Archive for the 'Alumni Success Stories' Category

Alumni Success Story – Stacie James ’98

After landing a co-op position at Kellogg Company as a student just over 22 years ago, alumna Stacie James ‘98 worked her way up earning the position of Plant Finance Controller. Stacie has balanced the books, managed international finance relationships and now manages the finances for one of the largest cereal plants in “Cereal City USA.” Learn more about Stacie and how she grew into the position of controller below.

Tell us about yourself, Stacie.
I was born and raised in a small town in southwest Michigan called Union City. After high school, I attended Davenport College in Battle Creek. In my sophomore year at Davenport, the Dean, at the time, was teaching my accounting class. He approached my friend, Karen and I, to see if we were interested in a co-op position at Kellogg. While Karen took the job, I was hesitant given I was only in my second year of schooling, therefore I declined. It was three months later when she reached out to me, stating there was another opening.  Given her experience and satisfaction with the job, I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass by again.  That is where it all started. I took the student co-op position which lasted just over two years, then I got hired for full time during the latter part of my junior year.  I have worked at Kellogg for more than 22 years in multiple roles and now I am a Plant Finance Controller.

Why did you pick DU?
My parents encouraged me to go to college. I was a numbers person and was good at math, so I decided to try accounting. I got good grades and enjoyed it. Davenport’s staff was very friendly and I enjoyed the small classes.

You have been at Kellogg for over 22 years, can you tell us about how you have grown there – your promotions and jobs?
I started with simple work like balancing accounts and journal entries. A couple years later I was hired as an Account Reconciliation Assistant. After that, I was able to explore a few different roles. I was put in the Corporate Controller’s Group as a Staff Accountant. In this role, I had an attention-grabbing job – I prepared board books and executive summary books for the executive staff. I learned very quickly that formatting was very important – decimals, number of zeros, spacing, font. Next, I was promoted to Senior Financial Analyst for financial reporting. In this role, I was able to experience interactions with the international locations because I managed and administered the database to collect their financials. I made friends with people in Europe, Latin America and Asia. I learned how to listen very carefully to all the diverse accents for understanding and to make conversions with the different currencies. Next, I was promoted to Associate Manager of Corporate Financial Planning. Then, it was on to multiple Global Supply Chain Finance roles, where I’ve provided support for more than 10 years, focusing on the cost of goods sold, capital spending, overhead and management of the Operations P&L. All of my roles have prepared me for my position today.

In a nutshell, what do you do now?
Currently, I am the Plant Finance Controller. I serve as a member of the Senior Leadership Team, in addition to overseeing a high functioning finance group driven towards customer service in support of our operation’s team.  Continuous improvement and price efficiency is always top priority.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about honesty. I also believe you should always do your best and always look for ways to improve.

What do you do when you are not working?
I enjoy watching Tiger baseball, bowling, fishing and taking my 14 year old daughter, Payton, to the movies.

6 ways to get involved in your Alumni Association in 2017

Stay connect by getting involved in your active alumni network!

Social Media - Follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Connecting on our social media outlets is one of the fastest ways to get the most updated information on what is happening with DU alumni. Plus, who doesn’t like fun pictures of alumni and snowy campus photos!

Events - Attend an event! Our 2017 schedule of events will include alumni tailgates, professional development opportunities and special days on the golf course! We have something for everyone!  View our upcoming events on our website.

Volunteer – Volunteer your time and talents to speak to a class, join at a regional alumni club, or offer advice on an alumni panel. Are you a recent grad in West Michigan? Join our Young Alumni Council!

Athletics – Cheer on your Panthers alongside our mascot, Pounce, at an athletics event. Not located in Grand Rapids? Many of our teams play games all over the country! Visit the athletics website for the full schedule of events.

Sign up to receive Davenport University e-mail updates to connect with fellow alumni and stay informed about DU’s latest initiatives, events and professional development opportunities.

