A New Home for Growing Graduate Programs


campusgrowth_photo5May’s dedication of the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management building unveiled another symbol of Northwood’s commitment to its mission and community. The 26,000-square-foot building raises the profile of the university, providing a fitting home for the university’s growing graduate program with, today, more than 300 students.

Its custom construction and innovative design continue the legacy of local architect Alden B. Dow, complementing other campus buildings and providing flexible learning spaces designed for modern teaching.

campusgrowth_photo7The DeVos building contributes more to Northwood than just additional learning space.

“There is comfort in knowing that what we do here today will continue to resonate for many years to come,” said Keith Pretty, Northwood’s President and CEO. “This building will stand strong as an icon of advanced learning, and the many students who pass through these doors will go out into the world with an equally strong foundation, willing and able to build a world of freedom and prosperity.”

GM/DeVos Executive MBA Program


The DeVos Graduate School of Management is proud to showcase our newest program: the GM/DeVos Executive MBA program. On January 13, 2014 we launched this innovative partnership program with General Motors.  


  • 30-months & 36 credit hours
  • Online course offerings along with six week-long onsite residencies 
  • Interactive case-study learning
  • Immediate application to workplace
  • Participation in system-wide MBA simulation event


Building upon the graduate school’s previous automotive industry-specific expertise (Dealership & Automotive Aftermarket Executive MBA programs), this partnership program is designed to educate and transform leaders and future leaders from GM Dealerships and Corporate Sales and Service.  Staying true to our differentiators, our time-tested problem-based learning methodology continues to transform the way our students think and act as they hone their personal effectiveness, critical thinking, and business acumen skills.  This partnership program includes exclusive interaction, collaboration, and team-teaching with leaders from GM. Dr. Lisa Fairbairn, dean of the DeVos Graduate School of Management, explains “Given the specialized nature of this program, we are able to customize some elements of the program for a more robust learning experience.  Automotive-specific cases and readings comprise approximately 20% of the curriculum and each student will complete a capstone project focused on their business that creates a minimum $50,000 EBITDA savings. Another integral component of this corporate program is that students learn from each other and share GM and industry best practices.”

GM/DeVos Executive MBA Inaugural Cohort - Each individual brings both a wealth of experience and vibrant energy that make this group very dynamic on a variety of fronts.  Initial conversations with them revealed that most, if not all, of these professionals did not graduate from college with the ultimate dream of working in the automotive industry.  In this cohort, you will find students with bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, materials engineering, secondary education, and economics. Many just happened to stumble upon the opportunity to work at a dealership after college expecting it to be a temporary stint. They quickly discovered that with a bit of hard work and dedication one can quickly move their way up in this competitive industry.

Despite the fact that this industry has primarily been dominated by males, this cohort that consists of eight men and six women and is a great example of how the field is evolving. Most of these individuals have experience in various areas of the dealership including sales, service, finance, insurance, and information technology. There are also three individuals that bring a unique perspective that work directly for General Motors. Of the fourteen students, only three are from Michigan.  Others have joined us  from different states across the country including California, Montana, Washington, South Carolina, Florida, and New York to name a few. Their first onsite residency was February 10th – 15th in Troy, Michigan. In addition to the wealth of information gained in the classroom, these students were able to interact with Mr. Steve Hill, Vice President of U.S. Sales and Service, and tour GM corporate headquarters.

The GM/Northwood University Partnership - In early 2012, Northwood University and General Motors began discussions to develop a series of programs for General Motors dealers, their employees, and corporate staff serving the General Motors dealer network. General Motors chose to partner with Northwood due to our long tradition of excellence in educating General Motors’ dealers and their key management employees.  Through a series of meetings with General Motors staff (led by Chris Bower, Senior Manager for Sales, Service and Learning at the General Motors Learning Center), General Motors’ dealers, faculty, and staff from Northwood University’s undergraduate and graduate programs…the partnership formed and took root.

