Archive for the 'Philanthropic' Category

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 – Mohamad Abdulkader Agha ‘03

Chancellor Emeritus Donald W. Maine called it fate. Mohamad Abdulkader Agha ‘03 called it meant to be. Their serendipitous relationship is heartwarming. Learn more about Mohamad’s path to Davenport and his success as he lives and works in Dubai, leading the strategy team at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives foundation to improve 130 Million lives by 2025 through humanitarian and developmental work. Read more below.

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Nearly 6,000 miles from his home in Syria, Agha found a new place to call home in Grand Rapids in early 2001. His decision to come to America wasn’t easy. After losing his father at the age of 13 and his mother only nine years later, Agha found himself looking for guidance in his next step. Luckily, he has three older sisters who had his best interests in mind and encouraged him to gain a global perspective on life by pursuing his MBA in the United States.

His brother-in-law, who is a doctor in the Grand Rapids area, recommended that he check out Davenport because he heard that the class sizes were small and the professors used real-life experiences to teach the classes.

Agha recalled wondering why he should go to a school in a small city, when he could go to school in Los Angeles or New York City.  His brother-in-law’s advice was to go a place where he could have personal attention. Agha remembered his brother-in-law saying, “Don’t be a small fish in a big pond, be a big fish in a small pond.”

Agha started classes at Davenport in spring 2001 and in the summer he completed a graduate program at Georgetown University, then went back home to be with family. While he was home, the events that shook the world on September 11th occurred. Things were uncertain and he was unsure if he was going to return to Davenport.

“I got a phone call from Davenport,” said Agha. “The call was from my advisor.  She said, ‘Congrats, Mohamad! You have been awarded the international students’ scholarship this year. We look forward to your coming back to Davenport.’ And that call made me book my flight to come back.”

As his studies progressed, he continued to build relationships on campus. He got an invitation to speak at the international students’ luncheon because of his reputation for academic success and charismatic professionalism.

“I got up, I did my speech and after I was done, I was asked to join a table with the former president of Davenport University, Don Maine. I shook hands with him and we introduced ourselves to each other. I was sitting there, enjoying being next to the “big man on campus,” yet not really knowing who he was. Then, the former VP of Alumni & Development walked up and said, “Mohamad, that gentleman paid for your scholarship. Your scholarship is the Maine Family International Student Scholarship!”

From that moment, Agha and Maine clicked. Although there was a difference in age and experience, they became friends.

Maine recalled, “When I realized international students did not receive financial aid, I wanted to direct my donation to those international students who needed it, kids like Mohamad. It is the humanitarianism in me. I enjoy helping young global talents.”

As Agha’s career flourished, so did their friendship. “We used to have lunches that lasted two to three hours to discuss global affairs at a restaurant in East Grand Rapids. At that point in my life, I didn’t have a father. So guidance was either spontaneous, by observing others, or by Don giving me the time and mentoring me step by step.”

Agha consulted and updated Maine about every chapter of his life. After earning his MBA from Davenport, Agha worked at Ernst & Young. Next he was recruited by the United Nations. At the age of 30, he was the youngest director hired at the UN to manage the Private Sector Development Program. He led the UN Global Compact as a representative and secretary general to its Advisory Council for five years.

In 2012, Agha left the Middle East. He took a job at the World Logistics Council as the director of strategic partnerships to lead a global team which coordinated with organizations from 56 countries involving the top technology, finance, insurance and semi-government organizations.

Now, Agha and his wife, Rim, and baby twins (Abdulkader & Ayla), live and work in Dubai. He leads the strategy team at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives foundation to improve 130 Million lives by 2025 through humanitarian and developmental work.

“Here is a person whose country has collapsed,” said Maine. “He built a brand new global career. There are a lot of people who could not do that. He now has mastered the culture of the UAE and risen to the point of being entrusted to serve its global initiatives. He left Damascus to work in Geneva and Kuala Lumpur and then made his way back to the Middle East.”

What makes Agha’s relationship with Davenport so special is the personal attention he was given by Maine and the professors. He left Davenport with high academic knowledge and the culminating experience of all of the individuals who shared their experiences and knowledge with him.

“I am thankful for Don Maine because he filled a void in my life. Yes, his scholarship has made a huge difference in my life, but money could be replaced. What isn’t replaceable is his experience and later on his friendship and love that keeps growing. Thank you, Don Maine!”

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

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′

Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows Visited Campus

Last week, Davenport University was honored to have Anil Singh-Molares, a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows (WWVF) visit campus. The WWVF program, operating for more than 40 years, brings prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders and other nonacademic professionals to campuses across the U.S. for substantive dialog with students and faculty members. “This is a tremendous honor for Davenport University,” stated Dr. Pamela Imperato, Dean for the Donald W. Maine College of Business at Davenport.  “Mr. Singh-Molares shared his unique perspectives on global business issues and entrepreneurship with our students, faculty and guests. We are excited for the opportunity this represents for our students that will further enhance their studies.”

