Meet Management: Design Coordinator, Eric Prue

Invent@NMU prides itself in providing Northern Michigan University (NMU) students professional work experience. Working with real clients and developing products prepares them for the workforce. Eric Prue is a prime example of students finding their way through Invent@NMU. A former Invent@NMU employee, Eric now works full-time for Innovate Marquette SmartZone, where he mentors the next generation of NMU students. From student Human-Centered Designer to Design Coordinator, this is the story of Eric Prue.


Eric was born and raised in the small town of Amherst, New Hampshire- over a thousand miles away from Marquette. The first memories he has of Michigan are visiting his family’s lake cottage in the Lower Peninsula. The vacation has been an annual trip since his early childhood. Besides family vacations to Beulah, Michigan, Eric is connected to the mitten state through his mother, aunt, and uncle, who all graduated from Northern Michigan University in the 1980’s. With many ties to Michigan and NMU specifically, Eric naturally found himself living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Eric fell in love with Marquette upon arrival. When he took his first glance at Lake Superior, he had no trouble calling this lakeside college-town home. His love for the area continued to grow with his passion for skiing during his first winter in the U.P. Eric still spends many of his winter days skiing at Marquette Mountain or even up at Mount Bohemia in Houghton, where he’s come to make many memories with classmates and friends.

“I came from an engineering based background, I learned that the idea is to make something work, but then be able to make it look presentable.”
Eric originally declared his major in Mechanical Engineering Technology. His sophomore year, he made the switch to Human-Centered Design. Eric believes this switch was exactly what he needed and he hasn’t looked back since. Eric excelled in Human-Centered Design courses due to his innate interest in the subject and desire to learn. While he was focusing on his education at NMU, Eric was also employed as a Human-Centered Designer at Invent@NMU. He graduated from Northern Michigan University in May of 2021 with a Bachelor’s in Human-Centered Design, with two years of job experience under his belt from his time at Invent.



Learning to fail has been a critical part of Eric’s growth as a professional. Eric believes there is a valuable lesson in failure and this belief has been reinforced through his professional experience. “The process of learning is crucial and it was important for me to fail early and as often as possible, your first idea is your worst idea.” says Eric. 

Eric had actually applied for a Human-Centered Design position at Invent@NMU in 2018 and didn’t get the job. This simply could have been the end of Eric’s story with Invent@NMU, but a young and eager Eric Prue was now more motivated than ever. Eric viewed his failed application as a teaching opportunity – a way for him to reflect and improve after rejection. It paid off when he reapplied and got the job a year later. Eric attributes this “learning from failure’’ mindset to his high school teacher, Mr. Swift, who was a role model for him. Learning from failure has proven to be critical to his success.


As a Human-Centered Design major, Eric was excited to take 3D printing classes and work with advanced equipment at NMU for the first time. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to work with the 3D printers like he had hoped. Although he had minimal experience with 3D printers, Eric was eager to learn-even if that meant teaching himself. While in COVID-19 lockdown, Eric purchased a 3D printer of his own. Through trial and error, and a lot of patience, he taught himself how to build and operate his own 3D printer during the pandemic.



One of Eric’s biggest influences was his dad. Eric’s dad Walter “Skip” Prue was a Project manager at TJ Mccartney’s for over 3 decades. Eric recalls bonding with his dad through working on hands-on projects with him at a young age. Sometimes, Eric and his father would run out of projects so he would have Eric dismantle old VHS tapes and see if he could figure out where the pieces went to get the tape to work. This new concept of taking things apart and putting them back together was something that fascinated Eric at a young age. While most kids play with fire trucks or building blocks, Eric was busy taking apart VHS tapes with screw drivers. When Eric turned 10, he recalls one of the most memorable Christmas gifts he received, his own workbench. Eric’s workbench proved to be a valuable gift as he continued to tally countless hours spent at it working on his projects through high school up until he moved to Marquette for college. These unique memories Eric has are where he discovered his passion for designing and engineering. In highschool, Eric dedicated much of his freetime to the Robotics team where he learned what it meant to work with others in his field. Eric’s devotion to his coursework and extracurriculars is what earned him the Engineering Excellence Award during his senior year at Souhegan High School.
As Eric continues his journey into his professional career, he can’t help but look back at what got him here. Eric believes in giving back and paying homage to the things that guide his journey. Post graduation, Eric plans to continue to work at Innovate Marquette Smartzone mentoring students, while also helping to grow NMU’s Human Centered Design program.


Upon graduating from NMU, Eric continued his work with Invent@NMU through its parent organization, Innovate Marquette SmartZone. Innovate Marquette offered Eric an internship position through the Ann Arbor Spark MI STEM Forward program. MI STEM Forward matches STEM-focused graduates with innovative companies in their field. Innovate Marquette is a proud affiliate of MI STEM Forward internships in the Upper Peninsula. Eric’s internship with Innovate Marquette Smartzone through Ann Arbor Spark’s MI STEM Forward program allowed Eric to work in a professional position in his field straight out of college and led to him landing his full time Design Coordinator role at Innovate Marquette Smartzone. Eric’s STEM Forward Internship was instrumental for his smooth transition from college graduate to his Design Coordinator role at Innovate Marquette Smartzone. Eric’s skills and passion for design paired with his ability to guide students is what makes him a perfect fit for the job as he serves as a great role model for student employees at Invent@NMU. Eric, a Northern Michigan University product, has already had a great, positive impact on the Marquette area and his future continues to brighten.

“I’m excited about the unknown. As a designer, it’s like being able to work in so many different fields at once. The field of innovation is always changing and I am always able to learn new things.”