We are pleased to report that we have finalized and executed a partnership with General Motors called the “GM Retail Professional Development Curricula”. We are very proud that three Northwood University alumni GM Dealers Chris Gaunce, Jason Brickl, and Paul Stanford played key roles in program development. The program is flexible and appeals to a broad segment of automotive professionals. There are three core offerings for participants to pursue within the Retail Professional Development. Each features a tailored curriculum to engage and challenge participants and help them critically learn, grow, and actively apply their learning in the retail automotive environment.


The offerings are:

  • GM/Northwood University Advanced Leadership Program (began Summer 2013)
  • Northwood Automotive Marketing Bachelor of Business Administration Degree (began Fall 2013)
  • GM/DeVos Graduate School Executive Master of Business Administration Degree (first cohort began January 2014)

Depending on the level of education and academic attainment desired, Retail Professional Development allows participants to select a tailored approach that best meets their professional goals.  Whether the aim is to develop specialized skill sets or earn a bachelors or MBA degree, Retail Professional Development provides educational opportunities that have a direct application to the retail automotive environment.

We have had over 1,500 inquiries via our website and strong early enrollments in all programs including the Executive MBA.

For more information on:

Executive MBA program, please contact Nicole Keel at keeln@northwood.edu

Advanced Leadership Program of the Automotive Marketing BBA, please contact Brett Blythe at

blytheb@northwood.edu - Lisa Fairbairn, Timothy G. Nash, Nicole Keel

DeVos 20 Year Celebrations


  DeVos’s - 20 Major Milestones in 20 Years

On October 19, 2013 NU family and friends gathered system wide to commemorate the DeVos Graduate School’s 20th anniversary—including its top accomplishments.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 1993 [/symple_box]

  • Classes began in Michigan with 63 students starting their MBA studies in Midland, Lansing, and Troy.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"]1994 [/symple_box]

  • Received a significant grant from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation allowing the establishment of the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management. As Dr. DeVos explained, the purpose of the gift was “to perpetuate the education of business leaders with an understanding of democratic and compassionate capitalism.”

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 1995 [/symple_box]

  • Business Week listed the Northwood MBA program as one of the “Top 20 Executive Programs in the Country.”

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 1997 [/symple_box]

  • The Automotive Hall of Fame building was remodeled to house the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 1998 [/symple_box]

  • DeVos programming expanded to include a full-time MBA program.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 2001 [/symple_box]

  • Launched first corporate-centered MBA program with the Hantz Group.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 2002 [/symple_box]

  • Launched a partnership with Dow Chemical providing the DeVos MBA for their future leaders.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 2005 [/symple_box]

Took the full-time MBA program across the Atlantic to beautiful Montreux, Switzerland.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 2008 [/symple_box]

  • The Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation provided yet another generous gift to build state-of-the art facilities to house future MBA programming on our residential campuses and to remodel and upgrade our flagship Michigan facility.
  • Developed and launched a Dealership Executive MBA program.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 2009 [/symple_box]

  • Began offering the MBA program on the Cedar Hill, Texas campus.
  •  Developed and launched the Automotive Aftermarket MBA.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"] 2010 [/symple_box]

  • Began offering the MBA program on the West Palm Beach, Florida campus.
  • Expanded our Michigan presence to include Grand Rapids as an MBA location.

[symple_box color="blue" text_align="left" width="100%" float="none"]2013 [/symple_box]

  • Built new learning spaces in the Lansing and Troy, Michigan locations.
  • Added the Weekend MBA option at all locations.
  • The Graduate School gained expanded authority from our accrediting body to offer additional, business-related master’s degrees.
  • Developed and launched online Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.
  • Developed and launched the Executive MBA for GM dealers and field employees.
  • We are thrilled to have over 2,000 alumni.


DeVos Graduate School celebrates 20th Anniversary


This year, The Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management is celebrating its 20th anniversary of teaching both aspiring and experienced business leaders to master sound business understanding and management in areas such as marketing, finance, leadership, and strategy. Dr. Lisa Fairbairn, the current dean of the DeVos Graduate School of Management, thought it would be interesting and insightful for all the DeVos deans to share highlights, milestones, and perspectives—including her own—from their tenure.

