Fundraising campaign will ‘ELEVATE” student success

Davenport strengthens its commitment to helping students become the leaders Michigan’s economy and communities need to thrive.

Davenport University recently unveiled a $35 million fundraising campaign that invites individuals, businesses and foundations to “ELEVATE” Michigan’s talent by investing in its students and programs dedicated to improving their success.

“This campaign aligns with the goals of Davenport’s vision, Vision 2025, which is pushing our university to set the bar in higher education by removing barriers so all students have the opportunity to become the leaders Michigan’s economy and communities need to thrive,” said Dr. Richard J. Pappas, Davenport University president. “Our ability to solve these issues and expand access for students will enable our university to address Michigan’s growing talent gap.”

Campaign funding will support custom-built and highly impactful programs, including the university’s College of Urban Education, its first-generation initiative, its mental health programming, its expansion of online class offerings, its scholarships and Casa Latina.


The university has launched custom programming and activities designed to support first-generation students by addressing academic, emotional and financial obstacles to ensure Davenport students thrive in their first year of college and ultimately reach graduation.

The First-Generation Student Success Initiative encourages students to take advantage of available services, identify and bridge gaps to barriers, and track and monitor students and the impact of the initiative’s activities.

“This particular program is so dear to my heart because I can see how it positively affects our students,” said Dr. Jodi Hicks, director of student transitions and academic readiness at Davenport. “Being able to help a first-generation student be successful and see the impact it has on their family is just so powerful!”

Jessie, a first-generation student studying business at Davenport, is an excellent example of how this program helps transform lives. “Davenport has helped me be successful as a first-generation college student by giving me the confidence to overcome adversity and the confidence to find solutions in tough situations,” he said.


The Latino/a/x community is the fastest growing and the least represented in higher education. Davenport plans to help reverse this trend with its new approach to higher education and its support of the Latino/a/x community by providing dual- language degrees leading to high-demand careers.

This innovative program will increase the number of bilingual professionals equally fluent in English and Spanish needed to strengthen Michigan’s workforce in business, health care, education, technology and the sciences.

“Casa Latina will embrace bilingualism, putting students on the path to higher-paying careers that lift up entire communities,” said Dr. Gilda Gely, provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs at Davenport University.

“Our ability to solve these issues and expand access for students will enable our university to address Michigan’s growing talent gap.” – Dr. Richard J. Pappas


Davenport is recruiting and preparing teachers at the undergraduate level to address the substantial talent gap in STEM education in urban districts. This new bachelor’s degree program utilizes the College of Urban Education’s proven approach of a day-one coaching/mentoring model, data analytics in the classroom and culturally responsive teaching embedded in every course.

These efforts will decrease teacher and administration turnover rates and chronic absenteeism, make substantial gains in student achievement, increase graduation rates, and increase family and community engagement.

“Through the College of Urban Education, teachers are empowered and afforded the opportunity to share in transmitting values, purpose, dignity and decency to ALL their students,” said Dr. Rhonda White, associate dean for the College of Urban Education. “This allows those students to become positive change agents in their own communities for the sake of their future and the soul of our nation.”


A focus on mental health will enable the university to expand academic programming to develop future professionals in high- demand careers and expand additional on-site mental health services for students across all campuses.

In the fall of 2023, Davenport will launch two new mental health degree programs to help support our state in developing the talent needed to serve our communities. Students receiving a Master of Science in Nursing, a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner concentration or a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling will transition into high-demand careers through which they can truly make a difference in the lives of those they serve.

Davenport’s Wellness Center, located on the W.A. Lettinga campus, is positively impacting students seeking mental health support. According to Darren Oliver, lead counselor at the Wellness Center, there is a definite need for mental health services among students, and Davenport is helping to fill that void with in-person and virtual access.

“It is very difficult right now to secure an appointment with a mental health professional,” said Oliver. “Providing mental health services on campus makes it more convenient for students to be able to access the services they need.”


Davenport has been offering online classes to students for more than 20 years. The recent Global Campus expansion to offer Online+, extending its class offerings to include livestream, on-demand, flex and blended options, allows students to learn in the format most beneficial to their needs.

“Online learning has gone from an isolating experience to a more immersive experience in which you converse with your instructor and talk with other students in your class,” said Brian Miller, dean of Global Campus and academic systems. “It’s been very important for us to have the technology and the infrastructure in place that can actually support that learning.”


The university is committed to developing additional scholarships to allow more Davenport students to graduate with degrees in rewarding careers and the lowest student debt possible. Removing financial barriers to obtaining a college degree lets students focus on what’s important.

“I am honored and grateful to have received the full-ride Gerald R. Ford Memorial Scholarship,” said Ella, a Davenport business major. “It’s a four-year scholarship, so I’ll be able to focus on my academics and not stress about the financial aspect.”

To support the ELEVATE campaign and help tomorrow’s future leaders achieve personal and career success, visit


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