Quick Facts about the visit: 

17 classes – visited or attended an event
Approximately 425-430 students have participated in a class or event
Events at Lettinga, Lansing and Holland campuses
29 faculty have participated

Throughout the week, students had opportunities to engage with Singh-Molares on topics of entrepreneurship, ethics and compassionate globalization within their classrooms and at events on the W. A. Lettinga, Lansing and Holland campuses.  In addition, he presented at three events held on the Davenport’s W.A. Lettinga Campus for all students, faculty and staff, alumni and members of the larger community.

Learn more about his Anil and the overview of his talks on the DU website.

Thank you to our community partners and connections:

  • M.E. Davenport Foundation
  • West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
  • Cascade Engineering
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • JCI
  • Haworth – Sustainability Division
  • Gordon Water System
  • Huntington Bank
  • LCC
  • Grace Bible College
  • Kyper College
  • Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • At Holland Campus – 6 non-profits from United Way to LUAP

Attention Chicago Area Alumni

Are you an alumnus living in the Chicago area? We want to hear from you! The Alumni Association is here to serve DU alumni living and/or working in the Chicago area. Our goal is to connect alumni by hosting events and networking opportunities.

If you are interested in attending an event in Chicago or helping create a DU Chicago Alumni Chapter, please email Phil Wingo MBA ’16. Be sure to keep your information updated with us so that we can keep you informed of upcoming activities.

Contact the Alumni Office at if you are interested in creating an alumni chapter in your area. We are launching several new chapters over the next year and ramping up current chapters’ offerings, providing opportunities for graduates and current students to create strong professional and social connections.

Volunteer for the Color Run

Looking for a fun way to give back to DU? Volunteer for the Color Run in Downtown GR!

The Women’s Lacrosse Team is looking for volunteers to help throw color at the 2016 Color Run in downtown Grand Rapids this Saturday, August 6. Each and very volunteer counts! That means if the Women’s Lacrosse Program recruits 20 volunteers they will get $800 from the Color Run. The more volunteers, the more money for their program! It is a fun way to give back. All employees, family and friends are welcome to volunteer. The commitment is minimal – Saturday morning from 8:00am-12:00pm. All volunteers get a t-shirt, special volunteer goodies and a chance to become more colorful than the runners!

Interested? E-mail Sara Mooney to sign up and more details.

Check out this video of The Color Run. If this video isn’t convincing, ask Women’s Lacrosse Coach Rob Harris why you should volunteer!

Q&A With Our Donors – Jerry and Suzanne Callahan

Jerry and Suzanne Callahan’s relationship with Davenport University spans more than two decades, which is fitting for people who describe themselves as lifelong learners. Their strong commitment to education and connection to Davenport led them to establish the Jerry and Suzanne Callahan Endowed Scholarship. Suzanne is a Davenport faculty member, teaching at the W.A. Lettinga Campus and online within the Marketing department. Jerry, now the Vice President of Innovations & Collaborations at the Van Andel Institute, served in a leadership role for Davenport’s Information Technology team from 1995-2000 and was instrumental in launching Davenport Online in 1997. They shared some of their thoughts on scholarship opportunities and the type of education DU provides with us.

You established an endowed scholarship at DU which you still support. What was your primary incentive to fund a scholarship?

Jerry: Simply put, we are lifelong learners. Our parents, and hopefully our children, see the true value of education as a life changing force. While our endowment is not the largest, we take great pride that someone is able to build part of their learning legacy as a result of our gift. We only hope it inspires the recipients to become lifelong learners, because that is where the fun is.

Suzanne: We realized that our [own] education was our ticket to opportunity and we wanted to do something to try to ease the burden for future students. Many of the students we knew at the time were full time working parents who might not have continued their degree if they did not have financial assistance. Other students we met were first-generation college attendees who may not have seen firsthand the way the college experience could open doors for their future and might not continue if finances got tight. The work ethic and desire to do more for themselves and their families motivated us to do our part to support their goals.

Jerry – you have been very involved in the West Michigan business sector for many years, including many entrepreneurial roles. Do you see Davenport as a launching pad for similar career paths? How does the education and experience DU provides prepare students to succeed in today’s world?

In a word, innovation. Every economy needs well-informed, practical problem solvers. This has always been, to me, the precise type of applied learning Davenport University has offered for more than 150 years.

What do you both feel most passionate about in your community?

Suzanne: I am privileged to serve on the Forest Hills Public Schools Board of Education and am completely immersed in innovation in K-12 education and how it relates to college and career. Now more than ever, I see a strong desire from the workforce, colleges and K-12 education to ensure students are engaged in deep and meaningful learning that will lead to success for them, their families and the community around them. In a related vein, we are active ambassadors for the Mary Free Bed YMCA. The Y is a powerful force for good in every corner of our community and we are particularly proud to be part of new facility. Teaching and learning about healthy lifestyles helps kids and families do well in school and work so this is a logical place to invest our energy.

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.