Cal Poly takes a different approach to packaging education

Packaging as an academic discipline in North America has been evolving ever since the first packaging program was launched in 1952 at Michigan State University. Over the past decades, numerous programs have evolved throughout North American colleges and universities, but Cal Poly’s Master’s and Certificate packaging programs, is offering a different approach.

Cal Poly’s ‘Learn by Doing’ approach to the ‘Packaging Value Chain’ has drilled to the core of packaging’s value proposition. Aside from the packaging minor, the packaging programs at Cal Poly have grown over the last 18 years. In 2003, the school only offered a packaging ‘minor’ and had limited equipment in the labs. The only faculty member then was Dr Jay Singh, who has marshalled the program since its inception and continues to spearhead the school’s initiatives into the future.

With the increasing demand for packaging education, and the support of the administration, Cal Poly has rapidly expanded its curriculum and its packaging team, upgraded its packaging laboratories, grown the program to become a ‘Concentration’ and now offers a Master’s degree and engaged with the industry towards support and research by launching a research consortium and eventually, a Center for Research.

In 18 years of growth that has paralleled that of the packaging industry, Cal Poly has launched two Concentrations: Packaging Technology and Consumer Packaging, increased the number of packaging courses by 360%, increased the number of faculty in the program, increased the number of students taking packaging courses by 220% and has produced packaging students who are winning 6-8 national and international competitions each year

The school has secured approximately $3m in equipment for its packaging labs through college support, industry donations, grants and personal contributions from the Packaging Advisory Board, which grew from 15 to 40.

Hundreds of students at the school are trained on a Kongsberg CAD table and Esko Packaging software, which was made possible through the donations of ICPF. They have also developed a Research Consortium, which has assisted the fresh produce industry with applied research since 2008 and received approval to create a Research Center for the Packaging Value Chain.


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