Great Northern Corporation to invest in a leading-edge initiative to advance innovation

Design and packaging class will replicate industry
Students work in the packaging lab at UW-Stout. Great Northern Corporation and UW-Stout are collaborating for a new upper level design and packaging class.
Pam Powers | June 15, 2020

Great Northern Corporation is collaborating with University of Wisconsin-Stout to create a new upper level design and packaging class that will replicate industry.

John DavisThe UW-Stout Great Northern Corporation Collaboration Experience course is a four-year pilot project and is an advanced design and packaging class that will be co-taught by packaging and graphic design faculty. Students will work in cross-disciplinary teams to solve a problem or complete a project or competition.

The class is being developed this summer by Robert Meisner, associate professor and packaging program director, and Nagesh Shinde, professor of graphic design and interactive media in the School of Art and Design, and is a collaboration of the programs. The course is slated to be offered in the spring 2021 semester and will be taught once per academic year over four years and then re-evaluated for longer term funding.

Great Northern Corporation is providing $100,000 to fund the pilot program.

“The Collaborative Experience is a multidisciplinary design and packaging class that replicates the way we work with our customers on design projects,” said John Davis, Great Northern’s chief executive officer. “The students will also learn that teamwork and problem-solving skills are critical in any collaborative effort and that these skills are highly valued by employers.”

Great Northern and UW-Stout

Founded in 1962 in Appleton by Jim Davis, John’s father, and Bob Brown and John Maring, Great Northern is a leading developer and manufacturer of creative solutions for packaging, shipping, merchandising and distributing products for industrial, commercial and retail markets.

Great Northern has more than 30 UW-Stout alumni working at its locations in Appleton, Chippewa Falls and Racine. The company employs more than 1,700 people throughout the U.S.

Great Northern and UW-Stout’s connection started more than 40 years ago when the company hired its first UW-Stout graduate from the packaging program, Davis said. “Since then, Stout grads have held virtually every job within Great Northern,” he added. “There’s always been a special connection between our two institutions based upon our shared values; work hard, have fun, be creative, respect everyone and do the right thing.”Robert Meisner

Meisner and Shinde agreed the course would not have been possible without the support of Great Northern.

“This collaborative project will allow students to work and learn from each other,” Meisner said. “They will learn to appreciate each other’s unique skill sets and compromise in order to develop a package that meets the needs of the customer, just like in industry.”

Graphic design and packaging are inseparable, Meisner said. “I challenge you to walk through a retail store and find a product that is not packaged or printed. Even oranges have a printed label, as an example,” he said.

Shinde and Meisner said they are excited to work on a groundbreaking education experience.

Nagesh Shinde“Robert and I are most excited to investigate and research emerging packaging and retail-experiences for Great Northern and our professions,” Shinde said. “We are looking forward to examining and exploring emerging human-centered design-driven solutions for the future with Great Northern. As far as I know this will be the first of its kind, as we are going beyond a sponsored project format and offering a course developed and named with an industry partner. This course is a perfect example of why our campus is internationally recognized as a leader in higher education.”

The collaboration with Great Northern offers a “framework for a comprehensive cross-boundary knowledge infusion for academia and business organizations involved,” Shinde said, noting more such partnerships will drive innovation. “We feel there is a lot of invaluable learning from this public-private collaboration for our organizations.”

UW-Stout is an ideal university for Great Northern to collaborate with, Davis said. “As a polytechnic university, UW-Stout is committed to an experiential learning environment,” he added. “I can’t imagine a better learning environment in which to bring two disciplines together to simulate the real-world challenges of creative problem-solving.”

UW-Stout is one of only a few schools in the U.S. and the only school in the UW System that offers a bachelor of science degree in packaging.



Students work in the packaging lab at UW-Stout. Great Northern Corporation and UW-Stout are collaborating for a new upper level design and packaging class.

John Davis

Robert Meisner

Nagesh Shinde

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