Dr. Bob Serum

Dr. Bob Serum was the first dean of the program that would later be named The Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management.

“Discussions about the need for a graduate school began early among Drs. David Fry, Edgar Madden, and me.  In 1989, I was asked to move into the position of dean of University College and to begin working on an MBA proposal to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.  Dr. Fry and VP of Finance Don Hunkins would meanwhile pursue Michigan licensure, which came quickly as a consequence of the merger of Detroit and Mercy College.  In effect, Mercy sold us their Charter (with State concurrence), effectively giving us authority to offer any degree.

In the meantime, we had made a decision that, assuming we’d be approved, we would offer our first classes in January of 1993, though as of December 1, we had hired no faculty.  I quickly organized teams of Northwood interviewers and brought in one outside interviewer…Dr. Leo Erickson of Central Michigan University, who had a career at Chrysler and an Michigan State University Ph.D.  I had collected about 50 resumes and we identified four we thought could chair each of four areas:  management, marketing, finance, and economics.  To my great dismay, one applicant backed out at the last minute and the teams rejected two of the three remaining, unanimously approving Jared Lobdell, whom we quickly hired.  Now, in the second week of December, we got another handful of applicants and decided that Dr. Fry and I would interview Richard Miller.  We liked him and also hired him.  I then told Fry I’d gotten another resume I liked from a man named Bill Busby. Fry was going to be away, so he decided I should invite Busby and hire him if I liked him.  He came, I liked him and hired him.  Busby also suggested we just proceed with three people at the beginning, and that seemed reasonable, given the time left.

I was very pleased all three faculty moved to Midland right away in mid-December.  To my further surprise, they wanted to revise the program with some of their ideas immediately, before the first classes were offered.  We agreed, and they dug in with a vengeance.  I was pleased they liked my broad notion of a simulation, but I think they made it superb.  All three were also committed to the case method, a process Miller led.  The thesis was promptly dumped, and the first classes met in January as planned.”

Dr. Bill Busby

The next dean to serve DeVos was Dr. Bill Busby, who was also part of the graduate school’s original three faculty members.  He reflected on some important milestones under his leadership:

Classes started with 63 students across four evening locations in Midland, Flint, Troy and Lansing, Michigan. We graduated our first class of 20 students two years later.

In 1996, Business Week identified Northwood’s MBA as one of the top 20 in the country.

In 1997, a generous donation from Richard DeVos turned the Automotive Hall of Fame building on our Michigan campus in Midland into the newly named Richard M. DeVos Graduate School of Management.

In 1998, a full-time MBA program was started and in 2005, this program was expanded to Montreux, Switzerland.

Dr. Tim Nash

Dr. Tim Nash succeeded Bill Busby as dean, and like Bill, Nash’s tenure entailed many successes including the creation of new learning methodologies and strategies along with corporate partnerships. Among his personal highlights, Nash was particularly honored to lead an institution bearing Richard DeVos’s name.

“It was an honor to lead the DeVos Graduate School of Management because our namesake, Richard M. DeVos, is one of this country’s great entrepreneurs and business leaders, an icon and personal hero of mine. Mr. DeVos is the epitome of everything that is good in America and the free-enterprise system.”

Nash also prized the opportunity to partner with his NU colleagues.

“It was wonderful to work with Dr. Lisa Fairbairn and Dr. Bill Busby as the two of them developed our unique and powerful methodology for teaching ‘Line-of-Business’ and ‘Corporate Strategy.’ It’s wonderful to see how the brilliance of conceptual strategy models developed and taught by your colleagues transform industry and students across the United States and globally.”

Other highlights from Nash’s tenure include:

• Working with Northwood alumnus John Hantz, Drs. Busby, Fairbairn, and Matt Bennett, to develop and implement NU’s first corporate- centered MBA program with The Hantz Group in 2001.

• Working with Dr. Frank Morgan and the leadership of The Dow Chemical Company (beginning late in 2002), as well as Drs. Busby, Fairbairn and Behring to develop and deliver a world-class cohort-based Executive MBA program with The Dow Chemical Company and The Hantz Group.  

