Monthly Archive for April, 2017

Alternative Spring Break Heads to New Orleans to #DUgood!

Davenport University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program recently sent 18 students to New Orleans from February 25 - March 3 to assist with flood prevention and recovery through ecosystem restoration. ASB offers students the opportunity to become active citizens in their home communities and communities across the nation.

The group stayed in the historic Lower Ninth Ward, which was one of the hardest hit areas during Hurricane Katrina and during the floods due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The area first experienced a devastating loss in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and thousands of homes are still being lost due to devastating floods in the area, with damage from the floods rivaling that of Hurricane Katrina. The area was also hit with tornadoes earlier this year, further adding to the damage and loss within the area.

The ASB crew played a small part in providing aid to the area and its residents in partnership with the organization Common Ground Relief. The group helped repair the local ecosystem through planting water-absorbing plants and Cyprus trees in Jean Lafitte National Park as well as in area bayous with the National Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, and worked in the Common Ground Relief nursery to take care of plants for future projects. These efforts will help restore and preserve both the homes and natural environment in the area, and allow wildlife to return to their homes.

The group also had the opportunity to engage in the cultural experience of Mardi Gras, and learned a lot about the people in the communities they were helping. In addition to the work completed in New Orleans, the group also conducted to volunteer projects at Howard Christensen Nature Center, which allowed them to help better the community of Grand Rapids in addition to the city of New Orleans.

Student and Site Leader Marissa Beadle has been involved with ASB for three years and states that ASB, “Has given me the opportunity to grow as a volunteer and active citizen not only here in Grand Rapids, but in different communities across the nation from St. Marks, Florida to Columbia, South Carolina and now New Orleans, Louisiana. I have met some of the most wonderful students here at Davenport through ASB and could not be more thankful for the opportunity grow within the RSO and end my time as a Site Leader!”

Alumni Success Story – Dichondra Johnson ’06

When Dichondra Johnson ’06 goes to work, she changes Michigan’s economy.

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In her new role as Business Development Manager for Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), she is focused on retaining  businesses in Michigan by connecting them to talent resources, access to capital and resources for local investment opportunities. She also works with the “Pure Michigan” campaign to promote tourism and with community development initiatives to create vibrant communities in Michigan.

Dichondra feels fortunate that her primary task is to ensure that her favorite places in Michigan are great to live, work and play in. A typical day might see her calling on businesses in Wayne County to address any growth and expansion needs that might stop them from remaining in Michigan. She says, “We try to keep businesses from having to close or relocate. Oftentimes you’ll see news items that say a large company is expanding and building a new plant.” She serves a point of connection between companies and resources they can use to fuel growth or expansion. Dichondra likens herself and others in her role to that of a ‘one-stop shop’ to make sure that companies have what they need to be successful.

She’s proud to have a direct impact on the state of Michigan’s economy as well. She says, “I’m one of the first to hear about company’s plans, including if they will be growing in a way that might impact their footprint on Michigan. When they say something like, ‘It would be cheaper for us to do business in California because our supplier is there,’ we look at what we can offer them and what we can do to alleviate those barriers.”

Growing up, Dichondra loved the arts and never imagined she’d be working in public policy. Her undergraduate degree in arts administration and marketing set the stage for her to work with international artists. After working in the industry, she knew that she would need to grow her knowledge of global business practices and that realization led her to earn her MBA at Davenport.

After Davenport, she earned a Master’s in Public Administration as well. Someday, she hopes to earn her PhD to teach university level coursework in her ‘retirement’.

Dichondra has a lifelong love for learning and she encourages students today to think about their careers in terms of transferrable skills. She says a strong understanding of how businesses run benefits most students and notes, “I tell kids to look past job titles and starting salaries because so many of the careers they are going to have don’t even exist today.”

Today, Dichondra’s unique views on placemaking stem from her extensive background in arts and her diverse contact list has allowed her to have great mentors. One early mentor taught her to see other’s interests in a situation and how to bring genuine value to a deal.

Since then, she’s grown her network into a formidable strength. She says, “One of my proudest achievements was being a part of the Michigan Political Leadership Program. It is a competitive fellowship program through Michigan State that I completed in 2011 and the experience and contacts will stay with me through my career.”

