Despite the heavy snow storm following Hurricane Sandy, packaging company executives, Rutgers faculty, staff, professors and students alike defied the weather to attend the Annual Packaging Engineering Banquet, where they raised $150,000 to enhance the program.
The Five Year Plan where the fundraising is directed looks to provide students with higher caliber equipment and more modern lab facilities. Rehabilitating the packaging engineering center is among the priorities for the plan. The Advisory Board hopes to refurbish the old testing facilities as well as the distributive labs. They also look to hire specialty focus staff and initiate a graduate program.
According to Dr. Hae Chang Gea, the director of the packaging engineering program, the banquet is the most important night of the year. "Connecting students to the industry is what enhances their real world education", he said. As companies are able to showcase their products, students learned about the potential in their career.
Nearly 100 people took part in the event as they networked, showcased their products and fundraised for the packaging program. "Students can see the real thing; it's not just the textbook anymore. That's critical for engineering students," said Dr. Gea.
Fifty-seven students and forty professors and company executives were able to interact before the banquet to discuss innovations in the industry. Harry Bennett, an adjunct professor of packaging engineering, noted the elegance of the evening. "The students looked so sharp. I thought we should change the dress code in class! But they would be horrified if I did that," he said.
Some very innovative packages were also presented at the banquet this year. The Muskoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) exhibited a stem cell package that had just been designed. In order to maintain the stem cells alive, the package needed to store liquid nitrogen and be flexible enough for the stem cells - a true challenge. Mike Schuler was the MTF employee showcasing the stem cell package. He has not only made great strides in the industry of packaging engineering, but also hails from the banks of the Raritan as a Rutgers alum.
Charles Chang, Chairman of the Advisory Board, is another Rutgers alumni who attended the banquet. During his time at Rutgers, he took on two majors: packaging and industrial engineering. He claims both disciplines helped him a great deal in his career and it is this interdisciplinary approach to engineering that he hopes to see expanded at Rutgers. Events like the packaging banquet accelerate that vision as students are encouraged to ask questions about products that incorporate other engineering disciplines. “The enthusiasm among students and faculty is exceedingly high,” Chang wrote in an email to Professor Harry Bennett.
Two students were even given on site job interviews by Mondelis International. One of these students, Ryan Boscamp, had previous experience at Mars Packaging, but was equally excited about the possibility of another co-op. He hopes to use his packaging education to eventually work as an engineer, so he felt the banquet was not only informative but offered a great deal of prospective job opportunities. “It was good to know what these companies expect from their employees. Hopefully they will offer more internship to students in the future,” he said.
According to Chang, internships are necessary for students and the program to succeed. Summer internship for the Rutgers Packaging Programs increased by 120% this year and it is expected to continue growing. “A successful internship experience can lead the students to good jobs upon graduation and start their careers right!” he wrote in an email to Professor Bennett.
The banquet also offers the Packaging Advisory Board an avenue by which to develop the Five Year Plan.