John M. Dunn
President, Western Michigan University
Schools like Western Michigan University are now well established in their economic development roles in our state. We’ve learned to move quickly, to take advantage of opportunities and to develop a discovery-driven mode of operating.
The focus of many key programs at WMU is on how to nurture entrepreneurial behaviors and support the small business ethos that will help Michigan thrive.
One of the arenas in which we’re already well established and adding great value is life science research. As we move toward the 2014 opening of our new medical school, we’ll be able to leverage even more resources to attract new research opportunities and initiatives. The reality is that some 45 percent of all federal research dollars that go to higher education go to the nation’s medical schools — 141 of them now. For life science startups, the opportunity to be affiliated with a university and community that is part of that mix and has that kind of focused energy is highly attractive.
President, Hope College
We have had two very robust years of new students to Hope, and also our overall enrollment. I don’t think that our infrastructure will enable us to grow, nor do we intend to grow more than we are today. We’re probably at our peak. We have an unbelievable interest in Hope from prospective students. We’ve had quite a season of growth of facilities, and we have a few more on the docket that will be done soon. We’re building a new engineering wing. We’re doing some very nice replacement housing, about 60 beds, not additional housing, but replacement housing for cottages that are simply worn out. Then we have a new art museum that we will be beginning construction on in May. Then, following that, construction of a new music complex and concert hall, and then finally the new student center. Thats kind of the extent of our planning going forward.
President, Davenport University
West Michigan will continue to boom as a result of the strong entrepreneurial spirit embedded in our culture. I believe Michigan as a whole is on the right track, and it’s encouraging to see growth in the housing sector and improvements in employment rates — especially on the southeast side of the state. That’s good news, because the health of Southeast Michigan is important for the entire state. As the economy grows and more jobs become available, Davenport University will benefit as more students are drawn to the career-focused education we provide. Additionally, a better economy and jobs growth will mean fewer people will be leaving Michigan, which has had an adverse effect on enrollment trends in recent years.
David L. Eisler
President, Ferris State University
The state’s economy, like the nation as a whole, is slowly but steadily improving. For Ferris State University, one constant in the ups and downs of the economy over the past few years has been the growing appreciation of the importance of a college degree for future career success. In our increasingly technological society, we continue to see the importance of hands-on, experiential learning. More businesses need new employees prepared to hit the ground running, and our emphasis on internship experiences will continue to be an integral part of a student’s education. In West Michigan, higher education and businesses more than ever are sharing their needs and expectations with each other. Finally, we will continue to see the importance — both to individuals and businesses — of the need for lifelong learning. Rapid, groundbreaking changes in health care, digital media, communications and all manners of technology will require ongoing learning to utilize these new tools effectively.