Make a Gift – Invest in future DU students by contributing to the general fund, scholarships or a specific department. Learn more about giving back to DU.

Contact Information

To get involved in alumni activities or to learn more about benefits and services, contact:

Jason Madden ‘08
Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Development

Erik Dane ‘07
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Events

Sara Mooney ‘09
Assistant Director of Alumni Communications and Development

Road Map for your Personal Development

I’m a huge fan of GPS. Before that, I was a constant user of websites like MapQuest and Google Maps. Before that, I possessed a 50-state road atlas, State of Michigan map with detailed inset maps of various cities and two county map books that included every street within the county. When I’m driving, I definitely want to know where I’m going.

When I first started in my professional career, I was driving to a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. To this day, I remember working my way through the various pages of the atlas, comparing routes and then eventually highlighting which expressways I would take that would be the quickest option. Doing this type of planning can seem tedious, or worse, pointless. However, I believe planning your trips saves enormous time in the long-run, keeps you out of trouble areas and allows you to remain focused on your long-range destination.

Planning Your Life

You see, I don’t know anyone who ventures out on a trip – whether for business or pleasure – and operates with the mentality that they don’t know where they’re going, nor do they care. I don’t know anyone who gets in their car and says, “Let’s drive south for a while, and where we end up, that’s our vacation destination!” I don’t know anyone who travels for business and does not know exactly where they are headed. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who treat their lives that way. Each new day that they wake up is unplanned, unfocused, and very accidental with respect to direction.

In March of 2012, I was reflecting on the importance of having purpose in life, and tweeted what proved to be a profound statement that I use quite frequently now in trainings and consultative services: “You will never drift into purposefulness.” So, if you can’t drift into purposefulness, then it has to be intentional.

How to Create a Personal Development Plan

A friend of mine always tells people that his favorite leadership quote is from the movie, “Alice in Wonderland.” An odd place to find leadership principles, but a quality statement, nonetheless: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Now, to be clear, this isn’t advocating multiple options to the same destination, this is talking about the end destination not mattering, so your options are all equally valid (or to be fair, invalid!). This is like getting in the car and saying, “Let’s drive south to our vacation!” This type of attitude about our lives is unacceptable to me, and I’m hoping it is unacceptable to you as well. To keep yourself from falling into the trap that you can drift into purposeful, I’m proposing something different – a Personal Development Plan. So, what does a Personal Development Plan look like? Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Where do you want to go? What do you want your life to look like in about five years? Having too long of a timeframe (over five years) can make the end seem unrealistic. Having too short of a time frame can make the progress seem too incremental. My suggestion is to look at all areas of your life: professional, educational, financial, personal, physical, etc., and determine what you want to look like at the end of five years. That becomes your “destination location” – you now know where you want to go.
  • Begin taking each of the categories and identifying what has to happen in your life to get there within the timeframe. For example, if you’re going to be pursuing an advanced degree, it isn’t enough to put on your plan that you want to graduate. You also have to think strategically about every step. You may have an entrance exam requirement to fulfill like a GMAT or GRE, the application process, etc. You need to include every aspect into your plan.
  • Determine what you need to do differently beginning today, to start reaching the goals that you have. If you want to be somewhere different in five years from where you are now, then you have to do things that are different. The layman’s definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but to expect a different result. So, what do you need to do differently? Some examples include reading a certain number of books on your area of expertise within your industry; begin blogging; identify a mentor within your industry; or, attend conferences that will force you to expand your learning. 

The Benefit to You

Having a Personal Development Plan sets you apart from your peers. It will create options for you both personally and professionally. A recent study shows that 42% of college graduates do not read another book after graduation. If you’re not reading, you’re missing out learning best practices. The fact is, leaders are readers, and if you’re not reading, you won’t be leading.

By separating yourself from your colleagues, you begin to be the one who people go to for additional opportunities, for answers to questions and for input on strategic decisions. All of this helps to get you to your intended destination that you’ve targeted for yourself in your five-year plan.

