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Cal Poly unlocks the Packaging Value Chain

Cal Poly unlocks the Packaging Value Chain
The Center for PVC is the core theme for the academic and research aspects of Cal Poly’s Packaging Program.

Big thinking at Cal Poly: The bold new all-encompassing Center for Packaging Value Chain initiative helps define the college’s packaging program going forward.

The Center for Packaging Value Chain could be viewed as a kind of packaging counterpart to scientists’ ongoing quest for a Grand Unified Theory in physics. Only in this case, the Center for PVC is a reality.

This inclusive, all-in-one packaging curriculum was formalized and recently launched on the campus of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. Bundling numerous topics across the packaging spectrum from sustainability to design and a whole lot more into a cohesive whole, the Center for PVC has been championed by packaging program director Jay Singh, PhD.

“For example, everyone wants to use sustainable designs and sustainable packaging to increase their profit margins," he says. "If, for example, we had established a sustainability center, that would be limiting. However, sustainability serves a key role within the all-encompassing Packaging Value Chain.”

What does the Packaging Value Chain mean to Singh?  In his words, it’s of paramount importance.

“We want the Cal Poly Packaging Program not to be known as just packaging science, packaging technology or packaging engineering, but known for the Packaging Value Chain,” Singh explains. “The Center for PVC is the core theme with regards to the academic and research side of our program. According to Singh, it allows Cal Poly to enhance the research focus on two levels:

  1. It broadens the scope of packaging for our students and
  2. It does not limit what they can be doing.

“The Center for PVC is our angle on packaging on a bigger platform that leverages and engages Cal Poly’s expertise and resources into packaging,” he explains. “The vision for the Center is to create a nationally recognized education research center in the realm of interdisciplinary packaging related themes.

“Everything we are doing, especially the Center for PVC, focuses on the packaging value chain.”

The initiative reached a tipping point when the Center gained formal approval from the university in December, which technically marked its launch, according to Singh.

“We are in the process of interviewing for the new position of Administrative Director for the Center for PVC,” he says. “We hope to have a candidate in place before summer. The AD will work with us to strategize and set goals towards a physical space. We plan to continue enhancing our current labs until such time that we have an independent space for the Center.”

Draws expertise from architecture to landfill management

How holistic and inclusive is the program? As an example, Singh submitted several months ago a list of about 30 faculty members as prospective collaborators from among all six of Cal Poly’s on-campus colleges. These include, for example, the College of Architecture.

“The college has design experts that we could use for some unique projects,” Singh points out.

On-campus, intercollege cooperation has firmed up over years.

“We’ve already worked with four other colleges on campus for grants or projects, so we have established good will and relationships,” reports Singh. “For example, we have a global research institute on-campus that I’ve been onboard with since inception that has expertise in landfill and end-of-life treatment, which has a sustainability component. They may not know precisely what packaging is about and what the packaging business is like, but they deal with it indirectly or directly through landfills.”

Something for packaging professionals, too

Singh expects to launch a one-year Master’s Degree for the Packaging Value Chain for full-time students in fall 2018. The course will offer 8 core classes developed from scratch including three unique courses, Packaging Value Logistics and Supply Chain Management; Packaging Design; and Marketing & Sales for Packaged Product. Cal Poly is also offering five certificates among the 14 total courses in this program including one to be available fall 2017.

Notably, the online-only PVC Master’s program has as its primary target packaging professionals.

“Depending on their commitment and availability, the online students can earn the MS in one to three years,” says Singh.

Although the college has offered “hybrid courses” with combination of online and real-world involvement, all labs have been eliminated from the PVC course. “A year or two after launch we will consider a hybrid version with a lab component,” he adds.

Program update and modifications

The current Cal Poly packaging program has a total enrollment of about 400 students in three modes including 90-100 students as a Major with a Concentration in Consumer Packaging Solutions, Singh reports. That track is primarily for business administration students with a focus between both marketing and packaging.

“We have about 230 packaging majors enrolled in our program,” Singh notes. “We continue the packaging minor that I inherited that has about 100 students, the same as in 2003.

We’re trying to build a healthy program without expanding too rapidly, all built on the solid foundation I inherited. A new faculty member will start at Cal Poly this fall quarter, bringing our instructor strength to five tenured/tenure track and one lecturer. All the support we’re getting allows us to create these new silos on top of that with expertise.”

The Center for PVC adds another dimension to the distinction Cal Poly’s Packaging Program already has among packaging schools.

“Ours is the only packaging program that I’m aware of that operates within a business school (the Orfalea College of Business),” Singh points out. “The college, as a whole, has identified packaging as one of the two key areas of global distinction for the entire college and with that recognition comes a lot of internal support.”

Even with plans through the Center for PVC to redirect certain efforts, Singh doesn’t want to detract from the path the packaging program has been on since before his arrival in mid-2003 in taking over from long-time program director Larry Gay.

“We plan to expand the packaging program beyond science and technology without diluting that component,” Singh states. “In fact, we are enhancing that part of the program with five new undergraduate courses that we’re launching in the next catalog for fall 2017.”

It was a campus visit in that same summer ‘03 where I first met Singh. His passion for packaging, for the school and for the students is as apparent now as it was then. Having observed from afar the program’s progress over the years that Singh has helped to initiate and orchestrate, it’s clear he hasn’t skipped a beat.

For more information contact:

Dr. Jay Singh

Professor & Packaging Program Director

Orfalea College of Business, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Phone 805-756-2129, Fax 805-756-6111, email:

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