April 9, 2018
Topic: Campus News
When George Sprague joined the maker movement, it was not anywhere near where it is today.
Sprague’s involvement in the do-it-yourself community that incorporates technology in inventions started way before maker culture even had a name.
"When I went to undergrad (at Western Michigan University), for a while I was going to be a film major. One of the ways I paid my way through school was by working as a stagehand and also making props for film and theater," he said. Inspired, Sprague began toying with different media. Most recently, he learned how to make his own chainmail.
"At my core it boils down to seeing a skill, learning it and implementing it into creating something that you otherwise didn’t have before. What that builds into is about once a year, I end up making these overly elaborate Halloween costumes," he said.
Last year was no exception. Sprague and his wife dressed as Ghostbusters — characters from the movies about a team of parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business. His inspiration for his costumes comes from his time at the university.
For George Sprague, academic programs coordinator at the School of Information, a Halloween costume led to involvement with a "Ghostbusters" club. (Photo courtesy of George Sprague)
"One of the things that gave me a lot of exposure to a lot of the fun geek and nerd culture is working here at the university," he said.
However, Sprague’s costume made a bigger impact than he had expected.
"I was shoulder-tapped by a very vocal and enthusiastic Ghostbuster community in the greater-Detroit area. So my wife and I found ourselves joining a Detroit chapter of a Ghostbusters club," he said.
Club members combine their mutual love for Ghostbusters and philanthropy to help out in their community.
"We do charity events to raise funds for the Children’s Center in Detroit. We also go to Gleaner’s Food Bank and we visit Detroit’s Children’s Hospitals," he said.
Sprague’s participation in the maker movement is not just about elaborate costumes. He has also been able to satisfy his diverse interests by helping his friends in other innovative ways using his unique skills. One example is helping his best friend, the person who pushed him to visit maker spaces, and who helped him see the nuances of the culture.
"Before I knew it, the things that I was doing like making a prop or something like that suddenly turned into me making things like 3-D printed centrifuges for him for at-home DNA sequencing," he said. "It ended up taking something that I thought of more as a fun, neat artistic thing I do, and turned it into something much more formalized."
At U-M, Sprague is the academic programs coordinator at the School of Information, where he is in charge of providing academic support resources in areas of financial aid, academic success skills development and accommodation support for UMSI’s students.
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"The two biggest ways I work with students is on financial aid and finance access," he said. "What that boils down to is I work with students with existing scholarships, helping to connect students to external scholarships as well as scholarships within the university, and working with our travel grant program."
Besides helping students, Sprague also participates in various faculty committees, which he says he enjoys because, "Our faculty have just incredibly varied, unique, and fun interests and it tends to suit my personality."
He also attributes his favorite part of his job — his love of making connections with many different people — to his personality.
"I tend to be an eclectic person. So, having a position that supports my personal working style and affords me the opportunity to interact with different people is just very personally rewarding," he said.