.

I can still remember my favorite professor, Roy Hamlin. He was a WWII veteran who was a member on the Liberty Ship. It was an honor and privilege to learn about logistics from someone who lived it every day while serving our country.

Tell us about your role as a State Representative?

People ask, ‘What do you as the 88th District State Representative?’ I simply say, ‘You name it, it is included.’ I represent 90,000 residents in Ottawa County. I am a member of the House Appropriations Committee where I assist in managing a 54 billion dollar budget – which is bigger than most budgets in small countries.

My practical education at Davenport taught me the “soft skills” to help with real-life issues that I am dealing with every day as a State Representative. Everything from state highways to correctional facilities to veteran assistance programs; I am able to see and hear firsthand what the community is dealing with to help solve the issues. Not only do I represent the 88th District, I represent all the residents in the State of Michigan.

Why do you do what you do?

My answer is twofold. I love agriculture. The land, community it serves and the relationships that I build through agriculture are extremely heartfelt and meaningful to me. I also feel honored and privileged to serve the residents of Michigan as a State Representative. As I continue on my journey of life, I learned from Davenport that you have to step out of your comfort zone. Running for office is my way of continuing to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone to help people.

What advice do you have for DU recent grads?

The biggest piece of advice I have is to keep your options open. Don’t put yourself in a box. Even though Davenport did not have a political science program it doesn’t mean that you can’t go into politics to serve your community. Davenport has a unique way of teaching students the soft skills that they need to succeed in and out of the classroom. Leverage those opportunities to do what you enjoy.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

Victory Farms is the largest rhubarb grower in America.

What do you do when you are not working?

I enjoy recreational activities, traveling and learning.

Celebrating Student Success with Our Graduates

Davenport University’s Great Lakes Alumni Council hosted the first Graduation Celebration and Awards Dinner on April 15, 2016, at the Golden Glow Ballroom in Saginaw.  Approximately 140 guests were in attendance, including 50 graduates.

The program included a delicious buffet dinner, fun giveaways, and pictures with Pounce. Short presentations were given by Midland Career Services (John Jones), Admissions (Amanda Irwin), and the Library (Janice Putt), describing campus services that can be provided to Davenport University Alumni.  Each graduate in attendance received a “Panther Forever” T-shirt from the Alumni Association.

Awards were presented to graduates who had been nominated by their peers, faculty, and staff in specific categories which highlighted their service and commitment to the University and their fellow students.

Awards and Recipients

Humanitarian Award – Katie Jammer and Lisa Warrior

Leadership Award – Nichole Sanford and Tina (Schaitel) Reinig

Outstanding Student Award – Alyse Michael and Vickie LaPointe

School Spirit Award – Ben Pineau and Dave Brew

Congeniality Award – Kelsey Von Koenig and Carly Riselay

A special, surprise award (Panther Pride Award) was given to Shannon Witt for all of the campus activities in which she has been involved.

A considerable amount of positive feedback was received from the graduates and their guests regarding the event.  The Great Lakes Alumni Council hopes that this is the start of a new tradition celebrating the success of our students. For more information on the Great Lakes Alumni Council, contact co-ambassadors Shannon Witt ( or Wendy Stephens (

Alumni Success Story: Wendy Morrow ’93

“As the first woman in the VP of Finance role at The Stow Company, I quickly realized that my hard work had paid off. I broke the mold of the “typical” VP which was so empowering.” Wendy Morrow ’93, credits Davenport University for helping her lay the foundation to rise to the pinnacle of her career. Read more about Wendy and her journey to the top on the alumni blog.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling with Groundwork from DU

Wendy Morrow describes herself as an “atypical” accountant who is unafraid to make bold moves. These moves have paid off with a rise to the pinnacle of her career, employees who appreciate her leadership, and fulfilling work.

As a teenager, she aspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps to become an accountant. She took the first step towards her dream by enrolling at Davenport in 1989.

Davenport’s “no nonsense” curriculum appealed to her and she liked that she could attend Davenport full-time while working part-time . A part-time office job in Grand Rapids introduced her to bookkeeping and opened her eyes to the possibilities of accounting.

“I like numbers and I enjoy taking disorganized facts and organizing them,” she says. “I also appreciated the opportunity to apply all the skills and knowledge I was learning in the classroom to my trade.”

Wendy earned her Bachelors of Business Administration in accounting, with specialties in mathematics, business management, and communications in 1993. Her first job after college was working as an accounting assistant for Nicholas Plastics Inc. Wendy worked her way up earning the accounting supervisor role a few years later.