• Development of the DeVos Graduate School’s Automotive and Dealership Executive MBA programs.

• Working with Drs. Busby, Fairbairn and trustee, Kathy Vertin to design, conduct, write and deliver the findings of a $300,000 research on the subject of inventory control and parts proliferation in the U.S. motor equipment aftermarket.

Dr. Lisa Fairbairn 

Dr. Lisa Fairbairn was named the fourth dean of DeVos in 2009. Building on the foundation laid by Drs. Serum, Busby and Nash, she reflected on some of the important milestones under her leadership.

“Launching the Daytime and Evening MBA programs on the Texas and Florida campuses, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, was very significant. Expanding our MBA program to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area in a new state-of-the-art facility has also been a highlight.

New facilities for our students in Lansing and Troy, Michigan have made for a more prominent presence in these Michigan markets. These centers are cutting edge in terms of functionality and technology, and are quite distinctive.  This really signifies our commitment to innovation in learning and design that is targeted to the needs of individuals’, organizations’ and businesses’ overall success.

As a global business university, it is imperative we provide current and future students with a high quality education that includes an elevated level of flexibility and the best learning environment possible.  In early 2013, we added the Weekend MBA option to our our Daytime and Evening program.  This opened our MBA up to a whole new demographic of students.  On a broader front, we have gained expanded authority from the Higher Learning Commission, to offer additional business-related master’s degrees.  Under the guidance of Associate Dean, Dr. David Rausch, the DeVos Graduate School will be offering an online Master of Science in Organizational Leadership this fall.  This takes our footprint beyond the MBA and opens the doors for students outside our traditional geographic markets to earn a DeVos master’s degree.”

In summary, all the deans agreed while some aspects of the DeVos Graduate School have evolved and changed, the core attributes of the school endure. These foundational aspects include: emphasis on students mastering skills necessary for leadership and management, problem-based learning, a simulation as the capstone integration experience, strong emphases on student contribution, cases and applied learning—and the mentality that the process of learning is just as important as the content learned.  It is exciting to envision what the next 20 years will look like!

- Story idea and organization, Dr. Lisa Fairbairn

Watch NU Alumni Page 

www.northwood.edu/alumni/ for details regarding the 20 Year DeVos Graduate School Celebration on October 19, 2013.

New Adult Degree Program & DeVos Center


Northwood University opened the doors to a new state of the art facility in Troy, Michigan on March 21. The launch was the culmination of Northwood’s efforts to continue to provide dynamic programming and learning environments to aspiring business leaders throughout Southeast Michigan. The new center is located at 1500 West Big Beaver Road in Troy. According to Keith A. Pretty, president and CEO of Northwood University, “This dynamic new facility will serve a diverse group of graduate and nontraditional undergraduate business students throughout the region in our efforts to further develop the future leaders of a global free-enterprise society. Furthermore, sharing this facility with a comprehensive financial services firm like Rehmann made great business sense. We have enjoyed working with this organization throughout the years and placing graduates of our business programs in the company.”

This expansion in Troy further signifies Northwood University’s commitments to innovation in education and design aimed at economic, business, and community success. The 8,000 square foot center features innovative classroom technologies, executive conference space, and an extensive pod learning environment aimed to drive student and faculty interaction which will result in an exemplary student experience.  

The Troy Center will deliver MBA courses through Northwood University’s DeVos Graduate School of Management, as well as undergraduate courses for adults seeking to earn a bachelor’s degree in one of several business majors. With evening, weekend, and online classes available, Northwood provides quality delivery options to students at any level of their career.

According to Dr. Lisa Fairbairn, dean of Northwood’s Richard DeVos Graduate School, the center will serve the growing educational needs of leaders throughout the region and state. “As a global business university, we need to provide current and future students with a high quality education that includes an elevated level of flexibility and the best learning environment possible,” she stated.

