Who We Are

Invent@NMU is a program of Northern Michigan University that has helped inventors take their ideas from napkin sketches to market launch since October 2014. While our roots are in product development, we’ve recognized many small businesses in the U.P. need a variety of assistance as well, and have recently expanded our services and capabilities to help these individuals too.  

Our mission is to provide students with phenomenal, real-world work experiences through the course of their education while also contributing to and supporting our regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Since inception, our four core goals have been to enhance student attraction, retention, placement after graduation, and to stimulate economic development in our community and region.

In July 2017, we partnered with Innovate Marquette SmartZone to enhance our organization’s connection to the community and offer even more business resources to you. The SmartZone’s multi-fold mission of start-up support, tech company acceleration, and innovation of the Marquette entrepreneurial ecosystem complements our program and allows for a greater range and depth of services to be offered to our clients.  This partnership is made possible by funding from the Michigan Education Development Corporation (MEDC).

 

Invent@NMU Student Teams

Our unique program gives students the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary, professional atmosphere, gaining real-world experience before they graduate. Our student teams consist of individuals from a variety of majors that may include business, design, engineering, and marketing, collaborate with the SmartZone’s professional mentors to help you navigate the best path to success for your idea. Collectively, these talented workers research competitive landscapes, design and make prototypes, create logos and packaging, build websites, source materials and manufacturers, and engage in marketing campaigns, just to name a few things.

The student employment program is not just an opportunity for them- it’s a benefit for you. Our student’s contribute fresh minds to the product and business development process and are eager to apply their creativity in a practical setting. If you are a student and are interested in joining our team, please drop off a resume and application.  We may not have a position posted, but we are always looking for talented individuals with unique skill sets!  We are always accepting applications!

Meet our creative student team:

Academic Accelerator

  • Stefani Vargas Harlan

    Stefani Vargas Harlan

    Stefani Vargas Harlan

    Academic Accelerator Researcher

    Stefani is Invent @ NMU’s graduate researcher. She is a second year graduate student in the Higher Education & Student Affairs program. In her free time, Stefani enjoys running Marquette’s only LGBT+ community organization for youth and hanging out with her fiancé and their dog Millie. After graduation Stefani hopes to continue her work with rural LGBT+ college populations by serving in an administrative position.

Marketing Team

  • Micah Carroll

    Micah Carroll

    Micah Carroll

    Marketing Assistant

    Micah is one of our Student Marketing Assistants. He is a sophomore at Northern Michigan University studying Environmental Public Relations with a minor in Art & Design. When Micah isn’t in the office, he’s climbing rock faces in the forests surrounding Marquette. After graduation, Micah hopes to work on environmental campaigns, telling stories that promote the conservation of wild places.
  • Olivia Ruuska

    Olivia Ruuska

    Olivia Ruuska

    Marketing Assistant

    Olivia is one of our Student Marketing Assistants. When she is not in the office, she enjoys drinking coffee, going on hikes and spending time at her camp where she is able to be out on the lake and enjoy the sunshine. She is a senior studying Marketing and hopes to work as a social media manager in a city similar to Marquette after graduation.

Design Team

  • Grant Norris

    Grant Norris

    Grant Norris

    Industrial Designer

    Grant is our current Industrial Designer studying Human Centered Design at Northern Michigan University. With a background in graphic design and woodworking, Grant also grew up working on small engines. He serves as the ambassador for the Board and Ski Club and enjoys snowboarding, skateboarding, fishing, camping, and constructing road bikes. After he graduates, Grant wishes to pursue an experience building position at a well known product or furniture design firm while doing freelance work, of which he hopes to evolve into his own firm someday.

  • Maddie Arquette

    Maddie Arquette

    Maddie Arquette

    Graphic Designer

    Maddie is a Student Graphic Designer here at Invent@NMU, who enjoys spending her time hiking around Marquette or in the garden with her nieces and nephews. Maddie also enjoys sketching and writing out stories that teach people about different mythologies and histories. After graduation Maddie wants to travel the world, study ancient cultures, and pursue a career that involves the preservation of World Heritage Sites or another position that advocates for cultural and environmental preservation.

  • Tiffany Nutt

    Tiffany Nutt

    Tiffany Nutt

    Graphic Designer

    Tiffany is a non-traditional NMU student in the school of Art & Design with a concentration in Graphic Design. As a creative, she enjoys engaging in Marquette’s art scene and photographing the beauty of the area. As an adventurer, she enjoys swimming and hiking with her husband and pup. In addition to experience as a reporter, writer, and graphic designer, Tiffany runs an up-and-coming wedding + elopement photography/videography business based in Marquette, MI.