In December 1999, the same year she married the love of her life, Matthew, Wendy became the accounting supervisor at The Stow Company, a manufacturing company offering a variety of organization solutions. Four months later, she was promoted to controller. She joined The Stow Company’s most senior leadership fourteen years later as the Vice President of Finance.

“In a room full of The Stow Company’s team members the CEO announced that I was being promoted to the new VP of Finance. It was such an amazing feeling. I was so honored and proud,” said Wendy. “ As the first woman in the VP of Finance role at The Stow Company, I quickly realized that my hard work had paid off. I broke the mold of the “typical” VP which was so empowering.”

Today , Wendy is the Chief Financial Officer at Grand Haven Custom Molding and says her career highlight is seeing her employees succeed. “I put my employees first by supporting their needs and career development, which ultimately helps our customers.”

“I also like to have fun at work, which is not typical of an accountant. At an annual company dinner, I led the management team in the Thriller dance. People still talk about it today. I like to be bold, doing what is expected of me, yet being unexpected.”

In her spare time, Wendy enjoys cross country skiing in the winter and being active in the summer outdoors.

Wendy added, “I am very proud to be a Davenport graduate. My education laid the foundation to get me where I am today.”

Advice for Alumni from Professor Marjolijn van der Velde, PhD

This time of year DU graduates get lots of career advice – from parents, spouses, friends, and other well-meaning individuals on a never-ending variety of topics.  Now is also a good time for alums to revisit some of that advice and look at it through a fresh set of eyes.

We’ve all heard the advice on the importance of networking – how the connections are so important, how we should rehearse our 90 second pitch until it naturally rolls off our tongue, how getting involved in professional organizations are key to future success. And these are all valuable ideas. The problem is all of these ideas are externally focused, all external to the organization where we’re employed.  Let’s not forget the internal networking can be as, if not more important.

What are some three things you can today to improve your internal networking?  Don’t eat alone, get involved with charitable organizations, and leverage DU’s Alumni Office. Let’s briefly take a look at each.

Don’t eat alone. Verne Harnish1 in his Fortune article, “5 Business Killers,” discussed the importance of the business lunch in connecting with external clients.  Let’s take that same concept inside the organization. While it’s tempting to hunker down at your desk and get a few extra minutes of work done over lunch in the long run it can be detrimental to your career.  At least once a week eat that lunch in the cafeteria. While you don’t want to approach lunch armed with business cards, you do want to take advantage of the opportunity to meet and connect with others.

Get involved with charitable organizations Most workplaces either sponsor, or are deeply involved, with one or two local charitable events. Many of these events have senior-level managers involved as company representatives. Volunteering for committee work will give you exposure with a wide range of managers who will notice, and thank you, for your involvement.

Leverage DU’s Alumni Office. Contact our Alumni Office and find out if there are other DU alums at work in your organization. Whether they are in your field or working elsewhere in the company they are part of an affinity group you’ll want to stay in contact with. Keeping your contact information up-to-date in the Alumni Office will pay off in other ways we’ll explore in future blog posts.

In the meantime, take a look within your organization for ways to connect with others. They may be as close as the cafeteria.



1Harnish, Verne (2010, November 29). 5 Business Killers. Fortune. Retrieved from:

Alumni Success Story: Liza Snegireva ‘15

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and nearly 4,000 miles from home, Liza Snegireva ‘15 earned her BBA in International Business at Davenport University. “Learning a new language comes natural to me”, says Liza. Born in Russia, raised in the Netherlands, and now living in the United States, Liza believes “some things are just meant to happen”. She constantly challenges herself to give 100% of her efforts in everything she does and wants to encourage you to do the same. Read Liza’s full story below.

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Tell us about yourself, Liza!

I was born in Russia, but the Netherlands is my home. I moved to the United States 5 years ago. I got my degree in International Business from Davenport and I am currently working full time at Bosch during the week and at the Alibi Bar and Grill in Ionia on the weekends.

Why did you pick DU? What was your experience like?

I heard that Davenport had a reputation as the best business school in the area. Also, the fact that classroom sizes are small and personable, was very important to me. I enrolled in the International Business program and got my degree in April of 2015.  Majority of my courses were 15-week in-seat classes, which made it possible to engage with other students in the classroom and learn many new people. I love that Davenport’s professors don’t just teach you the book material, they have real life experiences and that is essential.  My professors always motivated me to give a 100% because they wanted to see me succeed. Davenport had a positive impact on my life in many different ways.

What was your favorite memory of DU?

