Leading the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs - Q&A with Northwood’s sixth president, Dr. Kent MacDonald

On August 1, 2019, Northwood added a new milestone to its 60-year history: its sixth president. Dr. Kent MacDonald succeeded Dr. Keith Pretty who served as president for 13 years.

DR. MACDONALD enters his new position with 20 years of experience leading higher education institutions, and an excitement to meet members of the Northwood University and Midland communities. The EDITOR of IDEA magazine spoke with DR. MACDONALD about his aspirations for Northwood.

EDITOR: Welcome to Northwood and Midland, DR. MACDONALD!

DR. MACDONALD: Thank you! My wife, Mary-Ellen, and I are very excited to be here.

E: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

KM: Recently, I completed my term as president and vice chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Prior to living on the east coast, I served as president of Algonquin College in Ottawa. I also have several years’ experience working at a variety of private and public organizations including an information security company and a management consulting company. Fundamentally, however, I consider myself an educator.

E: You’ve done a lot of research on university presidential leadership, correct?

KM: Yes, my doctoral research while at the University of Pennsylvania focused on high-performing colleges and presidential leadership. I’ve had the privilege to speak to audiences around the world about this topic. One aspect is my belief that great universities build substantial endowments and lean on alumni and friends for support. Over the past several years I have been involved in numerous private fundraising and philanthropic projects. While at St. Francis Xavier, I helped launch a $50 million endowment to improve access to education, as well as oversaw the completion of a $100 million campaign to create an academic research center that honored Canada’s former prime minister, and alumnus, Brian Mulroney.

E: Those are notable accomplishments. St. Francis Xavier University is known as one of Canada’s most respected and historic universities. Why leave? Why Northwood?

KM: I completed my doctoral studies in the U.S. and I welcomed the opportunity to lead an American university. However, to be successful I knew I must completely believe in the mission of the university and I saw Northwood as a perfect fit. We are living in a unique era, and to become part of Northwood’s rich 60-year history of educating business leaders and entrepreneurs is timely. The experiential learning opportunities – the distinctive business education and way in which it’s delivered, the impact it has on the communities it serves, and the lives it changes – is something I genuinely support. I’m looking forward to helping more students learn about the significant return on investment they gain with a Northwood education, and the positive impact our graduates have on their communities.

E: That’s wonderful to hear. What are some of your plans for your presidency?

KM: I have much to learn about Northwood – its aspirations, challenges, strengths – and about the greater Midland community. My primary goal is to spend the first year learning and absorbing as much information as possible by having conversations with faculty, students, staff, donors, alumni, community leaders, and friends. Undoubtedly, I will be focusing on efforts that continue to attract high-achieving, business-minded students to Northwood. I will also be having conversations about the impact on our long-term sustainability, if we were to significantly increase the size of our endowment. I have some views on both of these early positions and I look forward to receiving input from others in the days and weeks ahead.

E: What do you want people to know about you as a president?

KM: My personal belief is that organizations typically function most effectively when leaders implement decentralized, entrepreneurial, and inter-dependent governance structures, and that’s the approach I’ll bring to Northwood. I am certainly not the smartest person in the room and my success to date has been to seek the best advice possible from a broad range of people. With that input, I like to set few priorities (literally one or two) and then ensure the entire enterprise is focused on attaining the goals and objectives that have been set collectively. People will get to know me as accessible and that I value the work that every single person does on a university campus.

E: I hear there is a tradition you have that you’re going to implement here. Can you tell us what it is?

KM: One custom I’d like to continue is that of shaking the hand of every first-year student when they come onto campus. This is a moment when there’s some trepidation, but usually it doesn’t take long for students to smile, relax a little, and tell you what’s on their minds. It is also an important and emotional moment for their parents, as they send their child off to college. It is good for me because I get to hear unfiltered ideas and insights and that’s very valuable. I also think this approach sends a message. Students and their supporters choose Northwood, in part, because of the benefit of being at a smaller university, where they are not just a number. Faculty and staff know students by name, and I am hopeful that I too will know every student by the time they walk across the stage at graduation.

E: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

KM: My wife, Mary-Ellen, and I have been married for over 30 years. She is an incredible school administrator herself, with a strong background in student services and special education. In fact, she is currently completing her PhD, with a focus on student success and inclusion. We have four children, Adam, Matthew, Meagan, and Patrick. Adam is a CPA who works in Calgary in a private equity firm. Matthew and Meagan completed their undergrad and education degrees and are now looking to earn their M.B.A. degrees from the DeVos Graduate School at Northwood. Patrick is interested in sports and is exploring the Delta College/Northwood 3+1 program. We are a very close family and the best days are when we are all together. So, for a year, we may have three of our children with us in Midland which would be terrific.

E: That's great! Thank you for your time DR. MACDONALD and again, welcome to Northwood.

A Remarkable Era

This autumn is a historic time for Northwood, as President and CEO Keith Pretty retired after 13 years, and Dr. Kent MacDonald stepped in to build on the University’s proud tradition and modern momentum.

