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Rising Stars shine a light on packaging education

Rising Stars shine a light on packaging education

We have gathered together a virtual reunion of our Rising Stars who Packaging Digest has featured regularly since late last spring. Represented are students (shown) from packaging programs at Cal Poly, Michigan State University, Rutgers University, University of Florida, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. Each was selected by the faculty of their respective programs as an exemplary student; together, this group represents those who are poised to become tomorrow’s makers and shakers and help move packaging forward in the years ahead.

You’ll find them all to be motivated to succeed while sharing a common passion for packaging. We present them in order of appearance, starting with our inaugural Rising Star who hails from that launch-pad of many packaging professionals, Michigan State University…

Our very first Rising Star, selected by the Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, was Marcella Kupraszewicz, who was entering her fifth year at MSU when we interviewed her last spring. She had a course changeover into packaging after starting as a Mechanical Engineering Major.

“I realized I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing and felt something was missing,” she informed Packaging Digest. “I talked to my swim academic advisor, and we came up with a list of things I liked and didn’t like. Packaging entailed everything I liked!”

She sees opportunity in packaging all around, including using social media. “Companies could utilize social media as a tool for educating the outside world concerning what packaging is about,” she says.

You can read the rest of her story in Fast forward at MSU: A passion for packaging

What makes packaging so exciting? Just ask University of Florida’s Alex Felice, a packaging student entering his fifth year at the school. Felice has worked in UF’s research lab and completed internships at Cott Beverages and Campbell Soup Co. As with our first Rising Star, Felice, too, switched gears into packaging, redirecting his path from UF’s Biological Engineering program.

“One of my classes was taught by Dr. Bruce Welt who is the program coordinator for packaging,” Felice explained. “He mentioned the field a few times in class which piqued my interest, so I asked him for more information. It didn’t take me long to see the appeal and transfer into the packaging program. Packaging offers the unique opportunity to apply technical knowledge, engineering principles and graphic design.”

You can read the rest of Felice’s packaging story in Engineering enthusiast sets sights on consumer goods


Rebecca Kisch, a senior in the packaging program at the California Polytechnic State University, was born into packaging: she spent the first half of her life in Johannesburg, South Africa, where her parents owned a corrugated packaging plant. Twelve years ago her family moved to Paso Robles, CA, located about 25 miles from Cal Poly.

While in 7th grade, she was invited to the Cal Poly Packaging Department to perform an Edge Crush test (ECT) comparative study for a school science project.

“At the time I didn’t know that I’d be pursuing a career in packaging, but looking back at my prior opportunities at the University, I feel like it was meant to be,” Kish says. “In a way, I don’t feel like I chose Cal Poly, but that Cal Poly chose me.”

Now a senior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Kisch is working towards a major in Industrial Technology, with a concentration and minor in Packaging.

You can read more about her in Predestined for a career in packaging


Not everyone knows what they want to do at an early age, especially when in college. However, this is not the case for Catherine Jucha, who is working on obtaining a degree in Packaging Systems and Design from Virginia Tech.

“Virginia Tech’s interests and ideals have always aligned with mine, which was something that initially attracted me towards attending the university,” Jucha explains.  “Specifically, my interests focus around the sustainable initiative and creating products and services for consumers that promote an ecological life cycle. Within that discipline, I discovered my passion was to create a more sustainable form of technology that is distributed to individuals directly at every level, whether it is producers creating a product to the consumers using that product in their homes.

“The technology that facilitated my ability to do so was packaging. After establishing my direction, I took action to ensure that I participated in promoting sustainability in the industry as a college student. For example, being an ambassador to the department of Sustainable Biomaterials at Virginia Tech I was able to bring awareness to the Hokie community about ecological packaging, along with interning at Printpack in product development I directly participated in the forefront of developing greener food containers.”

Jucha tells the rest of her story in Student's passion for sustainability leads her to packaging

Logan Lange had a mechanical bent early on that led him to become a student in the Automated Packaging Systems Technician Program at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), New Richmond, WI.

“I originally became interested in machines growing up on a farm,” he says. “I knew I wanted to work in a field related to mechanical movement and, after touring the Automated Packaging Systems Technician Program at WITC, I knew it would be a good fit for my background.”

He chose WITC because of the small campus and all-around small town, one-on-one feel with all of the instructors. “The classes are specific to the packaging field and prepare you well with a work-oriented future,” he adds.

For more about machinery-minded Lange, see Mechatronics training strengthens career in packaging machinery


Our latest Rising Star is Damen Soriente, a senior in Rutgers University’s packaging engineering program. To say that Damen Soriente is used to being involved and part of the action is an understatement. It started with his upbringing where he was one of six children before his mom adopted five more. Soriente, who is working towards a major in packaging, has served two industry internships and worked in the Rutger’s labs.  He also is active with extracurricular activities that include intramural sports and is also a member of the West Caldwell (NJ) Fire Department.

His keen interest in packaging was sparked in high school.

“I worked on a project that dealt with decreasing the amount of PET used in water bottles and how that affected the environment,” he says. “During an engineering orientation class my freshman year, the director of packaging gave a presentation on the packaging industry. I had a meeting with the director after the lecture and was really turned onto the idea of packaging. After researching the field of packaging, I switched from civil engineering to packaging engineering.”

You can read the rest of Soriente’s fast-paced story in Engineered for packaging by Rutgers University.

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