Dichondra is fortunate to have just landed one of her dream jobs, one she says she’s been wanting for a very long time. Her network and ability to connect with people, plus a solid business foundation, have made her successful and helped maintain relationships throughout her career.

Alumni Success Story – Judy Williams ’62

Judy Williams ’62 drew inspiration from being the only woman in her accounting program. Never intimidated even now, nearly 53 years later Judy works in an accounting role at Saladin Shrines, a non-profit that provides support for Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Learn how Judy is aligning her passions with her love of numbers below.

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Tell us about yourself!

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids and went to Creston High School. In high school, I took a bookkeeping class and absolutely fell in love with it. I loved the numbers and the challenge of balancing the books. After high school, at the age of 17, I started at Davenport. I attended for a seven terms from September of 1961 to June of 1962. Then I worked in various bookkeeping positions until September of 1968.  The at the age of 25, I decided to fulfill my first dream of joining the military and went to bootcamp at Parris Island. I joined the Marine Corps and was selected to attend electronic school. At Davenport, I was the only woman in the accounting program of 44 students – in the military I was in a class of 2000 where there were only six women. I completed a year of electronic school and was in the military for two years. I married a career marine and we started a family. After my husband retired, we moved back to Grand Rapids and I decided to attend Davenport again to finish my degree. Numbers have always interested me and I can proudly say that, thanks to Davenport, I have been in accounting for 53 years.

Why did you pick Davenport?

Davenport was known for accounting and I was selected to be a part of the top of the line professional accounting program. Back then, we didn’t get to pick our class, just our program. When students arrived, administrators would hand us a paper that would have all of the classes on it. I was about 27 years old in a program full of 18 to 20 year old men, but that didn’t intimidate me. I normally got the best grades in the class!

You were never intimidated by being one of the first woman to achieve something noble. What advice do you have for other women who might be in a similar situation?

Be inspired! I remember my professor, who was not very fond of me being in his accounting class, saying things like “this test is going to separate the men from the boys.” Then I got the best grade in the class! He would respond to that by saying, “Well, I guess Miss. Johnson is the biggest man we have in the class.” That backhanded compliment inspired me to continue to prove my knowledge and strengths. My advice would be to find out what peaks your interest and follow your heart.  Apply yourself and learn as much as you can.  If you are doing something, you really like you will do your best.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

I am the jack-of-all-trades at Saladin Shrine in Grand Rapids. Shriners formed our organization with the goal of providing healthcare services and funding to children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. I was “retired” when I started working here part-time to help manage patient records. Then, my position became full-time and I took over the role of managing the Children’s Trust, bookkeeping, assisting with fundraisers and helping with patient transport. Knowing that my job directly impacts the children we serve is very rewarding.

What are you passionate about?

My military experience is what I am most proud to claim. As a military family, I am very passionate about working with veterans. I volunteer my time to help people returning to civilian life. The most memorable experience in boot camp happened when I was sitting in the bleachers with my platoon watching the senior platoons of men march in their graduation ceremony.  Our drill instructor quietly said, “a year from now about one third of these young Marines will be gone.” Unfortunately, she was right. Many came back with serious injuries including PTSD.  Back in the 70′s and 80′s this was an unknown malady.  It continues to plague many and I try to reach out to veterans who show signs whenever I can.

What do you do when you are not working?

I enjoy spending time with and visiting my two sons and their families. I volunteer as the finance chair for my American Legion post, where I am one of only two women in a leadership role in my post. Also, in my spare time, creating doll clothes has always been a passion of mine. My sewing business is called Unique Bowtique.

Alumni Success Story – Rachel Tuttleman ’10, ’11

Rachel Tuttleman BBA ’10, MBA ’11 believes working at Shefit, Inc. a Grand Rapids based startup company, is “the most rewarding, yet hardest job” she has ever had. Learn why below.