The legacy of Keith Pretty, Northwood’s fifth president and CEO, is especially impressive when viewed as a body of work. Keith and his wife, Gretchen, arrived at Northwood in 2006 and immediately endeared themselves to the community, from board members and administrators to faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and other supporters. For more than a decade, Keith and Gretchen were the face of the university in a world that has grown to more deeply understand and embrace “The Northwood Idea.”

Combining strategic vision with a willingness to roll up his sleeves and get things done, Keith Pretty led Northwood through an era of revitalization, including a special focus on physical improvements to the Midland campus. Some of the developments were readily visible, such as North Village Apartments and the DeVos Graduate School of Management buildings. Others might not be easy to see, such as utility upgrades and information technology modernization, but were equally important in ensuring that Northwood continues to offer a top-level learning environment for many years to come.

All the while, Northwood enhanced and expanded its academic breadth and quality, including the Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership and Finance programs within the DeVos Graduate School and advanced Cybersecurity and Data Analytics programs.

As their 13 years leading the University neared a close, Keith and Gretchen were flooded with waves of appreciation from the entire Northwood community, a heartfelt collective “thank you” for the sacrifices – seen and unseen – that the Pretty family made to shape Northwood into the outstanding institution it is today.

Notable Highlights


Largest Capital Campaign in Northwood history conducted


Sloan Family Building for Aftermarket Studies opens

Educational Success Program launched in service of academically at-risk students


Naegele Scholars program introduced


Inaugural Auto Show Gala begins raising funds for student scholarships


Indoor turf facility constructed


DeVos Graduate School of Management building dedication

McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship established

Riepma Arena renovated with the addition of Panning Pavilion


North Village Apartments Phase I completed


Robert W. Plaster Center for Free Enterprise opens

Football stadium modernized with artificial turf

New tennis facility dedicated as Colestock Courts

Phase 1 of Founders Garden introduced and dedicated


Northwood recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education as a Great College to Work For


North Village Apartments Phase II completed

Northwood designated a gold-level veteran-friendly school by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency

Major League Aspirations

David Vinsky drives a ball to left field during a 2019 game for Northwood University. In June, Vinsky was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, launching what he hopes will be a long career as a professional baseball player.

David Vinsky drives a ball to left field during a 2019 game for Northwood University. In June, Vinsky was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, launching what he hopes will be a long career as a professional baseball player.

David Vinsky was not highly regarded as a high school baseball player, but the Northwood coaching staff saw potential in him, offering him something that the University knows very well: opportunity.

Vinsky seized the chance as if it were a hanging curve ball, making himself into the most prolific hitter in the history of Northwood baseball. In June, Vinsky’s Cinderella story began a new chapter, as he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 15th round of baseball’s amateur player draft. “Without a doubt the happiest day of my life,” Vinsky posted to Twitter on draft day. “Just want to thank everybody who has made this possible and helped me along the way. My family, my coaches, and teammates.”

Vinsky (’20), a marketing major, decided to forgo his final year of college eligibility to sign a contract with the Cardinals organization a few days later. He then headed to the team’s training center in Jupiter, Florida, to be evaluated for assignment to a minor league team, the typical first step in a professional baseball career that could eventually lead to the Major Leagues.

Coach Offers Support

Northwood Head Coach Jake Sabol (’15, M.B.A.) certainly would have been happy to have Vinsky back in the Timberwolf lineup for one more season, but he felt no disappointment whatsoever on draft day.

“We were thrilled for David. That was his goal for a long time,” Sabol said. “Getting guys drafted and signed out of our program is a huge deal. We get kids who have tools we like and who develop like crazy when they’re here. Anytime we can produce someone who can go on to play at the professional level, it’s a win/win.”

Sabol spent three years in the minor leagues himself, drafted by the Detroit Tigers as a pitcher from Central Michigan University, and that experience allowed him to offer guidance to Vinsky.

“There were quite a few things that we tried to offer him to help him prepare to be able to move on to the next level,” Sabol said. Sabol plans to stay in touch with Vinsky, who will be welcome to return to Northwood for off-season training in the fall. And while the odds of making it to the Major Leagues are long, even for drafted players, Sabol likes the odds.

“It’s really early to tell, but I like his chances,” Sabol said. “He’s been able to hit everywhere he’s played. If he continues to progress the way he has, he’s going to put himself in a position to move up. If you look at him three years ago, many thought he didn’t have the tools to play at the highest level of college baseball, but he sure does now.”

In his three seasons at Northwood, David Vinsky led the team to an overall record of 117-50, with two conference championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances. Splitting time between right field and first base, he is the school’s all-time leader in:

  • .411 Career Batting Average

  • 160 RBIs

  • 189 Runs

  • 274 Hits

  • 66 Doubles

The Odds Are Long, but Getting Shorter

A 2017 study published in Baseball Research Journal calculated how often baseball players who were drafted between 1996 and 2011 went on to play in the Major Leagues. It found that, among players selected in the 11th through 15th rounds who signed a contract with the organization that drafted them (Northwood player David Vinsky was drafted in the 15th round), 1 in 8 played at least one Major League game, and 1 in 19 played for three or more years in the big leagues.