Let the Institute for Professional Excellence Help…

With our professional development and/or executive coaching services, the Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx) at Davenport University can assist you regardless of your level within your organization.  IPEx will help you reach your greatest potential by providing education and training opportunities to support your Personal Development Plan. We want to make sure that your future looks different from your present and you stay on track to achieve your goals. IPEx can help you identify and arrive at your desired destination.

© 2016 | Dan Rundhaug | Executive Director
Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx) | Davenport University

Dan can be reached at: or 616.233.2582



Alumni Success Story: Ellen Garrison ’00 ‘05

As the CFO of Accroseal, Ellen Garrison ‘05 is responsible for all aspects of accounting, human resources and operations. Ellen credits her human resources certificate from DU as the foundation for her success. “More doors have been opened for me thanks to the technical skills and knowledge I received while earning my HR certificate at DU.” Learn more about Ellen and her success in the manufacturing industry below.

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Tell us about yourself, Ellen!

I am from upstate New York. I earned my bachelor’s degree at Siena College in 1985 in marketing and management. I moved to Michigan to work at Richard Allen Medical. At the time, my boss was the manager of the human resources department. She suggested that I look into a human resources seminar to hone my skills. When I arrived home that evening and checked the mail, there was a well-timed postcard from Davenport offering a human resource technical degree. I thought ‘Why not?’ and brought it to my boss. I enrolled in the program and earned my certificate in 2000. I continued to pursue my MBA slowly while working full-time and graduated in 2005. I gained experience by serving as an office manager at River City Plastics, a controller at Adams Outdoors and as a division controller at Schupan & Sons.  Each role built on the foundations of human resources I’d studied at DU. Now, I am the CFO at Accroseal, a plastic compression molding company. I am responsible for accounting, human resources and operations. Every day is fun for me, and, while it’s not a ‘romantic’ job, I love it!

Why did you pick Davenport?

I picked Davenport because of the post card. I liked how the MBA program was geared towards working adults. It was easy to take classes and the online master’s program was awesome. I enjoyed my masters most because I was in the business world and I could apply what I was experiencing and learning in the classroom to real life. In this position that I am in now, I think I embraced what I learned so much that now I apply it and don’t even realize it. My capstone was the class that drove it all home.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

As the Chief Financial Officer for Accroseal, I am responsible for all the financial aspects, human resources, information technology and operations. I have one person on my staff, Breanna Klaassen ’12, who is also a graduate from Davenport University. My goal is to train her so she can fill my role.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I worked on my Master’s degree for a long time, so when I finally earned it, it was an awesome accomplishment.

What is your dream job?

I am in my dream job! I drive to work every day and I can’t wait to get there. I have wonderful bosses. The company is goal-oriented and it is important for us to reach our goals. If the company reaches 18% growth the owners take the entire company and spouses to Key West for a long weekend in January. We have gone twice now.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

If someone is going into business or thinking about earning a second degree, considering learning more about human resources. That has really been a door opener for me.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about my work. When I am not at work, I am thinking of ways to improve it.

What do you do when you are not working?

My husband and I enjoy traveling, spending time with our children and grandchildren and good friends.

Alumni Success Story: Deb Marshall ’06

Motivated by the desire to create a better life for her children, Deb Marshall ’06 is no stranger to hard work. She is a mother, wife, grandmother, employee, volunteer and adventure seeker! Deb spends her days as a systems engineer at Van Andel Institute, where she helps manage information technology hardware and software systems. Learn more about Deb and her role as a systems engineer below.

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Tell us about yourself, Deb!