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Tell me about yourself, Rachel

After growing up in Rockford, MI, I moved a few miles to Grand Rapids to attend Davenport University, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Accounting in 2010. I immediately began to pursue my MBA with an emphasis in Healthcare Management. After earning my MBA, I secured a job at Spectrum Health in their Process Improvement Department. For several years, I worked on implementing Lean Improvements for their entire organization. In 2015, I moved to Michigan Office Solutions where I lead quality and lean process initiatives. Around the same time, my friend, Sara, started a sports bra company called “Shefit, Inc”. It was exciting to see her progress as she started building a brand. I have a strong passion for women’s health and knew Shefit was where I wanted my career to thrive. In 2016, I joined the Shefit team and haven’t looked back since.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

As a small business, we all wear a lot of hats. I am currently the Director of Operations and Financial Management at Shefit, Inc. I manage financials, budgets, assist with strategic planning, build relationships with vendors, support inventory control, and help with anything else our team needs. Sometimes this may mean packing bras and shipping to fulfill countless customer orders, other times this is working with our strategic partnerships to develop the next big product. As a startup, you must do whatever it takes to keep the day-to-day business needs successful.

What made you want to leave your 8-5 job to work for a start-up?

For me, I wanted to find a place where I could put my passion into action. Working for a startup has been the most rewarding, yet hardest job I have ever had. I remember having early conversations with Sara about wanting to work for her. I admired her drive and passion to help others. She gave me a chance and I started helping her at night with packing and shipping. My passion for the products only grew from there. Then, Sara and her husband, Bob, appeared on the popular TV show, ABC’s “Shark Tank”, where they landed a deal with a Shark. Shefit sports bras’ exposure skyrocketed overnight and Sara approached me about the operation and financial role, and I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I took a risk and left my “safe” career for a startup company, which has proven to be the best decision I have ever made. Shefit started as a home business, with operations out of a basement. They hired their first full-time employee in 2015 and have grown to 6 full-time employees and 3 part-time employees since. We’ve also moved out of the basement and have a warehouse in the Hudsonville area. We affectionately call it the Jenison Garment District.

Walk us through your typical day.

Normally my day starts at 6:00 a.m. at the gym, obviously in my Shefit sports bra. By 7:30am I am diving into my emails, reviewing financial transactions, wire information, HR duties and answering any operational questions. By mid-day, I’ve most likely had several meetings with our accounting firm, vendors or staff members. At nights, I am frequently at a tradeshow or bra fitting home party discussing the benefits of the Shefit Ultimate Sports Bra. My day is non-stop, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the life of a startup and it’s exactly what I expected.

How has Davenport had a role in your journey?

Davenport provided an excellent education for a career in business. I should admit; no education can ever prepare you for working at a startup. It’s crazy, because every day is different! The projects we completed in school directly apply to the real-world, which helped me translate what I learned in the classroom to my day-to-day work.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Two things – earning my Master’s Degree and helping Shefit grow. I am leading the charge in creating instrumental procedures to help scale the business quickly and successfully. Not only am I working to change and improve the organization, I know deep down in my heart this product is changing and improving the way women are working out.

What is your dream job?

This is my dream job! I love making people feel comfortable in their own bodies and seeing them happy. I love the work I do and love this company with my whole heart, and I always will. We not only focus on sports bras, we specialize in empowerment and want to give women the power to be who they want to be, at whatever stage they are at in life. We want to help women love the body they were given, not wish it were different. So, for me, this is my dream job because our entire team is helping so many women across the globe.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Lead with compassion. This means being mindful of how we treat others and ourselves. It means taking an honest look at our behaviors and actions, and making small adjustments. By doing so, you will notice a happy working atmosphere and satisfied staff and customers, which overall will improve productivity and profitability. We believe the only way to grow the company is by building a great team and encouraging women to be the best they can be.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend, Patrick, who by the way, I met at Davenport. We often hang out with friends and family, as well as our black lab, Derby. When we find the time, we enjoy skiing in the winter and boating in the summer. It’s nice to live in a state where you have so many opportunities to experience the outdoors in all seasons.

2017 Alumni Award Nominations are Open

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? The Davenport University Alumni Association is currently seeking nominations for the 2017 Alumni Awards and we need your help identifying outstanding DU alumni. Honor someone you admire today by nominating them! The award categories are:

  • Davenport University Distinguished Alumni Award
  • 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

To nominate a deserving Davenport University alum, please visit our website to learn more about the awards and complete the online nomination form. Nominations will be open until April 30, 2017.