Online Exclusive: Human Stories Hit Home - Library Event Demonstrates Northwood’s Diversity

Eric Palmer, Northwood’s head librarian, stands by the registration tables near the entrance to Strosacker Library as, in the background, storytellers share their stories during Northwood’s first Human Library event.

Eric Palmer, Northwood’s head librarian, stands by the registration tables near the entrance to Strosacker Library as, in the background, storytellers share their stories during Northwood’s first Human Library event.

Don, one of the storytellers at Northwood’s first Human Library event, talks about his experiences while serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

Don, one of the storytellers at Northwood’s first Human Library event, talks about his experiences while serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

Janelle tells listeners about being arrested, and how it helped her to recover from a series of addictions.

Janelle tells listeners about being arrested, and how it helped her to recover from a series of addictions.

At first glance, Courtney seems to be a typical Northwood student. She’s an energetic 20-year-old woman with a bright smile. She has a great grade-point average in the University’s accelerated undergraduate program. She’s involved in a host of activities. She holds a part-time job.

A closer look, however, reveals a more complicated story.

“At the age of 7, I started experimenting with self-harm,” Courtney revealed at Human Library™, part of an international movement to promote tolerance, celebrate differences, and encourage understanding between people who come from different lifestyles or cultural backgrounds. “When my mom died, I started biting and scratching myself. One day, I bit my arm and drew blood, and I was just so glad that I didn’t feel sadness anymore. I felt ... satisfied.”

Each Human Library revolves around people such as Courtney willing to serve as a “human book.” Northwood’s first such event took place in April, during Celebrate Diversity Month, with seven people volunteering to share their stories. Four of them were students. One was a faculty member. Two others were members of the community.

Each presenter sat at a small round table inside Northwood’s Strosacker Library and shared a personal story with listeners. Most listeners sat quietly and let the story unfold, occasionally asking questions or reacting to dramatic details. Some listeners sparked conversations, especially if the story veered close to their own life experience. Every 5 to 10 minutes, the listeners moved on to hear a new story and the human books welcomed new listeners and told their stories afresh.

In addition to Courtney’s history, other stories included:

  • A student who in high school came out as a lesbian and now identifies as non-binary

  • A student who struggles against pressures to conform to social expectations placed on Asian women

  • A student who persevered through hardships and adversity growing up in Detroit

  • A member of the community who served in an artillery unit in the Vietnam War and still struggles to process his experiences, including an unfriendly welcome when he returned to the United States

“Our Human Library event brought people together to talk about some difficult subjects,” said Eric Palmer, Northwood’s head librarian and the event organizer. “I thought it was very successful.”

Palmer estimated that 50 people attended the event, including about 20 Northwood students. Plans are already in the works to do it again in Spring 2020.

“I think this event demonstrates that Northwood is much more diverse and accepting than the image some people may have,” said Rochelle Zimmerman, Northwood’s reference librarian who led committee meetings and other planning activities. “Northwood accepts you no matter who you are. Northwood believes you can be whatever you want to be, no matter where you come from.”

That acceptance demonstrated itself as students listened to the stories unfold, sometimes offering words of support or understanding. Elvirita Garcia (’22), an accounting and marketing development major, was moved by the story told by Janelle, a 32-year-old woman from Coleman who battled addictions to food, then alcohol, then drugs, until her arrest in 2017 forced her to deal with her core issues.

“It wasn’t easy to hear, but I was glad that she told me her story,” Garcia said. “It made me see things differently. She said she was happy she got arrested. It must be pretty bad to want to be arrested.”

Don shared a range of experiences from his time serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He watched a sergeant die of a chest wound after a frantic young medic failed to properly bandage it. More than once, Don teared up while telling his story.

“Some of this stuff, I’ve never talked about before,” he said.

Courtney, the Northwood student who began harming herself when she was 7, appeared to have things under control as she graduated high school.

In November of her freshman year, Courtney attempted suicide.

“After that, I met a psychiatrist and got on medication. Now I’m in my third year at Northwood, and I have a great support system,” she said. “Northwood allowed me to stay in school the whole time. They saved my life.”

Stories such as Courtney’s are not always easy to hear, or to tell, but there is little doubt that sharing them strengthens the campus community. And new stories that will be told at future Human Library events will expand on that benefit.

Then and Now

In March, Northwood celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding. Since then, the University has been lifechanging for tens of thousands of graduates. In this article, IDEA Magazine looks at two students, whose university experiences were similar but whose timing was separated by 60 years.

Jim Smith and Zach Allread both graduated from Northwood. Both were captain of the basketball team. And both had a dream to start their own business. Allread graduated in spring 2019; Smith graduated in 1962. Allread was roughly the 57,000th student to enroll; Smith was the first.

Jim Smith - A.A. Industrial Science ’62 and B.B.A. Business Administration ’84

Position on basketball team: Forward; captain for ’59-’60 season

Why did you choose Northwood?

I wanted to study retail and marketing. My dad and I were going to start a hardware store. I heard about Northwood and was fortunate enough to get in contact with Gary Stauffer, then I signed up. Come to find out, I was the first student enrolled in the school. When I went up to the school, I was the first guy at the building, and I was the first guy in the dorm, so I got to pick which room I wanted.

