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Developing global awareness

As globalization continues and the world becomes increasingly integrated—as seen through increased immigration, cross-border trade, and investment—how is it best to prepare students to function in this reality?

One way the School of Packaging at Michigan State University is focusing on is a renewed emphasis on study abroad programs.

School of Packaging Academic Specialist Gayle Cohen notes the study abroad program is an excellent opportunity for students at various stages of their academic career. “Students who are early on in their program get a really comprehensive view of the industry and can start thinking about future career paths,” Gayle said, “and students who are preparing for graduation are able to reflect on their own experiences and compare them to what they see abroad, enhancing their global view.”

As Shelby Robinson, a Junior at the School of Packaging and recent participant in one of the School’s study abroad programs, states: “By witnessing almost each and every type of material and process, I have obtained a solid foundation that will increase my ability as a student at Michigan State, my effectiveness as a future Co-Op, and my potential as a future packaging professional.”

Engaging highly motivated students outside their comfort zone can be a rewarding experience for both the student and the instructor. Interacting with students during a study abroad develops four skill areas in the students. Their intellectual side is stimulated as they are exposed to people who process information differently than they do. Their professional side is strengthened as they can gain a sense of direction for their future career. Their personal side is developed through increased confidence, a strengthened sense of personal identity, flexibility, and creativity. And lastly their inter-culture knowledge is developed.

Experiencing understood concepts in a different setting helps reinforce the experience. Because of the small group size, we’re able to get on the plant floor of many of the companies that are visited. This allows students to see the processes and materials up close, and it provides an understanding that is sometimes difficult to portray in the classroom using videos or still pictures. And learning these concepts in a different country allows us to stress the importance of critical thinking from a global perspective.

Upon returning to the U.S. after her study abroad experience, Robinson had this to say: “One major theme that emerged from the diverse range of packaging facilities we visited and the packaging professionals who lectured is that the full life cycle of the package is extremely important. I was able to appreciate every stage of a package’s life cycle, and this approach will make me knowledgeable and effective in my future career.”

Ronald A. Iwaszkiewicz II is Placement Coordinator, School of Packaging, MSU, and can be reached at

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