Category Archives: Faculty and Staff

Nancy Byers Sprague, Director of Graduate Degree Services

Woman standing outside

I genuinely care about students and I think that comes through the way I interact with students and the way I help some students not only professionally but personally. My spouse and I have a sailboat and we bring students on board all the time. We teach them a little bit about sailing and let them have that wonderful adventure in this beautiful part of the world. And they are always invited over for dinner or we take them out to eat. We have big group meals at Thanksgiving and Easter; we invite just about everybody and we have between 30 and 60 people. We make—mostly my partner makes—13 or 14 different dishes so people don’t have to bring anything unless they really want to; desserts are always welcome! We try to build community with students and other people in the area. My life really does revolve around students. I haven’t been working in the Graduate School my entire time at Michigan Tech, which has been 41 years, but in some ways, it’s been all 41 years that my life has revolved around students. Sailing and meals have been going on for a lot of that time. 

My dad was the head of the math department here for a while. Back that many years ago, 60 years or so, they didn’t have what you would call a robust menu for students who were in the residence halls who were vegetarian. So my dad invited some of the Indian students to our home and asked them to teach him how to cook like their mothers cooked. The students wrote home for recipes, my dad started to learn how to cook Indian food, and we’ve had friendships with Indian students in my parents’ home since I was one. 

Fun is a very good term to describe my life. My life is full of fun. I think—despite all of the philosophers and all of the really deep meanings in life that people propose or discover or realize—I think the meaning of life is to have fun. And my motto is anything worth doing is worth overdoing and my very decorated office is an example of my philosophy in action. It’s a wonderful life. 

Tyler Shelast ‘08 ‘15


Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan Technological University, National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified strength and conditioning specialist. Professional Hockey Player — 2008-2013.

During the school year, my job is more like 6 to 6 instead of 9 to 5. Sometimes teams work out four days a week, sometimes they go to two or three, it depends on the season. Getting to work with Michigan Tech athletes is the best part of my day.

My job allows me to teach and educate young athletes on the shortcomings I experienced when I was an athlete. I had a tough road and went through a lot of pain and suffering. My goal is to help these athletes learn and understand that they can take anything that’s thrown at them. I learned more from my downfall than I did from my success, and ultimately, those are the lessons I want to share with Michigan Tech athletes — to help them grow out of darkness.

In a week it’s groups, office time, more groups, practices, and then during the hockey season, I go on the ice for hockey practice daily and am there for the team at all the games. I can’t coach, but I play an integral part in hockey due to my former playing. I really like to work out, that’s probably my favorite thing, so I try to work out once a day.

I have a lot of pride in everything I do that is Michigan Tech because I want it to excel. I want us to be the best at everything. We’re kind of like a hidden little snowglobe type place, but we need to embrace that because it’s what makes us special. Michigan Tech’s a very proud school, so I feel lucky to have a hand in shaping our culture. There’s so much that goes into seeing student-athletes grow, I mean, that’s ultimately why I’m in it, why I love being here. I’m very fortunate to work with great people.

Darnishia Slade

Darnishia Slade stands holding the Bayard Rustin award.

I’m still floored about winning the Bayard Rustin award. Ya know that phrase, do what you would do when no one’s looking? For me to get the award from the students was the highest compliment and really powerful for me.

I currently work in Pavlis Honors College, and it’s a lot of fun. In my 13-plus years at Michigan Tech, I can’t remember the last time I worked. There are long days, hard days, and difficult days, but I can’t remember the last time I worked. It never feels like work for me. I get all of my energy from students. I feel like I secretly get more than I give (laughs). I learn so much, and I’m always challenged in new and different ways. Higher ed is my calling in life; I love being on a college campus. There’s always something going on, something to do, something to think about, something to dialogue about. I’m also one of the advisors for the Society of Intellectual Sisters (SIS) and I was a member when I was a student here. I’m very passionate about it, so I continue to serve in that capacity with the young ladies.

I’m working on a degree, studying mental toughness and persistence. I’m living it and studying it (laughs). A lot of mental toughness and persistence has been studied in top performing athletes or the military. Bringing it into an academic context is pretty cool. The big juicy question is how can we get away from “oh, they have the right GPA or the right SAT score.” There’s just so much more to people that causes them to be successful and I think we just need to look at that a little more. The reason why I am getting the PhD is to be at the table, to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice at the table; so it’s bigger than me. I do believe there’s a level of influence that happens from being at the right table.

I always say “you don’t go through Michigan Tech, Michigan Tech goes through you,” and it is truly an experience. I want to pay it forward every day. The experiences and the support I had as a Michigan Tech student transformed my life. #mtuhumans #mymichigantech #pavlishonorscollege #phdlife

Curt and Rachel Eikenberry

Two or three years ago when Curt was out for two months because of a disease, I found out we were called Grandma and Grandpa Wads.

I’m Curt Eikenberry and that’s Rachel. We’ve been here since 2013. We’ve seen a lot of ’em come and go. The joke was, we moved up here for our grandkids and now we’ve got a thousand of ’em!

Rachel: He’s got their names down. And because he traveled so much downstate in former work, he knows all the little teeny tiny towns.

Curt: Where the little towns are.

Rachel: A few years ago he asked a kid, “Where are you from?” Finally, the kid said “Twining,” and Curt said, “Well I know where that is. There’s a John Deere dealership…”

Curt: He went and got a whole bunch of friends from that town and said, “Do you know what? He knows where…” So then there was four of ’em that came and talked to me! But that’s part of what we do: by having two of us we let—if anybody needs to talk or wants to talk, we can.

Rachel: And they do want to talk. When it first started happening it was like—we looked at one another and said “I really didn’t need to know that. But they needed to get rid of it.” So we were the ears that heard it! And it has to be the two of us because during those two months that he was not here, I didn’t have time to do that kind of thing.

Curt: Something we do is try to watch for kids who are struggling and get ‘em hooked up with whatever. Sooner or later I’m not going to catch somebody; so far I’ve been able to catch everybody, as far as I know anyway. I’m sure there’s a lot of other stuff we don’t catch up on. We see ’em probably more than anybody other than their roommate on campus on any given day…

Rachel: …the kids that are in and out of here. In terms of what else we do, I crochet. In the summertime before Tech is out, we do a lot of gardening. We have been able to raise a lot of the vegetables that we eat so we don’t need to buy any: carrots, potatoes, red beets, rutabagas, spinach, green beans.

Curt: We used to go home during our break. Rachel: Now we nap [or read] downstairs.