Project Management Team

  • Cat Stenberg

    Cat Stenberg

    Cat Stenberg

    Project Manager

    Cat is a non-traditional senior studying Marketing. In her spare time she indulges in the practice of yoga and exploring the great outdoors. She is very passionate about environmental sustainability and self-sustainability. Her plans after graduation are flexible and open to the growth and opportunities she will endure over her last year of undergrad.

  • Josh Gosseck

    Josh Gosseck

    Josh Gosseck

    Project Manager

    Josh is entering his junior year as a Finance and Risk Management major with a concentration in Corporate Finance and Investments and a minor in Military Science. He is an Army veteran and is an active member in NMU’s ROTC program. His plan after graduation is to pursue a career in banking and serve part-time as an Officer in the Army National Guard. He enjoys spending his time with his wife and two dogs enjoying the outdoors and traveling.

Management Team

Our management team is comprised of professionals who are passionate about the development of student talent, entrepreneurial support, and the expansion of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Marquette and the Upper Peninsula.  Their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and networks lead to a wide range of capabilities and knowledge around product development and the entrepreneurial process.  

Meet the management team:

  • Ray Johnson

    Ray Johnson

    Ray Johnson

    Executive Director & Innovate Marquette SmartZone CEO

    Ray Johnson has over 20 years of start-up industry experience, with a duel role as the CEO of Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Executive Director of Invent@NMU. Ray has been involved in his own start-ups and has also coached and mentored other entrepreneurs in helping to launch new startups and has secured over $100 million in financing for new businesses. His own businesses have generated almost 200 international patents and trademark filings. Before moving to Marquette, Ray was a faculty-lecturer at the University of Colorado’s Deming School for Entrepreneurship and Director of the CU-Cleantech Center. In his free time Ray enjoys golfing, biking, and traveling.

  • Chad Leisenring

    Chad Leisenring

    Chad Leisenring

    Event Coordinator

    Chad is a Math and Computer Science guy with a love for the arts and the outdoors. An NMU grad, Chad is hoping to work on his Masters and would love to one day be a college math professor. In his downtime, Chad explores Marquette and the surrounding wilderness with his fiancé and two guinea pigs, Ludo and Luna.

  • Jason Schaen

    Jason Schaen

    Jason Schaen

    Project Management Lead

    Jason is the Project Management Lead at Invent@NMU and Innovate Marquette SmartZone, and oversees all of the projects that come through our door. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and is a 2017 graduate of NMU. In his free time, Jason loves doing a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. As an avid sports fanatic, he enjoys playing softball with friends and watching various sports.

  • Kristen King

    Kristen King

    Kristen King

    Principal Secretary

    Kristen King is the NMU Principle Secretary for Invent@NMU, but it’s not just our office that she manages. Kristen refers to herself as the “King Family Manager” and spends much of her time with her husband Steve and their kids Julia and Dylan bustling around for gymnastics, hockey, track, and soccer. In her free time, Kristen loves exercising, trying new recipes, and relaxing with friends. She also loves to organize, and can be found shopping, traveling, or somewhere in the sun.

  • Kylie Bunting

    Kylie Bunting

    Kylie Bunting

    Marketing Manager

    Kylie is another one of our Marquette natives, and carries her Yooper background with pride. After graduating in 2011 from NMU, she moved to Chicago and worked for 8 years in the public relations industry. In 2018, Kylie moved back to Marquette with her husband and became the Marketing Manager for Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Invent@NMU. She is an avid sports fan, founder of Barley’s Angels U.P., and teaches dance at New Attitudes Dance Studios. Kylie enjoys camping, four-wheeling, boating, and watching Bravo TV in her free time.

  • Paulette Perttunen

    Paulette Perttunen

    Paulette Perttunen

    Operations & Finance Administrator

    Paulette is a Marquette-born NMU graduate who is the Operations and Finance Administrator for Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Invent@NMU. She enjoys traveling and is looking forward to finding her roots while exploring the Finnish Arctic Circle. During summer free time, you can find her at her family’s cottage in Big Bay where she finds peace and serenity from beautiful Lake Superior. Long winter nights you will find her in front of the TV watching the train wreck that is Bravo TV with her bulldog, Marty the Meatball, and Charlie the cat.

  • Rachel Barra

    Rachel Barra

    Rachel Barra

    Program Manager

    Rachel was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula and is the Program Manager at Invent@NMU and Innovate Marquette SmartZone. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2016 with a degree in Entrepreneurship, prior to which she worked at Invent@NMU as a student Project Manager. Outside of work Rachel participates in competitive target archery, is learning Soo Bahk Do, acts as the awards secretary for the regional field archery association, and is on the board of Connect Marquette, Marquette’s young professionals network . She enjoys a good book and playing or listening to music, often with her two adorable cats curled up somewhere nearby.