I graduated from DeWitt High School. I got married in my junior year and I had my first child on my first day of my senior year. I had to grow up early. I had four kids before I was 24 years old. Our marriage didn’t work out, so I had to work to support my family. I knew I had to make a better life for myself and my family, so I decided to go to school. I started at Lansing Community College in the fall of 1984 with just two classes because I had a Pell grant, working full time and being a single mom. One night in the spring of 1985, my 11 year old son was doing homework at the kitchen table.  I was doing dishes and talking to someone on the phone, probably my dad. I was telling him I just couldn’t keep up and I was going to have to quit. It was just too much. My son stopped doing his homework and said “Mom you can’t quit now, you’ve come too far to quit!” That’s what drove me and it was that semester that I met my husband. So I’m glad I didn’t quit – my husband and I have been married for more than 30 years.

I graduated from LCC with my associates in applications programing in 1992. Then I took some time off from school to put my kids through college. After working for Auto Owners Insurance and Jackson National Life, I found a home at Steelcase for 12 years where I decided to return to school and enroll at DU. I earned my degree in 2006 in network engineering. Now, I work at Van Andel Institute as a systems engineer.

Tell us about your experience at DU.

Enrolling at Davenport was an easy decision. I loved how the curriculum was hands-on! The philosophy at Davenport wasn’t teaching to pass a test, but rather teaching so you knew the content. I remember one night taking a test – our instructor started the test at 7:00 p.m., I didn’t leave the building until 2:00 a.m. to make sure I knew the content. My last class was a study abroad trip to China – it was a phenomenal experience!

Tell us more about your trip to China!

My trip to China was a lot of “firsts.”  It was the first time I had been overseas.  It was the first time I had taken a long vacation – 3 weeks. The first time I was away from my family.

A key thing to make staying in a foreign country work, is that you have to adapt to their ways. Every meal I ate with chopsticks except one and that was pizza at Pizza Hut.  Meals were interesting unless we were in the school cafe. You have to “try” everything on the table even the big fish that still had it’s head with eyes still on it; no picky eating.  Presentation of the meal is very important to them.  And while I was taught that it was polite to “clean your plate,” in China you will be given more to eat because it’s a sign you need more food.

There were a few things that really stood out.  When we first had a round table discussion with the students about questions about the two countries, one of the first things they said was ‘we don’t eat cats.” The next was the political conversations we had in the dorm of the grad students. Also the other thing that I noticed that several of my fellow students in China had been accepted by multiple universities and when asked where they were going to go, the statements were I’d like to go “here”, but the final decision is up to my parents.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

I am a systems engineer at Van Andel Institute, a cancer and Parkinson’s disease research institute in Grand Rapids. At a large company, Continue reading ‘Alumni Success Story: Deb Marshall ’06′

Alumnus Wes Trimpe Honored With Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Congratulations to alumnus Wes Trimpe for being named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Epic Awards. Wes graduated from Davenport University in 2013 with a BBA in Finance. His successful baseball career started locally at East Kentwood High School and then continued at DU where he specialized in first base and pitching.

After playing at Davenport Wes moved on to pitch in the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) for the Kalamazoo Cubs. At the completion of his playing career Wes chose to give back to our local baseball community by coaching. He started Sluggers Sports Academy in December of 2014 with the goal of heightening the level of baseball competition within the southeastern Grand Rapids area along with assisting young athletes in their development into respectable and contributing members of our community. Since then, the Academy has expanded to 15 youth baseball teams, 12 instructors, 35 coaches and serve over 300+ families. Sluggers is also a host location to Davenport’s Competitive and Sideline Cheer teams.

Help us congratulate Wes with this incredible honor!

Alumni Success Story: Art Garner ’89 ’91 ’04

A Principal’s Message To Students

“If I could meet Instructor Soper today,” Art Garner smiled slowly, “I would probably cry,” as he recalled his favorite professor who inspired him to go into education.

Garner grew up near Ottawa Hills in Grand Rapids in the mid-70′s. Money was scarce for his parents, who had divorced when he was young and he had to help support the family.

Despite the challenges, Garner retained a unique flair and became well known for dressing in a suit, tie and pocket protector every day. His determination carried over into his school work and he excelled.