What memories stand out during your time here?

We hung out at the snack bar a lot. There was a little auditorium outside of that. That was all there was. They’d have a dance every once in a while. The dance floor and the snack bar were in a carriage house. And that wasn’t just a fancy name, the building was actually built to hold horses and carriages. The cafeteria was in the basement of the old hospital in Alma, and a house built in the 1930s was our dorm.

Describe your experience as a basketball player for Northwood.

I was a pretty fair player, but I didn’t go to Northwood to play basketball. The student body formed the basketball team. We formed the team, then we got Gary Stauffer and Jim Stauffer to back us. We played Alma, we played Central Michigan’s reserve team, we played a couple of high schools. One of our students was the coach.

What were your plans after graduation?

I was hired in at Oldsmobile as a first-line supervisor for quality control. I had it all lined up before I got out of college, because of my education. Three years later I moved into a general supervisor’s position. While I was working at General Motors, I continued my education through Northwood’s External Degree Program. I worked for General Motors for 30 years, retiring in 1994 at 54 years old. Then I started my own business, JL Smith Landscaping and Mobile Home Repair.

What advice would you give to future students?

If you’ve got something to say, say it in the right way. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.

Zach Allread - B.B.A. Marketing ’18 and M.B.A. Management ’19

Position on basketball team: Forward; captain for ’18-’19 season

Describe your experience at Northwood.

Unexpected. I knew I would like Northwood because I had an interest in business and a dream of playing college basketball. It turned out to be the best-case scenario for everything. I got to live out my dream of playing college basketball and I got two degrees in four years. I would recommend Northwood to anyone. I met a lot of great people and made a lot of connections.

Why did you choose to go to Northwood?

I initially didn’t want to go to a small school, but Northwood started recruiting me so I visited the campus. They offered me a scholarship and I accepted it the same day.

What memories stand out during your time here?

I could come up with hundreds, but road trips with the basketball team and living out that dream were probably the best memories. I loved building those relationships and getting to know the guys on the team.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ll finish my M.B.A. classes in the beginning of August so I’m still seeking job opportunities. I’m mostly looking for roles in outside sales, but I’m also open to jobs in marketing and analysis, business development, and strategy. Ultimately, my dream is to run my own business.

What advice would you give to future students?

Get involved as much as possible. Time really does fly by. The more you put into your experience at Northwood, the more you’ll get out of it.

Exploring a Universe of Fashion

Style Show Chairwoman Emily Williams (’19) presents the first Influencer of the Year award to Leann Colella (’17), founder and managing director of Sharp Spruce.

Style Show Chairwoman Emily Williams (’19) presents the first Influencer of the Year award to Leann Colella (’17), founder and managing director of Sharp Spruce.

The Northwood 2019 Style Show, “Fabric of the Universe,” rocketed the audience to a cosmos of clothes, color, and creativity. The theme of the annual show reflected the powerful way essentials – whether of fashion, education, or the universe – combine to craft endless possibilities for discovery. The Style Show presented a comprehensive look at fashion, from fabrication and construction to silhouette and styling, highlighted in segments named after the five most common elements in the universe. The student-run event featured industry-related speakers, a runway fashion show, and an afterglow gathering. Born months earlier in the nebula of planning, the Influencer of the Year was awarded for the first time at the April show.

Established at this year’s Style Show, the Influencer of the Year award showcases Northwood alumni involved in the fashion industry. An “influencer” can come from a galaxy of fashion-related careers that were launched through the benefit of a Northwood education. The award also offers a chance for current and prospective students to glimpse the variety of career paths available once they graduate.

“We hope the award becomes an opportunity for our alumni who work in the fashion industry to reconnect with the Style Show and NU students,” said Emily Williams (’19), 2019 Style Show chairwoman. “Recognizing Leann Colella, a recent alumna, as our first influencer was a natural choice. She was very involved in the Style Show as a student, and she is now building a promising Exploring a Universe of Fashion fashion business that actually started right here. Leann truly exemplifies our Fashion Marketing and Management graduates’ talent, drive, and awareness of their ‘True North.’”

Since graduating from Northwood in 2017, Colella has turned her NU senior project into an exciting fashion business. Her budding endeavor, Sharp Spruce, is filling the need for comfortable and versatile menswear and also helping men find wardrobe basics with a simple trip to her online store.

“I am honored to be named the first Influencer of the Year, especially because Northwood has been a huge part of my journey to Sharp Spruce. I love that the award will give students and faculty a chance to see what our amazing alumni are doing in their careers,” said Colella, founder and managing director of Sharp Spruce. "I think everyone wins when alumni come back on campus to interact with students and support them as they plan and run Northwood’s special and unique events like the Style Show.”

The show’s final segment turned carbon, one of the most common elements in the universe, into a diamond anniversary celebration of Northwood’s 60th anniversary. As well as honoring the milestone, the finale warmly acknowledged the University’s longheld dedication to experiential learning opportunities, including the 2019 Style Show that gave its 27 executive board members, 45 models, six student designers (including Williams), and student volunteers from every major a universe-full of career-smart lessons.

