Eastern Michigan University professor assists Grand Rapids firm in effort to create 20 million protective masks

Apparel, textiles and merchandising faculty member Julie Becker lends her expertise in major initiative to help out during COVID-19 crisis

Julie Becker, an associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising, is helping Applied Textiles make protective masks by developing the patterns and creating models and cutting files for the company’s industrial fabric cutter. A box containing the mask parts to be assembled is shown above.

YPSILANTI — An Eastern Michigan University professor is assisting a Grand Rapids company in its effort to create 20 million protective masks for state healthcare workers during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Julie Becker, an associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising, is helping Applied Textiles, a producer of textile products, in its initiative to create 20 million masks. Becker was asked by the company to develop the patterns for the masks in addition to creating models and cutting files for the company’s industrial fabric cutter.

“When Applied Textiles approached me to help them fulfill their order for 20 million cloth masks for our amazing frontline healthcare workers, I was eager to jump right in,” said Becker

Becker also worked with the company to locate additional support for the sewing assembly of the masks in the State of Michigan. Traverse Bay Manufacturing, a family-owned textile products business in Elk Rapids, Michigan, will partner with EMU to sew the cut parts that will be provided by Applied Textiles.

“Being able to partner with not one, but two like-minded local Michigan companies that are helping to fulfill the PPE shortage in our state is an honor, and we at EMU have been happy to help in all the ways that we can,” Becker said.

Becker joined EMU in 2011 as an assistant professor in the School of Visual and Built Environments before becoming an associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising in 2016.

A number of EMU Students from the University’s Fashion Marketing Innovation program are also helping throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. EMU junior Nakia Lemon is making masks as part of an internship at Ypsilanti-based Cotton Concepts, a design house, manufacturer and exporter of some of the finest home textiles made primarily out of cotton, jute and other natural fibers. Allison Menge, also an EMU junior, is making masks and donating them to a local pharmacy, and Mackenzie Arpi, an EMU alum that graduated this past week is making masks and donating them via door deliveries.

Additionally, FMI student Thomas Firth is making masks for St Joe's Hospital where his fiancé is a resident doctor, Ally Burgor is making and selling masks, and former EMU athlete and FMI student Jocelyn Sharpe is selling masks.

This initiative is just one of many ways in which EMU is working to help local communities during the health crisis.

Engage@EMU, the University’s outward facing office charged with cultivating relationships, initiating and/or coordinating community and business partnerships and programs, is leading the charge on the more than 100 EMU community members making masks, parts for face shields or face shields.

Other efforts include opening up housing units in the Village complex for St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital staff in order to self-isolate following shifts treating patients, loaning its three 60-gallon washing machines and four dryers in the Student Athlete Performance Center to the hospital to help with its massive daily laundry load, and donating more than 100,000 pieces of cleaning and protective equipment to the hospital.

EMU graduate nursing students, staff and alumni are also working at various area Coronavirus drive-through testing sites.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

April 29, 2020

Written by:
Morgan Mark

Morgan Mark