After high school, Garner attended Davenport College but struggled at first because he didn’t have money or a support system. Luckily, he found Instructor Soper who challenged him.

Garner’s ethics class with Instructor Soper challenged him to get out of his comfort zone. The instructor would ask the students about their childhoods, how they grew up, and what their neighborhoods were like – spurring conversations about culture, race and social economic issues.

“Some of the conversations were tough, yet eye opening. I almost dropped his class because I felt picked on for being unlike the other kids.” Garner remembers confronting Instructor Soper, asking why he frequently called on him, “I remember him saying to me, ‘Because you have something to say.’”

Instructor Soper showed Garner and the other students in his class that they each had a unique story, and that by speaking up they could learn from each other. Instructor Soper’s own path had shown him that he needed to do more with his life than just get a degree – he wanted to change people’s lives.

Instructor Soper’s wisdom shaped Garner’s perspective on life and helped him realize his own passion was in education.

Garner graduated from Davenport in 1989 with his associate’s degree in accounting and 1991 with his bachelor’s degree in accounting, mathematics and social sciences. He started his teaching career at Grand Rapids Public Schools as a math teacher. Then, worked at Davenport for a few years as a Grand Rapids Area Pre-College Engineering Program (GRAPCEP) coordinator. Next, Garner landed the assistant principal position at Grand Rapids Central High School. While working as a GRAPCEP coordinator, Garner earned his MBA from Davenport in strategic management in 2004.

Garner continued to pursue a higher degrees. He earned his Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision. His doctoral studies focused on the ways that professional development can improve professional learning communities, specifically for math teachers.  Garner worked his way up in the Grand Rapids Public School system, serving as a teacher, high school assistant principal, high school principal and middle school principal for almost 12 years.

Now he’s the principal at Muskegon High School and is proud to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers in the Muskegon area. As the “teacher of teachers,” Garner believes the principalship has changed. It is no longer a managerial model, it is an instructional leader model.

“The principalship has influence on the community as a group of learners. We are all in this together. We are making education a community focus.”

Muskegon is undergoing change right now with a positive energy and renewed focus. Garner believes that the children his community educates will continue the growth and guide the change in coming years.

Garner hopes that he can translate his story to students in Muskegon today adding, “It all comes down to my experience with Instructor Soper – wanting to quit and overcoming my challenges. My story is about growth.”

Alumni Success Story – Guy Davis ’92

Guy Davis ‘92 has spent his entire career in claims at Farmers Insurance. “Claims has given me the opportunity to help people all around our country. The work is extremely challenging but there is a great sense of accomplishment and service when you help someone begin to rebuild after a life altering event.” Guy will be featured in the next issue of the DU Review magazine, but in the meantime learn more about Guy and his role as the Liability Branch Claims Manager below.

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Tell us about yourself, Guy!

I am a husband and a father of three. My wife, Shelly, and I celebrated our twenty fourth wedding anniversary on October 10th. Yes, we met at Davenport! We spend much of our time at our children’s various activities. Hailie, a freshman at DU is a violinist for the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, Camden a junior at Caledonia High School, is a percussionist with the marching band as well as a percussion team “Strike Percussion Ensemble,” and Maddie, is a sophomore at Caledonia High School, plays soccer for Cal and a club team. I also enjoy fishing and hunting, football (“Go Blue”), and futbol (“Go Man U!”) and spending time with family and friends.

How did you get started at Farmers?

I was working part-time right out of college and one of my friends, who was working for Farmers at the time, mentioned that they were looking for claim representatives.  I applied, interviewed and was fortunate to be selected all those years ago.  I’ve worked here for more than 20 years.

What do you do in a nutshell?

