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A Holistic Packaging Education

By Julie Rice-Suggs, Ph.D.

May 18, 2023

Security questions. We all know them; we all forget them. But answers to questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What was the name of your first pet?” or “What was your first car?” are seared into our brain so we can avoid the hassle of resetting the account. For me, the question asking for a childhood hero is my favorite because it makes me think of my dad—my forever hero. Why not Batman, Wonder Woman, or the wholesome Mr. Rogers, you might ask? Well, not to discount any of these heroes, but my dad shaped my views from a very early age on what I believe is one of the most empowering experiences to seek—education.

When I was growing up, my dad was constantly pulling wide-ranging subjects into our conversations. He was insistent that learning about everything around you is the key to understanding the bigger picture of life. This broad worldview translated to me attending a liberal arts college—in my dad’s footsteps, of course—where I took a variety of classes such as history, literature, theater, writing, philosophy, and chemistry. The classes were interdisciplinary, holistic examinations of a sweeping range of topics that allowed me to see the interconnectedness of the subjects, with learning seamlessly flowing from one class to the next through seemingly very different coursework.

Keeping that train of thought, let’s apply it to you amazing folks in the corrugated industry because this same worldview is just as relevant when it comes to packaging education. As skilled professionals in the corrugated realm, you are well versed in all things corrugated—from understanding the composition of the material to the specific flute type best suited for various applications. You speak the language of corrugated board. However, at the Packaging School, we invite you to become a bit more “packaging agnostic” in your educational approach. We believe that to do your job effectively and efficiently as a corrugated expert, you need to speak the language of packaging as a whole.

What would that look like in practical terms? Let’s say you work in sales at a family-owned corrugated box company, and your client wants to ship thousands of wine bottles across the country. To understand glass as a material alongside corrugated not only helps to level up your knowledge, but it also serves to actively help your client make educated decisions on the best box for shipping their product. If you know to ask your client questions about the weight, volume, neck finish, etc. of the glass bottle they need to have shipped across several states, they will have confidence that you know what you are talking about.

Our students in the Certificate of Packaging Science (CPS) program have bought into this methodology of learning. Many come from one specific industry and are now taking the time to grapple with the various materials, processes, and influences shaping the advancement of the industry. From design conception to production and end of life, students are gaining a comprehensive knowledge of packaging and utilizing it as a key differentiator for themselves and their company. The CPS offers 60 hours of content, 12 courses, and six continuing education units (CEUs).

One student, a sales manager from a paper-based packaging company, had this to say about the CPS: “It is great to learn about the production of paper after being in the industry for 15 years. However, I got to learn about the more technical processes of other materials, too, that our clients use, since it is not only important what you do but also what your clients do.”

Another student, a sales representative for product inspection equipment, echoed these thoughts when discussing another certificate program we offer, the Certificate of Mastery in Packaging Management (CMPM). He said, “This program gave me the knowledge to speak about the full scope of a line design to better service my customers. The detailed coursework on primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging was invaluable for my sales process.”

The CMPM is a 12-week program offering 80 hours of content, 14 courses, and eight CEUs. The beauty of this program is that it has a completely customizable project based on your needs and interest, and it is led by a professor with a doctorate in packaging over the course of 12 weeks.

Educating yourself about everything possible is invaluable for your growth as a human being. Like my dad is fond of saying, “Learning never stops.” And when it comes to a packaging education, a holistic understanding of packaging will contribute to your growth as a packaging professional, allowing you to strengthen your individual value proposition and enhance your choice of packaging solutions for your customers.


Julie Rice Suggs, Ph.D., is academic director at the Packaging School. She can be reached at 330-774-8542 or

Alli Keigley, who contributed to this article, is production coordinator at the Packaging School. She can be reached at