Published: Feb. 12, 2001


Contact: University Relations (517) 355-2281, or


EAST LANSING, Mich. - The School of Packaging at Michigan State University, the first university in the world to offer degrees in packaging and the international leader in cutting-edge packaging research, is taking its master of science degree online.

MSU President Peter McPherson will announce the initiative in East Lansing Tuesday in his annual State of the University Address.

A class of 25 students is set to begin work on an online master's degree in packaging in March. Students can complete the 30-credit program without ever physically coming to the MSU campus. The first class, PKG 891, will provide a graduate-level course experience in the area of plastics in packaging. Other courses in the program will focus on timely issues in advanced packaging dynamics, permeability and shelf life of products, and stability and recyclability of packaging materials.

"The School of Packaging at MSU is the world's premier program," said Ron Iwaszkiewicz, a specialist in long-distance learning in the School of Packaging and director of the online master's program. "We believe that in order to maintain that status, and recruit the best, this is the next logical step to take."

The target audience for this Web-based, off-campus, distance learning program is students from other institutions of higher education in the United States and abroad and working professionals.

"I'm thrilled that MSU is offering the packaging master's online because I couldn't possibly earn it any other way," said Brett White, senior packaging engineer at National Instruments in Austin, Texas, and member of the master's class starting next month. "MSU is adapting to the changing needs of full-time workers seeking credible degrees from top universities."

Iwaszkiewicz expects the program to be most attractive to professionals who want more education but don't want to leave their jobs, as well as to would-be students overseas.

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

"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 of Packaging at MSU. "Almost all are from people currently employed who cannot take the time to seek resident instruction."

In addition to the master's program, the School of Packaging will be offering online certificate programs as well.

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

The overall economic impact of the packaging industry has been estimated at about $100 billion worth of materials that are used for packaging each year in the United States.

The School of Packaging at MSU supports the packaging industry by educating students who are interested in employment in the industry, by conducting research to solve packaging problems and develop new technology for use by the industry, and by providing adult education programs and other services to the industry.

Since its beginning in 1952, the school has conferred 5,400 bachelor of science degrees and 200 master's degrees. Today the school has about 500 undergraduate and 60 graduate students. Sixteen faculty members serve the needs of these students.

MSU currently offers 16 programs and more than 100 courses online. The classes range from noncredit continuing education courses to master's degrees. Total credit and noncredit enrollments have tripled over the last two years, and the number of courses has doubled since last year.