I’ve spent my entire career in claims and don’t know how those 20+ years went by so quickly. Claims has given me the opportunity to help people all around our country.  The work is extremely challenging but there is a great sense of accomplishment and service when you help someone begin to rebuild after a life altering event. Currently, I manage the Farmers Specialty Bodily Injury team.  We are an inside operation responsible for all 50 states and all claims, homeowners or landlord, written by Foremost Insurance Company. I work with a great group of people who share my passion to help others and philosophy that “We will be there when our customers need us.”

When you started at DU where you already interested in the field of insurance?

Short answer, no.  I wanted to see and experience many of the different programs that Davenport had to offer.

Do you feel like Davenport helped you land your role at Farmers?

Yes, they helped me prepare for the business world I was entering.  The professors helped me with business acumen, how to look at situations from various view points or perspectives, and how to collaborate with others.

You’re a DU alum – any family members who have attended as well? How have you seen the University change since you attended?

I have a cousin who studied accounting, a nephew who studied business and played rugby, and my daughter Hailie is currently in the nursing program. Davenport has changed in many ways including campus locations, student make-up, athletics, and most importantly the expanded curriculum. Davenport has embraced change and that’s exciting because the needs of its students, the community, and the businesses tied to its curriculum are always evolving and Davenport is adapting to those needs.

What would you share with someone considering a career in the insurance sector and particularly about Farmers as an employer?

It’s a company with so many different career choices. Here you have the opportunity to take on a new challenge or career and even the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country.

Alumni Success Story – Megan Collison ‘12

As a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Metro Health Hospital, alumna Megan Collison ’12 is devoted to providing comprehensive care for people of all ages. “I care for patients who need anything from a basic check-up to taking out stitches to treatment of chronic health conditions.” Learn more about Megan and why she enjoys being in family medicine below.

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Tell us about yourself, Megan!

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. I attended West Catholic and was involved in athletics – volleyball, basketball, golf and track. I knew I wanted to play basketball in college, and Davenport was the perfect fit. I graduated with my medical case management degree in 2012 and a year later, got into the competitive Physician Assistant program at GVSU on my first try. Now, I am a Family Medicine Physician Assistant at Metro Health Hospital.

Tell us about your experience at Davenport.

When I found out I received a full-ride academic scholarship and had the chance to play basketball at DU, I could not turn down the opportunity. I loved every minute of my time at Davenport and made some lifelong friends. I was involved as a Panther Pack Leader, student-athlete and student employee in the call center. I enrolled in the medical case management program because healthcare has always been a passion of mine. I knew I wanted to be a PA, so the medical case management program covered  most of the prerequisite classes for my next step in the masters program. I took nursing classes too, which I think helped me be successful in PA school.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

As a Family Medicine Physician Assistant, our team’s goal is to provide comprehensive care for people of all ages. The practice that I work with has one supervising physician and two other PAs. We work together, yet very independently. We have about 6,500 patients in our practice and I usually see about 20-25 patients a day. Patients visit our office for many reasons ranging from the care of a new baby, routine check-ups, post hospital visits, or treatment of ongoing disease like diabetes.

How did you decide on family medicine?

I decided a few months before I graduated that I wanted to go into family practice. My original plan was to go into orthopedic surgery. After I had a few practicums, I realized family medicine was my passion. I enjoy building relationships with families. I’m able to treat everyone from babies and their mothers to their grandpas & grandmas. One of the joys of my job is telling someone they are pregnant, caring for them throughout their pregnancy, and then caring for the baby once he or she is born and watch them grow up. It becomes very family-oriented.

What is your dream job?

This is my dream job! I love my job because every day is different, which keeps me on my toes! Also, the people I work with are great! It is a rewarding career.

What advice to do you have for students?

As long as you work hard and are motivated to do well, there are always opportunities for you regardless of what type of degree you have. Don’t settle. Don’t stop until you are where you want to be in life. It may be difficult, but it will be worth it.

What do you do when you are not working?

My boyfriend and I love to golf and ride bikes. I have a basset hound, Bentley, who is the best. I also enjoy golfing with my mom and my grandma, who is 85.