Monthly Archive for May, 2016

Alumni Success Story: Erik Schmidt ‘15

Erik Schmidt ’15 knows a thing or two about insurance. As a Senior Claims Representative at Farmers Insurance, Erik handles residential homeowner’s claims throughout the United States.  After receiving his first promotion in less than a year of working at Farmers, Erik credits DU for the networking opportunities and hands-on experiences that has helped him get where he is today. Learn more about Erik’s path below.

Erik Schmidt '15.jpg

Tell me about yourself, Erik!

I grew up in Caledonia. My wife, Shannon, and I are both proud Davenport University graduates.  I walked in the commencement ceremony in April, then I started at Farmers Insurance in May of 2015 as an Inside Property Claims Adjuster. I was recently promoted to a Senior Claims Representative in April.

What do you do in a nutshell?

As an Senior Claims Representative, I handle residential homeowner’s claims throughout the United States from inside the office. I investigate claims, determine coverage and payouts, and facilitate the entire claims process.

When you started at DU, where you looking at insurance for your long term goal? I originally started in mortgages at United Bank Mortgage Corporation before I got into insurance. I was looking at the different BBA specialties, debating on whether to concentrate on the financial planning or risk management and insurance specialty. I moved into the insurance specialty program because of the way the program was designed by Farmers Insurance. The professors, who were all Farmers employees, worked in the industry allowing me to gain hands-on experience. My first insurance class was with Professor Mark T. Cusack, who is the Head of Learning and Development- IA Ops. As soon as the class started, I instantly knew it was the program I was supposed to be in!

Aside from your college degree, what do you feel like you gained from your college experience?

Beyond the education, being able to network and develop relationships with people who were in the insurance industry was extremely valuable. The relationships I developed with professors and people in the industry was, by far, my favorite thing about college.

Tell us how the Farmers Insurance Scholarship impacted your success.

The scholarship and experiences I received from it was one of my biggest breaks. Going back to the networking, being able to meet people in the industry and develop mentors before moving into the industry was important to my success. The exposure to the industry and networking far exceeded any amount of money that I received. The money was a one-time gift, but they invested in me personally and professionally.  The focus of the Farmers Scholarship isn’t just about helping someone financially, but they want to invest in people and their career path, which I admire.

What makes you excited about the next 6 months?

Farmers Insurance is growing. There is so much opportunity and areas for movement within the company. The position I am in right now is where a lot of people get their start in the industry. You get the customer contact, learn the policies and industry. The claims knowledge alone is invaluable for the industry.

What is your dream job?

I would love to be a professor in the Risk Management and Insurance Specialty, like Mark.

What do you do when you are not working?

I enjoy fishing, camping and pretty much anything outdoors.

Open Summer Young Alumni Meeting

Interested in building your resume and your professional network?  The Davenport University Young Alumni Council is looking for new members to help create meaningful professional, social and volunteering experiences to develop stronger connections with their community, fellow alumni and Davenport University.

Join us on Wednesday, June 8 at Gippers on Kraft at 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. to meet fellow young alumni, and members of the Young Alumni Council.  You’ll experience quick and interactive lesson in Design Thinking methodologies, which will be used to brainstorm events for the rest of 2016.  Questions? Email the alumni office at

Alumni Success Story: Andrea Crossman ’87

Trendsetter On and Off the Lake

Beyond securing incredible homes for clients, Andrea Crossman ‘87 is a real estate entrepreneur who explores innovative ways to provide exclusive service. With more than 25 years of experience in the real estate market as a broker, business owner and trendsetter, Andrea has identified and excelled in her niche – waterfront and luxury properties – to differentiate herself. Today, her firm, Andrea Crossman Real Estate, is a top-producing real estate group that welcomes clients from around the world to their new homes on Lake Michigan and the surrounding West Michigan area. However, her road to success was unlike many other real estate agents.

Andrea spent 14 years in college at five different colleges. She started studying to be an artist at Kendall College of Art and Design, but quickly learned that she did not want to be starving artist. Next, Andrea pursued sunshine and adventure at the University of Florida, but that only lasted a few months.

Andrea enjoyed being a student and explored many interests and jobs in the restaurant, banking, and hospitality industries. She took courses as diverse as gourmet cooking, pocket billboards, entomology, world religions, and 3D perspective drawing because she was curious, but she wasn’t quite sure what it would all lead to.

“I picked Davenport as my fourth college because of the unique approach to teaching and learning. I was able to directly apply what I was learning in my business classes to my jobs. Davenport was my favorite college I attended,” said Andrea.

It was while she was at Davenport, after 12 years of college, she decided that she should pursue her degree. In 1987, she earned her associate degree in business. She says, “This was before Davenport offered a bachelor’s degree. If it had been available, I would have continued!”