Analyze This - Data Analytics Enhances Operations and Supply Chain Management Program

Northwood launched its Operations and Supply Chain Management program in 2012, and since then every graduate in the major has moved on to either a fulltime job in the field or a graduate degree program.

Maintaining that level of success requires continuous improvement, and many of the recent changes revolve around data analytics. This fall, students will see an even stronger emphasis on applying data analysis concepts using modern software tools.

“We’ve been moving in this direction for a few years, and we’re now at the point where our data analytics courses are pretty much 50 percent theory, 50 percent experiential learning,” said Kevin McCormack, assistant professor in Northwood’s Operations and Supply Chain Management program. “We’re developing learned practitioners who know how to set up and manage the supply networks that drive success for businesses.”

Data analytics is increasingly important in that pursuit.

“Our intent is to prepare students who will understand and apply data analysis to operations and supply chain functions,” said Program Chair Douglas J. Hentschel. “Graduates with this degree will help companies become more efficient, and that’s why the field is continuing to grow.”

That growth translates into opportunities when graduates go looking for employment.

“There is a desperate need for people who know this, and when you add data analytics to it, there is almost a frenzy,” McCormack said. “It used to be that we saw six job opportunities for every graduate. Now it’s double that. Graduates can target which area of the country they want to live in, then pick from the opportunities in that area.”

Student Perspectives

Noah Kraft

STATUS: Will graduate in December 2019

EMPLOYMENT: Working as a co-op with Dow’s supply chain operation in Midland. Began in January 2019, working 28 hours a week while taking full class load in the spring, then transitioning to full-time hours while taking one class in the summer.

“One of the things that attracted me to Northwood was the smaller size. In our Supply Chain classes, you get a lot of one-on-one time with Professor Hentschel and Professor McCormack. You can build a relationship with them, and they guide you as you mature. And you’re learning from people who are very highly regarded, who are working in the industry as consultants at the same time they are teaching.”

Brooke Dubie

STATUS: Graduated in May 2019

EMPLOYMENT: Working as a materials analyst for Polaris Industries out of corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“I wanted to start my career in the Minneapolis area, and there were a lot of opportunities because of Northwood’s network. I ended up accepting the offer from Polaris in March, and it was kind of hard to focus on school after that – you know, there are so many projects due your senior year, and I was just not feeling it – but you do what you have to do, and everything I learned at Northwood prepared me very well for the real world.”

Morgen Panning

STATUS: Graduated in May 2019, returning in the fall to add a master’s degree

EMPLOYMENT: Full-time summer internship at Magna Engineered Glass in Holland, Michigan, supporting an effort to reduce the amount of scrap that results from production of window components for the automotive industry.

“I’d like to explore several different avenues of supply chain management in the years ahead. Northwood’s career advancement office steered me toward supply chain, and I think it’s a really good fit for me. It’s a great major to have, because every single business needs some sort of supply chain management at one level or another. A major part of the reason I loved the classes was because of the teaching style of the professors. You can tell they are really into what they are teaching. They care a lot about making classes dynamic and teaching us skills that are immediately applicable in the real world.”

Alumni Inspire Eager Learners

Outstanding Alumni Award recipients stand with their student presenter. Full names andgraduation years are listed below. From left to right: Grafilo, Ford, Sutherlin, Pung-Gottschalk, A. Smith, C. Smith, Sian, Wildstein, President Pretty, Lindow, Boursaw, McLavy and Fletcher.

Outstanding Alumni Award recipients stand with their student presenter. Full names andgraduation years are listed below. From left to right: Grafilo, Ford, Sutherlin, Pung-Gottschalk, A. Smith, C. Smith, Sian, Wildstein, President Pretty, Lindow, Boursaw, McLavy and Fletcher.

Every year, a select group of alumni are recognized during the Outstanding Alumni Award ceremony for their remarkable achievement, impact, service, and success in their careers since graduating from Northwood.

On April 12, President Keith Pretty and executive director of Alumni Relations, Julie Adamczyk, presented the awards to six alumni during a gala at the Midland Country Club in Midland, Michigan.

Making this award ceremony especially unique is student involvement. Current students presented and introduced each honoree with their award. They worked closely with the alumni to learn their story and prepare introductions. The alumni also brought their career and life experiences full circle for the students by engaging in experiential learning opportunities in the days leading up to the ceremony. They spoke in classes, participated in lunch and learns, and interacted with students throughout the day.

“The hours spent answering students’ questions and sharing their experiences served as a source of inspiration for these eager and capable learners,” said President Pretty during the event. “Every year, our global learners soak in everything free-enterprise has to offer, then take that knowledge into the world. There is no better example of this than our outstanding alumni who continue to exemplify ‘The Northwood Idea.’”

Outstanding Alumni are nominated and selected for an award based on the following criteria. The class of 2019 Outstanding Alumni joined a group of more than 200 peers who are examples of the University’s mission to develop future leaders of a global, free-enterprise society.

Alumni Leadership Award: Nominee’s degree impacted their success in their business and community, and they’ve demonstrated their support to Northwood through various opportunities.

