CALEDONIA — The new dean at Davenport University’s Donald W. Maine College of Business wants to put more emphasis on supporting entrepreneurism and better connecting students and faculty with businesses.
Greater outreach to businesses and entrepreneurial support are the top priorities for Michael Bowers, who started as dean of the Maine College of Business on Jan. 7. The creation of a business accelerator at Davenport is another possibility that Bower wants to examine during his first year.
While he’s “just beginning to come up with some ideas,” Bowers’ goal is to further embed the business school with the business community through events and activities “where the learning is experiential, where the learning is hands-on, where students learn by doing, and at the same time businesses and the community benefit from our student activities.”
“I would like the business school to be a bridge. I would like the business school to be able to bridge the business community in the Western Michigan area to our students, and for our students to have a bridge into the business community,” Bowers told MiBiz. “Businesses in this area need talent and they need knowledge. Davenport has talent and it has knowledge, and I would like to engage in a variety of different activities so that the folks with the talent and the knowledge can meet the people with the opportunities in the business community.”
One small example Bowers cites as a model is a program where students and faculty volunteer to help people prepare their tax returns.
“There are other programs like that in other parts of business that we might be able to engage in,” Bowers said.
Further building programs where marketing students, for instance, work on market research projects at businesses and elevating internship efforts are other possibilities, he said. The intent is to make outreach programs more deliberative, better coordinated and “bigger and broader but also embedded in all classes,” he said.
Bowers came to the 6,000-student Maine College of Business from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., where he served as a professor of entrepreneurship and marketing in the highly-rated Crummer Graduate School of Business and was academic director for the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship.
He previously spent 18 years at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he chaired the department of management, marketing and industrial distribution.
Bowers’ experience in business leadership and in the development of entrepreneurial programs “will be a great asset for Davenport University,” said Linda Rinker, executive vice president for academics and provost at Davenport University.
“Dr. Bowers is the right individual to lead faculty and staff to meet the high expectations for this college,” Rinker said.
Bowers succeeded Kojo Quartey, who departed in mid-2011 after five years as dean of the Maine College of Business.
A key lure for Bowers to relocate to Grand Rapids is that Davenport is “very sensitive to the market” it serves and, under President Richard Pappas, bases starting or closing academic programs on market research that gauges whether there is enough demand for jobs in specific fields.
He calls the practice of regularly evaluating and exiting existing low-demand degree programs, even if they are providing high quality, “very unusual for a university.” The Maine College of Business presently offers 30 undergraduate and graduate degrees, and action on new programs and sunsetting programs “could pop pretty soon,” Bowers said.
“Davenport, in many ways, represents the future of higher education in the area of business. It’s definitely a university that’s on the move and it’s trying new, innovative things,” Bowers said. “It took quite a bit to pry me loose (from Rollins College), but I found that here.”
Academically, Bowers would like to see the Maine College of Business put more emphasis on international business and sustainable business practices. He said he’s unsure whether the latter could become a new degree program or embedded in the curriculum of existing business programs.
Bowers knows that Davenport needs to avoid creating redundancy by forming a new degree program that’s already offered elsewhere in the market, such as Aquinas College’s sustainability program.
“I’m trying to identify what things Davenport can in fact provide to Western Michigan that is of value and that is not being done by somebody else. We need to be offering a differential approach, we need to be offering things that people find worthwhile and not trying to copy what’s been done before,” Bowers said.
Bowers brings to Davenport a strong background in entrepreneurship. He launched and ran an entrepreneurial center in central Florida.