- Dr. Matthew Bennett

DeVos Alumni Lead Northwood into the Future


Since its inception in 1993 over 1,859 students have graduated from Northwood University’s DeVos Graduate School, including 12 who work for University today. Dr. Lisa Fairbairn, dean of the DeVos program, recently interviewed these alumni-leaders about how their education serves their work today and what they would share with anyone considering completing their MBA at Northwood.   How does your DeVos education serve you in your position?

Tracie Wood, Program Center Manager-ADP, Michigan Campus

It not only gave me the business acumen I need to communicate effectively, but it also taught me the importance of self-reflection and personal effectiveness. The professional network that I established is an invaluable resource both professionally and personally.

Matt Bennett, Director of Admissions-ADP, Midland

It provided a sound foundation that decisions have impact beyond my immediate job scope or responsibility.  Specifically, I must continually see things from a “helicopter” view and be conscious of all of the key stakeholders, and how my decisions or efforts may impact others.

Bridget Eklund, Regional Marketing & Admissions, Grand Rapids

The DeVos education has already transformed my life both personally and professionally.  I now have a have a stronger understanding of myself and others, the confidence and knowledge to solve problems and make decisions, and most importantly the ability to add value to almost any situation.

Rachel Valdiserri, Director of Enrollment Analytics, Michigan Campus

The program enhanced my critical thinking to conduct logical analyses, apply processes to my coursework and, ultimately, my position at Northwood. Since all classes are integrated, my perspective became clearer as to how our organization’s disciplines should work in sync.

Georgia Abbott, Director, Alden B. Dow Creativity Center, Michigan Campus

Three things strike me: Active listening—being a better listener—and critical thinking, problem solving, and root cause analysis.

Running the Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise (ABDCCE), which is a system-wide support to the university, requires me to be open and flexible in understanding the customer base: current students, faculty, and area business leaders in the community.  I have enhanced facilitation skills from being a part of the DeVos program and learning how to listen well and give feedback.

I have used the critical thinking skills acquired through the DeVos to better navigate the organization towards grow the center and its focused expertise for the university.

Amanda Swafford, Assistant Academic Dean, Michigan Campus

As Assistant Academic Dean I have found that my DeVos education serves me every day.  Most importantly, DeVos taught me to value lifelong education and to love the process of learning.  Now, as a higher education professional, it is my job to impart this value in my students.  In addition, DeVos instilled in me the importance of leadership.

Michael Anguiano, Dean of Students, Texas Campus

The most valuable learning outcome I had personally was learning the value and importance of relationships. Developing this understanding is inherently built in the cohort model as you grow with other classmates. It also becomes evident in the cases you review and the solutions you develop.  It is this kind of holistic thinking that makes leaders effective.

Celeste Lindell, Corporate Relations & Graduate Advisor, Texas Campus

When I consider how my DeVos MBA degree benefits me in my current role at Northwood, it is the challenge of creative problem-solving that I utilize the most.  I enjoy thinking “outside the box” to find new solutions to situations that present themselves.

What would you tell potential DeVos students about how they would benefit in going through the DeVos MBA program?

Amanda Swafford, Assistant Academic Dean, Michigan Campus

One of the most important things for potential DeVos students to know is that the program does not solely teach you to be a business professional; it also guides personal transformation and helps you discover your full leadership potential.

Celeste Lindell, Corporate Relations & Graduate Advisor, Texas Campus

In my current role I have a unique opportunity to share stories and provide examples to prospective students that explain how each individual can grow by thinking critically and creating new solutions to issues that can develop in a professional setting.  In any work environment in any industry, leaders appreciate when their team members can solve an issue or improve a process with a new solution.

Matt Bennett, Director of Admissions-ADP, Midland

I tell them that if they want to be a manager, they should look at other program options.  However, if they want to lead people and organizations, then this program will assist them in developing the tools and skills to do just that!  Rather than learn about tactics and techniques on how to lead, DeVos students engage their faculty and their peers to practice and refine their leadership style.  This is invaluable when they apply this same learning to their job or life!

The Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management is planning a 20th Anniversary celebration for October 19, 2013.  Details will be posted soon on www.northwood.edu/alumni


- Interview, Dr. Lisa Fairbairn. Editing, Barbara Hummelle and the editors.