Are you a student looking for a powerhouse rugby program with career-focused majors, all on a small, intimate campus? If so, Davenport University may be your ticket!
Serving fewer than 10,000 undergraduate students (approximately 2,600 on the main campus in Grand Rapids, Mich.), Davenport specializes in three main areas of study: business, health and technology. As part of its “Vision 2015” plan, Davenport is building a program that would guarantee students who earned a degree land a job within their major. With skyrocketing rates of unemployment for recent college grads, this program may be the wave of higher education’s future.
The men’s and women’s rugby programs are supported by the school but are deemed non-varsity, because varsity teams at Davenport are NAIA sports. Semantics aside, the rugby teams operate like varsity squads with full access to resources of their NAIA counterparts. Sports Information Director Aaron Sargraves explained that the non-varsity teams like rugby and ice hockey receive the same resources as basketball or soccer.
In 2012, after only three years as a school-supported team, the men took home their second straight D1-AA national championship. DU added the varsity women’s rugby team in 2012 and new head coach Greg Teliczan looks to begin their run at a national title in the years to come.
On the men’s team, under the watchful guidance of head coach Kruger Van Biljon, students can expect an organized and thoughtful program. Coach Van Biljon’s philosophy is team oriented.
“[I] want players that are willing to go the extra mile not just for themselves but for their teammates and coaches as well. It's a varsity environment, and with all the rules and regulations for the rugby program, it takes a very motivated student-athlete to succeed.”
Whereas at other schools, players may have accidentally wound up on the rugby pitch, the Panther players are in large part now coming to Davenport specifically for the rugby program. The majority of the players are from the surrounding areas, but as the team’s notoriety begins to gain steam, Van Biljon noted there has been an interest from out-of-state prospects and even international students. One of the most well recognized players is JP Eloff from South Africa; RugbyMag.com’s 2012 College Player of the Year, also featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” in 2011.
Joe Marino was a student and player from 2009-2012 and part of the inaugural rugby season. When asked about his favorite part of being a part of the team, Marino excitedly explained all the perks.
“[Unlike club teams], you don’t pay any dues. Everything associated with rugby is provided for you including access to athletic trainers, athletic facilities, travel costs and all your training gear. Because we get so much support from the school, there is a lot of pride involved.”
To fully understand what it’s like, Marino asked prospective players to come and visit.
“You get out here and meet the team and the incredible coaches,” Marino said. “You see how the school and families are backing you up. It’s something true with rugby in general but at Davenport, [the support] helps you achieve all of your goals. After you graduate you’re successful.”
Davenport’s focus is on preparing its students for careers in one of three areas: business, technology and health. There are no lecture halls on campus, and classes are kept small for close relationships with professors; no T.A.s allowed! Close to 80% of its classes have 20 students or fewer (average class size is 14).
“I had come over as a transfer student and noticed quickly how the classrooms were smaller [than at my previous school],” Marino said. “You’re not a number here. You get personal attention from your teachers. My favorite part of being a student here is how everyone is so friendly and inviting. [The local town of] Grand Rapids has lots of employment opportunities and is a growing area.”
Marino enjoyed Davenport’s focus on giving students real-world experience, so they are prepared to hit the ground running upon graduation. The only downside at Davenport is they do have limited majors because of their key academic foci.
Acceptance rate is open at DU with about 93% of applicants gaining admission. High school applicants need a 2.0 GPA and an 18 on the ACT or an 870 on the SAT (combined Critical Reading and Math). There is no wavering on the 2.0, but if a student is slightly lower on their test scores, they may be able to take an assessment test for admittance. Either an SAT or an ACT score is required. Admission is on a rolling basis. There is no essay requirement, however, there may be essays requested for specific scholarships. Despite the high acceptance rate, Marino notes that this should not lead students to believe it’s not a challenging environment. Prospective students can apply via Davenport’s admission portal http://www.davenport.edu/office-admissions/apply-now.
Students can estimate $22,000-$25,000 for the year including tuition, fees, housing, and books. http://www.davenport.edu/office-admissions/cost-and-aid
DU awards more than $15 million in institutional and Foundation scholarships each year. DU offer scholarships for academics based on a student’s incoming GPA and test scores. For example, if you have a 3.75 GPA, a 31 on your ACT and a competitive essay, you could be eligible for the Gerald R. Ford Memorial Scholarship, which covers your full tuition and fees, on-campus room and board, study abroad, and textbooks.
For more scholarship opportunities check out: http://www.davenport.edu/financial-aid/types-financial-aid/scholarships-du/institutional-scholarships
DU also offers athletic scholarships for students based on academic ability and they can offer foundation scholarships for students based on a number of different criteria.
If you’re looking for a college that is career focused, offers competitive scholarships for your academics as well as a top performing rugby program, Davenport may be right for you!
For further information:
Davenport Rugby Web site: www.dupanthers.com – click on Rugby
Coach Kruger Van Biljon:
Coach Greg Teliczan:
Davenport Campus Video Tours:
Data and facts pulled from Davenport University rugby's Web site and Fiske Guide to Colleges 2012.