A portion of Leaders in Packaging revenue funds the $5000 Scholarship—awarded each year to an educational institution that prepares students for careers in packaging. Each recipient institution then selects a student or students to receive the funds to defray tuition and other education-related expenses in the next academic year. The 2018 scholarship was awarded to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
Since 1973, the department of packaging science at RIT has been preparing students for employment in areas such as package development, sales, purchasing, structural design, production, research, and marketing. The major was developed as a result of a close and long-established relationship between the packaging industry and RIT.
About 200 undergraduates and nearly 40 graduate students participate in the comprehensive packaging science program. According to Professor Carlos Diaz, RIT, one of the pillars of this program is its Packaging Dynamics Lab, a certified ISTA Test Lab, equipped to conduct distribution tests in accordance with ISTA and ASTM testing procedures. The Dynamics lab features equipment for simulated distribution tests such as vibration, shock, and compression.
A wide variety of standards and customized testing for clients from across industry are conducted in addition to being an academic resource for students. “The program also focuses on flexible packaging with its American Packaging Corp. (APC) center for packaging innovation,” he says. “This is a teaching, production, and research lab, all in one. It too employs upper level students involved in, primarily, plastics and innovative packaging research, but it also is used for teaching the engineering concepts needed in plastics materials testing.”
An outgrowth of this is the Center for Sustainable Packaging at RIT, sponsored by the Wegmans Family Foundation, which focuses on reduction of food waste, shelf life extension, and development of packaging systems that deliver sustainability.
Of note, RIT also offers minors in packaging science and flexible packaging that are frequented by industrial design students, graphic design students, engineering students, and more, all looking to expand their learning profile.
“Our seniors work on capstone projects that are frequently interdisciplinary,” Diaz says. “For instance, student from different backgrounds work together on problems like package redesign, or making packaging more accessible. This prepares them for real world experience, when our graduates will have to navigate working with other people in different disciplines.”
According to Diaz, the Future Leaders in Packaging Scholarship will be divided between two or three students who will be selected based on a combination of financial need and academic performance. “This way, we can ensure we’re impacting more than one student, but still providing a very meaningful scholarship.”