Alumni Achievement Award: Nominees demonstrated outstanding achievement in their chosen career and support “The Northwood Idea.”

Young Alumni Award: Nominee is a consistent active alumni participant and supports Northwood University through various opportunities.

Alumni Service Award: Nominee must currently serve the military or served with honorable discharge. This award may also be given to an alumnus who has served our country by choosing a career in public service.


Alumni Leadership Award: Amanda Grafilo (B.B.A. ’08) - Student Presenter: Briana Ford (’20)

Alumni Achievement Award: Brett Sutherlin (B.B.A. ’95) - Student Presenter: Kaitlyn Pung- Gottschalk (’18 and ’19)

Alumni Achievement Award: Alan Wildstein (B.B.A. ’89) - Student Presenter: Meigan Sian (’19 and ’20)

Young Alumni Award: Garrett Boursaw (B.B.A. ’11 and M.B.A. ’15) - Student Presenter: Angela Lindow (’20)

Alumni Leadership Award: Craig Smith (B.B.A. ’81) - Student Presenter (and son!): Alex Smith (’21)

Alumni Service Award: Christopher Fletcher (B.B.A. ’03) - Student Presenter: Madelyn McLavy (’19)

Diving Into the Northwood Experience - International Student Kia Sebastian

Freediving with whale sharks in the sea near Oslob, Cebu in the Philippines, Kia Sebastian (’19) helps protect marine animals as a sea warden.

Freediving with whale sharks in the sea near Oslob, Cebu in the Philippines, Kia Sebastian (’19) helps protect marine animals as a sea warden.

Freediving in the seas surrounding her native Cebu in the Republic of the Philippines, Kirsten “Kia” Sebastian (’19) lives her passion for marine conservation. She swims and dives without scuba gear among sea turtles and whale sharks, assists marine biologists with their underwater studies, and helps build artificial coral reefs. On land, Sebastian gives seminars about conservation and sustainability to school children.

Her life among the waves and ocean wildlife seems like a world away from the NU campus and studying business. For Sebastian, Northwood was a natural choice to learn how to fit her passion for the environment into a business framework.

On the surface, swimming with the sharks at sea and swimming in the business “shark tank” appear to be wildly different. Sebastian doesn’t see it that way. While marine conservation is her calling, it’s her dream to encourage Philippine companies to include environmental sustainability and protection as vital parts of their business plans.

“I am passionate about teaching Philippine business leaders about the ways that profitability and environmental sustainability go hand-in-hand. Balancing economic and sustainability needs is possible and can lead to improved performance long-term,” said Sebastian. “If I want to help strengthen companies’ focus on the environment, I need to communicate in the right language to conquer the business world’s uncertainties. At Northwood, I am learning not only what to communicate about costs and benefits but also how to communicate it effectively.”

Sebastian came to Northwood to complete her B.B.A. in Management in 2019, after working on her degree at the Center for International Education (CIE) in Cebu City. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. A seasoned traveler, Sebastian has visited many countries in the Asia Pacific. Even with all that experience, coming to Midland for school wasn’t a simple transition. Her “east meets west” experience came with a little culture shock.

“I’m so glad I took the opportunity to finish my senior year at Northwood. The Midwest is so different from the Philippines, which has really helped to open my mind,” said Sebastian. “I’ve learned how to live and work with people who are quite different from me. And I’ve worked hard to help other students – both international and American – become more inclusive and step out of their own cultural bubbles.”

As a member of the International Student Organization and working as an assistant for the Student Affairs department, Sebastian created opportunities for Northwood’s international students to engage more with each other and with students from the U.S. The activities she led, like international game night, highlighted different cultures while showing that fun and laughter are universal.

“In the short time that Kia has been at Northwood, she has had a big impact. She is part of several organizations on campus and has been a tremendous help in bringing our American and international students together. We have all benefited from her being a member of the Northwood community,” said Jeremiah Lee, director of International Student Engagement and multicultural advisor. “I know that Northwood will go with Kia wherever she builds her life and career as she uses the knowledge, business acumen, and skills she learned here.”

International Students Contribute

Kia Sebastian’s involvement in organizations and activities at Northwood – including Circle K, S.A.F.E. (Sexual Advocacy for Everyone), Students for Sustainability, Ahimsa Yoga, and as an Admissions student ambassador – is an example of the ways international students contribute academically, culturally, and socially to the communities in and around the universities they attend. A recent NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisors) economic analysis examined the economic boost for the 2017-2018 academic year that can be attributed to international students:

Northwood University

International students contributed $4.4 million to the local economy and supported an estimated 25 jobs NU.


International students contributed $1.2 billion to the state’s economy and supported an estimated 14,385 jobs.

United States

International students contributed $39.0 billion to U.S. economy and supported an estimated 456,622 jobs.

Game-Changer - North Village Enhances Campus Life

President Keith Pretty speaks at the June 28 ceremony unveiling the completed North Village Apartments building.

President Keith Pretty speaks at the June 28 ceremony unveiling the completed North Village Apartments building.

Living on campus will have a whole new feel this fall with the completion of North Village Apartments.