The study abroad trip to China was the best three weeks of my life! The professor involvement was what made this trip so amazing. The knowledge and enthusiasm demonstrated by professors Neil Shepard and Steven Bayus inspired the same excitement in our group of students. Study abroad was an awesome experience for me and I encourage students to take advantage of the opportunity.

Tell us about your current career. How did you start in this field?

In the spring of 2015, with graduation just around the corner, I went to the DU Career Fair. I stopped at Bosch’s booth and talked with Sandy, who works in Human Resources. I honestly felt like we were meant to meet each other. Everything felt natural and the conversation was flowing. I gave Sandy my resume and a few days later, I sent her a “thank you” letter. Two months later, I got a call from Bosch asking me to come in for an interview. I was offered an internship and have been working at Bosch for almost a year now. My role at Bosch is very diverse, which makes the job exciting. I am the “go to” girl. I handle company communications, am involved in the purchasing process, and assist my team in any way that I can. My favorite thing about Bosch is the people. I love the environment; it is a great place to work!

What makes you excited about the next 6 months?

I am currently in the process of transitioning from an intern position to an official full time employee and I am very excited for this new chapter.  Since most of my family and friends are in the Netherlands, I don’t get to see them all too often.  In May I will be traveling to Europe to visit everyone and I am definitely looking forward to spend some quality time with my loved ones.

What motivates you?

It is important to give 100% of your efforts in everything you do. I am motivated to be the best version of myself. I am also motivated to keep working hard because I love to travel. Hard work and dedication to my job allows me to earn the funds I need to pursue my dreams of traveling and seeing the world. Someday, I want to have a job that I love so much it feels like a hobby.

Do you have any advice for recent grads?

Go to the Career Fair! I know it might be intimidating at first, but you will do great. Career Services is here to help you succeed – take advantage of that.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I can speak three languages: Russian, Dutch, and English.

What do you do when you’re not working?

You can frequently find me in the yoga studio. It is a relatively new hobby, but I totally love it. When I am able to get time off work I love to travel and explore new places, but spending time with my friends, family, and my dog is also important to me.

Alumni Success Story: Jack Hoedeman ’12

An insurance professional by day and a ballroom dancer by night, alum Jack Hoedeman ’12 is leading the insurance industry in Grand Rapids. Following his dad’s footsteps who started an insurance agency in 1969, Jack founded Compass Insurance Agency in 2009 to provide customized solutions for clients. After work, Jack performs as a professional ballroom dancer and former member of the Dancing with the Stars roadshow. Learn more about Jack and his passions below.

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Tell us about yourself, Jack!

I am married with three kids. We live in Byron Center. I graduated from Davenport University in 2012 with my BBA in Business Management. I went to school full-time while working full-time in the insurance industry. I started as a sales agent in 1999 and worked my up. While attending DU I decided to start my own insurance agency called Compass Insurance Agency. It started with just me, now we have 18 full time employees.

 Why did you want to start an insurance agency?

I wanted to start an insurance agency for multiple reasons. Insurance is in my blood. My father, brother, uncle, and cousins all work in the insurance industry. Having more than 141 years of combined family experience in the industry equipped me with the resources and expertise I needed to create an agency. Our goal is to provide customized insurance solutions to clients that are affordable, easy to understand, and reliable. As the CEO, I am able to mentor and guide insurance sales and service agents to develop the structure of the agency. Plus, I also liked the idea of running my own business and the flexibility that comes with it.

 What makes you unique?

We are the “Kayak” of insurance agencies. We focus on car, home, life, renters, and health insurance, but our specialties are auto and home. When a client approaches us with their need, we explore more than 12 different insurance providers to give them the best plan and rate for their situation.

 What advice do you have for recent grads?

Network. Get out there. Meet professionals in the field you want to get into. You can apply what you learn in college, but it is all about the relationships. Things do not just fall into your lap.

 What would people be surprised to know about you?

I am a ballroom dancer. I was on the Dancing with the Starz Road Show. My wife and I spend many of our nights dancing the waltz, foxtrot, and quickstep.

Volunteers Needed for Graduation

The Davenport University 2016 Commencement Ceremony will be held at the Van Andel Arena on Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m. An event of this magnitude does not happen without the dedication of our wonderful staff at DU, and so the Registrar’s Office is asking for your help on that day. With nearly 1000 students expected to participate there will be a need for approximately 60 volunteers this year.

Those who are interested in volunteering will be asked to be at the arena at approximately 11:30 a.m. and stay until all the graduates have processed onto the floor of the arena.  If you would like to be a part of making this day one to remember for our 2015-2016 graduating class, please send an email to Details will be sent to the volunteers a week prior to commencement.