Almost immediately, Andrea’s business ventures were entrepreneurial. She started a gourmet coffee and tea shop in Holland with her mother where she managed the business for more than five years. Next, she started a fine dining restaurant in downtown Holland called “Till Midnight” with a business partner, Spring Sweeney, who went on to run it successfully for another 15 years.

Then she took a big next step: real estate. “I started working in real estate just 25 years ago. I started at the same company I am with now. I am an agent with Coldwell Banker, though many people think that I am an independent agent because of all the personal branding that I have done.”

That level of personal branding has positioned Andrea for a competitive advantage in the lakeshore real estate market.

Nearly 20 years ago, she noticed many buyers coming from the Detroit, South Bend, and Chicago areas who were interested in properties along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Andrea’s entrepreneurial acumen allowed her to create a business plan to serve the growing niche of luxury real estate along the lakeshore.

Most of her business is conducted within the Holland, Douglas, Saugatuck, Grand Haven and Spring Lake areas but she also works with clients as far north as Manistee and south as South Haven.

When asked why she got into this specialty, Andrea responded, “I like that every day is a new challenge. I am able to meet interesting people from all of the world while building lasting relationships and friendships.”

To grow her real estate business, Andrea is implementing many innovative ideas. She recently hired additional staff to help create 3D virtual tours of homes for her clients who might live in and out of state or overseas. Document signing can also be done online to further streamline the home buying process. Andrea can even help buyers digitally place furniture in an empty space, helping them envision the final look.

“It was about two and a half years ago that I ended up buying my own office space in downtown Holland because I wanted to be a boutique while showcasing more of my own identity. It was a purposeful move, partly because we have been branding ourselves as the premier waterfront and luxury agent. We wanted to set ourselves apart and have more of an upscale office.”

She recently rented an office in Saugatuck, too, with the same boutique style. With the real estate transactions moving online, her goal for these innovative spaces is for people to stop by and engage in conversation.

“We are going to be experimenting with a new way to get people in our space.  We plan to partner with retail shops and possibly host beer and wine tastings, offer unique art, and collaborate with an interior designer and stager in a retail setting.”

When she talks about real estate, Andrea lights up. Her excitement is contagious and others, including Budge Huskey, the CEO and President of Coldwell Banker International, have taken notice. She was recently honored with a special meeting with him at the corporate headquarters in New Jersey along with eight of his top marketing staff.

“It was just incredible. Like Davenport, founded 1866, Coldwell Banker, founded in 1906, shares about the same number of years in the business. We were very pleasantly surprised to learn about the young and vibrant culture at the international headquarters. While we were in New Jersey we found out that once again we were the number one real estate small team in Michigan and ranked fifth in the United States.”

Her strong business background has proven to be the key to Andrea’s success. She thanks her time as a small business owner for teaching her to be adaptable and being able to change the landscape of the industry. But Andrea believes she has been successful because she is able to to bring the excitement to the table, as she calls it.

Andrea enjoys giving back to the community. She supports many causes that make an impact in the area she serves. Recently, she hosted a Led Zeppelin tribute concert as a customer appreciation and benefit event for the Park Theater in Holland.

Andrea added, “I would encourage individuals to become entrepreneurs and make a difference. Be innovative and start businesses. This is why America is great, the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Save the Date for Homecoming 2016

Mark your calendars for September 19-24, 2016, as that week is dedicated as Davenport’s Sesquicentennial Homecoming Celebration! As always, Homecoming Week will include numerous events on campus including:

- Alumni Awards Celebration on Friday, September 23
- Homecoming Tailgate and first ever Homecoming Football Game on Saturday, September 24
- Plus, many Campus Life events and activities: the annual chili cook-off, open mic night, movie night, graffiti art event, blacklight party, and an Artprize event

Stay tuned to for additional information and details. All DU alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends are welcome to attend!

Inaugural Football Schedule Announced

Davenport University head football coach Lou Esposito has announced the inaugural 2016 schedule with 11 dates including six home and five road games. The Panthers will begin the season at Farmers Insurance Athletic Complex on Saturday, August 27 against Lyon College at 11:00 a.m.

2016 Schedule

8/27 Lyon College (Home) 11 a.m.
9/3 at Kentucky Christian 1:30 p.m.
9/10 at Tiffin 1:30 p.m.
9/17 Kentucky Wesleyan (Home) 12 p.m.
9/24 Arizona Christian (Homecoming) 11 a.m.
10/1 at St. Xavier (IL) 1 p.m.
10/8 at College of Faith 12 p.m.
10/15 at St. Francis (IL) 2:30 p.m.
10/22 Quincy (Home) 12 p.m.
10/29 St. Joseph’s (IN) (Home) 7 p.m.
11/5 St. Francis (IN) (Home) 12 p.m.