Years of planning, fundraising, and construction resulted in a beautiful residential complex for students. Phase 2 was completed in time to host support personnel for the inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, an LPGA tournament that attracted some of the world’s best women golfers for a four-day competition at the Midland Country Club.

Combined with Phase 1, completed in 2017, North Village Apartments can now provide a cozy campus home for up to 326 students in 109 apartments, roughly half of them two-person suites and the other half designed for four. The $28 million facility includes a stylish bistro that will make the term “dorm food” a thing of the past.

“Picture a modern restaurant, right there in the main gathering area of the building, serving both lunch and dinner,” said Northwood dean of Student Affairs Andy Cripe. “The dinner menu will be a little more upscale, and offer seafood and steaks, along with traditional dinner offerings.”

In addition to being well fed, students will be well connected and comfortable, with cuttingedge information technology and climate control capabilities built into the facility from the ground up.

The North Village housing project was funded by three generous donors: the DeVos Family, in honor of Helen DeVos; Jim Koons, Northwood Class of 1973; and Mort Harris, Northwood Outstanding Business Leader Class of 2018.

Global Business Requires a Global Education

Junior, Angela Lindow, got a bird’s-eye view of Interlochen, Switzerland, when she went paragliding. Don’t worry mom and dad, studying and learning took place too!

Junior, Angela Lindow, got a bird’s-eye view of Interlochen, Switzerland, when she went paragliding. Don’t worry mom and dad, studying and learning took place too!

Study Abroad Students Know that Success in an Interconnected World Happens Outside of Reading Books and Taking Tests

Eleven countries. Eight students. Two months.

Insurance Risk Management Junior, Angela Lindow, stepped back on U.S. soil in November 2018 after being abroad for eight weeks. From London, England to Innsbruck, Austria, she traveled with a small group of eight students who took 16 credit hours in the form of in-class and online sessions.

“In London, we took an organizational behavior class with an English professor and went on company visits to Cadbury Chocolate and Land Rover,” Lindow explained. “We also took an art class at The Louvre and an economics class at one of Northwood’s affiliate schools in Germany. The rest of our classes were online Northwood courses.”

Northwood offers three different study abroad programs, varying in length and format, to give students the opportunity to participate in and lead the global economy, which are experiences that director of International Education, Katie Kirkland, says are becoming more and more necessary for graduates.

“Study abroad teaches students historical contexts, economic and political systems, social structures, and global ecosystems. It also develops essential skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity, and character dispositions such as empathy, courage, cross-cultural communication, understanding, and open-mindedness. Many employers look for those traits in future employees,” she said.

Alumnus Ryan Roscia (’07 B.B.A.) agrees. Roscia participated in the Semester in Europe program in the fall of 2006 and he said the experience directly impacted and prepared him for his current role as the owner, president, and dealer principal of Dick Huvaere’s Richmond Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM in Richmond, Michigan.

“Part of my success has come from being able to read situations quickly, work with all sorts of people, and positively lead them in the direction that the company needs to move,” Roscia said. “Studying abroad helped me recognize and embrace differences in people and practice my communication skills to both understand problems that arise, and interpret the information provided to make the best decision possible.”

Northwood University Computerized Automotive Retail Simulation (NUCARS)

An additional international program that Northwood offers is NUCARS. NUCARS is a weeklong immersive simulation project where participants from around the world come together in teams. They work in simulation software, StratSimManagement, as owners of an automotive dealership in financial difficulty. The simulation presents teams with real-life automotive dealership dilemmas where they make decisions then see immediate feedback and results.

Every year NUCARS is hosted at one of the eight participating schools, all located in different countries. This year, Northwood was the host.

The diversity in study abroad opportunities is what Kirkland thinks is a major selling point of Northwood, and according to Roscia, she’s right.

“Supporting this program [study abroad] allows me to share my passion for travel and business education with others. I truly believe that experiencing other countries is a critical aspect of business and personal growth,” Roscia said. “If you have not had the opportunity to learn or experience this – especially in an educational setting – it puts you at a disadvantage when trying to do business globally.”

Kirkland is excited for the future of the study abroad program. The International Program Department is forging new partnerships with universities for exchange programs and they’re working to add more locations for short-term programs.

If you’d like to support the study abroad program, donations can be made at northwood.edu/give. In the designation, write “Study Abroad.” If you have questions or want to start a scholarship for study abroad, contact Justin Marshall, vice president of Advancement and Alumni Relations at marshall@northwood.edu.

SCHOLARSHIP SPOTLIGHT: Continuing a Legacy of Curiosity - Anthony Davenport Semester in Europe Scholarship

Aaron Shaffer (’01) and Alex Fraser (’01 and ’10) bask in the sunshine in Greece during their Semester in Europe trip that they took in the fall of 2000.

Aaron Shaffer (’01) and Alex Fraser (’01 and ’10) bask in the sunshine in Greece during their Semester in Europe trip that they took in the fall of 2000.

