MSU Offers Unique Packaging Degree Online

June 5, 2002
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EAST LANSING — Anyone interested in bagging a master’s degree in packaging, or wrapping up one currently being worked on, can now do so online — simply by clicking on the virtual campus at Michigan State University.

MSU, the first university in the world to offer degrees in packaging, took its master of science program to the World Wide Web in March. Twenty-five students began working on their online degrees then, and can complete the 30-credit program without ever making a trip to the banks of the Red Cedar.

So why did MSU go the WWW route with the MS packaging program? It was simply a case of virtual reality.

“The School of Packaging at MSU is the world’s premier program. We believe that in order to maintain that status and recruit the best, this is the next logical step,” said the director of the online program, Ron Iwaszkiewicz.

The program’s first online class, PKG891, was a graduate-level course in the area of plastics in packaging.

Other offerings include advanced packaging dynamics, permeability and shelf life of products, and the stability and recyclability of packaging materials.

MSU began offering a packaging curriculum in 1952, and next year will mark the school’s 50th anniversary of training students for the industry.

Over those years, the packaging school has conferred 5,400 bachelor of science degrees and 200 master’s degrees. This year, the school has about 500 undergraduate students, while 60 are enrolled in the graduate program.

The program has a pretty diverse enrollment, too. MSU said students from countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas attend the school. Master’s graduates are more likely to go into education, research or management than production positions, and most students receive at least one job offer when they graduate.

A Ph.D. degree in packaging is also available from MSU.

In addition, the school established the Consortium for Distribution Packaging in 1990 to encourage basic and applied research, testing, and service in the field. It’s the only program that looks at the industry as a whole with the goal of evaluating new developments in the field, while collecting and disseminating information about it.

Iwaszkiewicz said the online master’s program is targeted to students at other institutions of higher learning and working professionals. MSU feels the program will be most attractive to professionals in the packaging industry who don’t want to leave their job to gain the education.

“The School of Packaging has received numerous requests for long-distance learning experiences from individuals, companies and institutes,” said Bruce Harte, director of the school at MSU.

“Almost all are from people currently employed who cannot take the time to seek resident instruction.”

“The degree requirements for both the on-campus and online programs are the same, ensuring the integrity of both programs,” added Iwaszkiewicz.

For more information, go to www.pkg.msu.edu and click on graduate studies.

MSU plans to expand its online packaging program. In addition to the master’s degree currently offered, Iwaszkiewicz said the school will also offer certificate programs online in the near future.

“We expect the certificate programs to appeal to those people who want to expand their knowledge base or an area of interest,” said Iwaszkiewicz, “but don’t have the desire to pursue an advanced degree.”

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