Michigan State University’s School of Packaging is getting an upgrade thanks to global packaging leader Amcor Ltd. Thanks to Amcor, the school is receiving more than 10 million in US dollars to go towards funding a packaging sustainability professorship at the school, as well as upgrading the programs building, which has not been upgraded since 1987. And as Amcor partners with Michigan State University, both the school and the company hope to create a more sustainable plastics packaging industry.
In this week’s blog post, we will discuss the various upgrades the school is getting, the professorship and the building renovation.
The program at MSU was started in the fall of 1952 as a discipline in the Department of Forest Products, with the first Bachelors of Science degree in Packaging awarded in March 1955. In 1957, the MSU Board of Trustees separated the Packaging curriculum from Forest Products and, with industry assistance and advice, established an independent School of Packaging.
By the late 1960s enrollment in the program. had risen to about 300 students. With that many students, new facilities needed to be built, and in 1964 the original Packaging Building was completed with funds from corporate and private donors. Major additions to the building were completed in 1986 after student enrollment peaked at a whopping 1000 students.
Today, the School has earned a world-wide reputation for leading the charge in packaging design, innovation and sustainability.
Amcor’s Transformative Gift
In August, plastic packaging company Amcor made a $10.8 million dollar donation to MSU’s School of Packaging. The reason, according to Amcor, is manyfold.
“Today, we have over 100 MSU graduates working at Amcor already.” Said David Clark, vice president of sustainability for Amcor. “We see this as an opportunity to make a long-term commitment toward developing a stream of talent, not just for our company but also the industry.”
Amcor also has the benefit of close proximity to MSU. Amcor Rigid Packaging is based in Ann Arbor, MI, while Amcor Flexibles North America is based near Chicago, IL, both mere hours away.
“The ability to have somebody close by who is advancing the thinking about more sustainable packaging and more sustainable packaging systems is something we’re really excited about,” Clark said.
Transforming the Packaging Program
With the money, MSU plans to bring on board an endowed chair, a professorship paid for by the endowment provided by Amcor, for sustainable packing.
“The endowment for a faculty position for sustainability and the circular economy,” said Matt Daum, director of the MSU School of Packaging, “represents Amcor’s shared commitment with MSU to excellence and innovation in the future of packaging.”
While half of the money will be going to the endowed chair, the other half will go to upgrade the school’s existing building on the MSU campus.
The building, which, as stated earlier, was last renovated in 1986, is due for an upgrade. Teaching methods have changed drastically since the 80s, and a portion of the money is set to renovate the building’s main classroom, that seats a mere 100 in a slightly outdated auditorium/stage setting.
According to Daum, MSU plans to transform it into a flexible learning area, with a level floor, movable furniture and the ability to use a variety of technologies including laptops, smartphones and smartboards.
The construction will also focus on other building renovations such as more office space for faculty, more laboratories and, eventually, more classroom spaces.
“…we want it (the building) to be inspirational”, said Daum, “to be a hub where this becomes the place to draw the best minds for packaging and business leadership to come and think though and innovate in the packaging sustainability area.”
Planning for a Bright Future
The partnership between Amcor and MSU is certainly exciting. With the collaboration, both Amcor and MSU hope to lead the way to creating solutions that effectively manage used plastics. Clark is particularly enthusiastic about the partnership and what it means for the future.
“We hope it inspires other companies to make similar contributions to both academics and other collaborations that are going to help our industry move forward with solutions,” he said.
With nearly 10,000 MSU packaging school alumni around the world, Daum also hopes that school alumni will learn of the upgrades and contribute to the future of the program.
And as more and more students graduate, Amcor is excited for the innovation and ground-breaking advancements they will bring, creating a more sustainable industry as a whole.
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