When Alex Fraser (’01 B.B.A. and ’10 M.B.A.) and one of his good friends, Aaron Shaffer (’01 B.B.A.), signed up to travel abroad in the fall of 2000 for Northwood’s Semester in Europe program under the direction of Program Director Anthony Davenport, they excitedly packed their Razor scooters and flew to Paris, France, to kick off the semester-long trip to an anticipated eight countries.

Not only did they make it to 10 countries, but they also got to know Davenport – a man who forever impacted their lives. He was so impactful in fact, that 19 years after returning home, Fraser and Shaffer started the Anthony Davenport Semester in Europe Scholarship, honoring the beloved program director. Starting with the fall 2019 trip, every year one Semester in Europe student will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

The Man Who Lived in a Church Intelligent. Warm hearted. Challenging. Intellectually curious. Creative. These are just a few of the ways Fraser and Shaffer describe Davenport. Davenport was born in America but raised in Provence, France. His parents, William and Roselle Davenport, founded then directed the Semester in Europe program for 21 years. In 1994 Anthony stepped in as the director until he passed away in January 2004 from cancer. Just like his parents, Davenport was passionate about exposing students to other cultures and countries.

“I learned so much on the Semester in Europe trip, but Mr. Davenport taught me how to think,” Shaffer said. “He was one of the most intellectually curious people I’ve ever met. Rather than simply ask you a question, he’d then ask a follow-up question to see how you arrived at that conclusion. He was always challenging you – often in a fun, jovial manner.” Having inherited his parents’ creative genes, Davenport was multilingual, a sculptor, and he converted a church in Ohio into his house. Fraser considered Davenport an influential and impactful mentor. He has several of Davenport’s sculptures in his home and made Davenport the middle name of one of his children.

The Legacy Lives On

Fraser and Shaffer both believe they came back from Europe as completely different people. “When you realize there are churches in Rome five times older than America, that puts things in perspective for you,” Fraser said. “Very little in our life is black and white. Traveling abroad helps you get comfortable with the gray. Living in the gray allows you to not think of everyone as good or bad, but just different. It helps you understand that we’re all in this together.”

Fraser and Shaffer attribute much of this greater understanding to Davenport and they want his legacy to continue.

“Mr. Davenport crafted and built a program that inspires many people who are doing more interesting and impactful things in life because of him and his influence,” Shaffer said. “We want the idea and curiosity of Mr. Davenport to live on.” And what better way to do that than through a scholarship in his honor.

“We think it’s important to support and perpetuate the Semester in Europe program because it stands out against study abroad programs that other universities offer,” Fraser said. “I think supporting and encouraging the program among the Northwood community is a duty of anyone who was part of the experience. It needs to carry on and more people need to have the study abroad experience. It’s transformational and foundational to who you become as an adult. That’s special.” Alumnus and current vice president of Advancement and Alumni Relations, Justin Marshall, participated in the Semester in Europe program two years after Fraser and Shaffer. He too sees the immense value in a study abroad experience.

“As individuals we have to appreciate the differences among us and learn to work with varying abilities, talents, and cultures so we can be useful to each other and create a stronger global community,” Marshall said. “Providing a student with the opportunity to travel beyond the borders of their own country exposes them to other ways of thinking and perspectives. They can now see through a different lens which makes them more capable leaders in a worldwide economy.”

One fall 2019 Semester in Europe student will receive the first Anthony Davenport Scholarship. Fraser and Shaffer encourage anyone who studied abroad or had the privilege of knowing Davenport to consider adding to the scholarship fund. Please contact Sherri Riepma, Family Program coordinator and Private Donor Scholarship coordinator at riepmas@northwood.edu to give or learn more.

The Power of Yes

On March 23rd, Northwood celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding. Faculty and staff marked the occasion with balloons, NU garb and a photoshoot.

On March 23rd, Northwood celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding. Faculty and staff marked the occasion with balloons, NU garb and a photoshoot.

“When I graduated from Northwood University in 2003, the campus that I left and the campus I came back to seven years later was dramatically different in a positive way,” said Justin Marshall who graduated in 2003 and has served as vice president of Advancement and Alumni Relations for three years. “The only way that happens is if alumni join together and make a decision to say ‘yes’ when asked to support their alma mater. I’ve seen firsthand what that means to this university.”

On March 22, 201 people said “yes” to the second annual Day of Giving. This one-day global online fundraising event is a chance for alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends to transform the lives of the young men and women who attend Northwood.

Day of Giving coordinates with Founder’s Day, a commemorative day to celebrate the University’s founders and philosophy. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Northwood’s founding, which will be celebrated throughout the year. Charitable gifts collected during Day of Giving support The Northwood fund. The fund benefits campus life, academic quality, faculty engagement, and areas of great need. Emergency scholarships, textbook support, Founders Garden, and experiential learning opportunities are all areas that have thrived with assistance from The Northwood Fund. Since last year, the number of donors more than tripled and giving increased by 325 percent. Brainstorming is already underway to encourage widespread participation throughout the alumni network.

“I’d love to see alumni who have never made a gift deciding that next year will be their first time to join in the fun of making a difference for a new generation of Northwood students,” Marshall said. “It’s a rewarding experience and an opportunity to invest in their degree and the growth of their alma mater.”