See more at:

New Certificate Programs: Project Management & Supervisory Management

The Institute for Professional Excellence is excited to announce two new certificate programs now offered in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Livonia.  These certificate programs were designed with busy, working professionals in mind.

The Certificate of Project Management program was designed to help participants to develop a thorough understanding and practical application of the tools every project manager needs to ensure successful project planning from start to finish. Regardless of your title, these fundamental principles will help you and your organization develop a high-performance culture where projects are completed more efficiently and effectively. Sessions begin in September 2016. For more information visit our website at

The Certificate of Supervisory Management is an interactive training program designed to strengthen and develop the core supervisory skills necessary to increase productivity and performance. Through a series of classes we address great management practice, what motivates employees, how to identify, prevent and resolve problems, skills to manage conflict, team-focused leadership, and effective communication. Build your leadership skills to advance your career.  Sessions begin in September 2016. For more information visit our website at

Gain greater confidence and enhance your job knowledge, skills and abilities to increase your competitive edge in the workplace.

Alumni Success Story – The Brown Family Tradition

Caren Meerman ‘14 & ‘16 may hold the record of most Davenport commencement ceremonies attended. “We have it down now,” says Caren, “We have reserved seat labels and everything.” Caren’s family has made quite the name for themselves at Davenport University.

Caren’s mother, Carna Brown ‘08, is the Director of Financial Aid at DU; her eldest brother, Craig, attended DU along with his wife, Rachel; Doug, her second eldest brother, Doug, graduated from DU with a BBA in Marketing in 2011 and an MBA in Strategic Management in 2015; her third eldest brother, Jake ‘15, graduated from DU’s Midland campus with his Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.

Caren is the youngest of the family. She graduated with her Bachelors in Sports Management in 2014 and her Masters in Management in 2016. Throughout her time at Davenport, Caren played softball for three years and rugby for two years. While earning her Master’s in Management, Caren worked as a Building Manager for the W.A. Lettinga Campus Student Activities Center.

When asked “Why Davenport?” Caren proudly stated, “The growth and the potential of Davenport got me excited about being a part of it. I was able to grow with DU and that was an awesome experience. Davenport also has fantastic opportunities for students and employees.”

When Caren first came to DU, the residence halls had recently been built. “Being able to live in the brand new dorms and play sports in a brand new stadium positively impacted my time at DU.” says Caren. “Experiencing Davenport’s growth first hand has been a great opportunity and motivator for me.”

Caren’s favorite memories here at DU revolve around her experiences in athletics. “I made the most memories on sports trips with my softball and rugby teams. For rugby, we went to South Carolina and California for nationals, which were both awesome experiences,” says Caren. “I met some of my closest friends through sports at Davenport.

What’s everyone doing now?

Carna Brown ‘08, mother, is the Director of Financial Aid at Davenport University. She began as a Financial  Aid Counselor and worked hard to get to the Director position. Craig and Rachel Brown are married with 3 kids and 1 on the way. Doug recently landed a Sales Representative position at Homestead Timbers in Marne, MI. Jake met his now-girlfriend in May of 2015 at the Davenport University Commencement Ceremony. His girlfriend, Rebecca Veneklase ‘15, also received her BSN from DU. Jake and Becca are both working at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI while pursuing their Masters in Nursing.

Between her BBA and MM, Caren married her high school sweetheart, Brett Meerman, on July 18, 2015. She is now working as Area Manager for Hi-Tec Building Services in Jenison, MI.

“The Brown family is a group of jokesters,” says Caren. “But we are a hardworking group of jokesters. We all have jobs in our fields and are proud to be a part of the DU community.” The Browns love the West Michigan area and have stayed close to home. Carrying on the legacy at DU is something that Caren takes pride in because Davenport has been a part of their family for years.

We are proud to feature Caren Meerman ‘14 & ‘16 and her family as our alumni success story this week. We are thankful for the dedication that this family has to our University.

Commencement 2016

Thousands of family and friends gathered to support more than 1,000 students who earned degrees on Sunday, May 1 at Van Andel Arena. Graduates walked across the stage, shook hands with our school leadership and received their diplomas. These students join a network of more than 64,000 alumni of Davenport University.  To our students who graduated on Sunday, congratulations! You are now a member of the Davenport University Alumni Association – a Panther Forever! We are proud of your accomplishments! View the photos from the event on our Facebook page.

If you are interested in viewing the full commencement ceremony, watch it on YouTube!