Inspiring Graduate: Anna Kent, B.S. Packaging

'Stout’s ability to encourage students to delve into industry before they graduate is incredible.'
May 24, 2023

Inspiring Graduate: Anna Kent (’23)

  • Hometown: Eau Claire
  • Degree: B.S. Packaging, emphasis in Business Administration

Anna Kent was hired as a packaging engineer in the Twin Cities before graduation. She will join Boston Scientific’s peripheral interventions new product development team.

Kent came to UW-Stout for the packaging program, one of only a handful of schools in the U.S. that offer the major.

“When I first enrolled in the packaging program at UW-Stout, I did not quite realize how great the school truly is,” she said. “Stout’s polytechnic tenets of applied learning, collaboration and career focus are what makes the school great."

Anna Kent, 1
Inspiring Graduate Anna Kent and Chancellor Katherine Frank at commencement / UW-Stout

“My education and my co-op experiences have prepared me for my full-time position more than I could have imagined. I feel prepared, knowledgeable, ambitious and powerful going into my role, and I cannot wait to see where my professional future takes me,” she said.

Kent earned her degree on May 6, one of 1,173 graduates. Her older sister, Mariah, also graduated recently from the packaging program. It was Mariah who introduced Kent to the packaging field.

How has your UW-Stout education and experience changed you?

My UW-Stout education has allowed me to learn and grow within my major and beyond as an individual. My experience at UW-Stout has changed my life. I cannot pinpoint one thing that made my experience at UW-Stout great, rather, there are multiple aspects of my education that collectively made it worthwhile.

In the classroom, I learned more than I could have imagined. The wide variety of subjects coupled with knowledgeable professors made my education so impactful. I gained so much knowledge in packaging: material science, package design, distribution evaluation, machinery operation and so much more. I learned about supply chain, design processes, software development, graphic design, business management and logistics.

Anna Kent, 2
Anna Kent at commencement / UW-Stout

My education prepared me to fulfill my upcoming role as a packaging engineer. It also prepared me to work with a core team, understand business functions, communicate and present effectively, and eventually, earn my way into leadership roles.

How well has UW-Stout prepared you to work in your field and why?

As I reflect on my four years at Stout, I am impressed at all that Stout does to prepare students for graduation and the experiences to follow.

My courses prepared me to become a packaging engineer. My lab-based courses allowed me to get experience on machinery that I will use in industry. My professors are extremely knowledgeable, making lectures intriguing and filled with good learnings. My packaging professors have continuously pushed me to be better, whether that’s improving my coursework or engaging in design competitions. I have learned and grown tremendously from their mentorship.

Stout has some of the highest rates for employment after graduation. Stout assembles a Career Conference each semester to provide students the opportunity to acquire internships and co-ops in their field of study. The Handshake platform allows students to find and apply for available jobs that interest them.

Mariah and Anna Kent at commencement
Mariah and Anna Kent / Anna Kent

At the Career Conference, I earned two co-ops with Boston Scientific and Kimberly Clark. I completed these co-ops through Stout’s Cooperative Education and Internship Program. These experiences allowed me to apply my packaging learnings in the field and to be exposed to the industry before I even graduated. What I learned at these eight-month experiences is invaluable. I experienced the life of a packaging engineer, working on high stake projects with cross-functional teams, with two well-established companies at a competitive wage. 

What stands out about your UW-Stout experience?

I had the chance to experience Stout’s polytechnic tenets of applied learning and collaboration. I have spent over half of my overall class time in a lab space, working with machinery and projects. This applied learning style allows me to understand book-based content with my hands in a lab. For example, in my Packaging Machinery course, I learned about what a vertical form fill seal machine is, including its parts and what products run in this format. In the lab, I saw the VFFS machine run and could better understand its operation and applications.

In many of my classes, groupwork was incorporated on a daily basis. Throughout my labs and project work, I was often paired with one or more peers to complete tasks. This forced me to collaborate with other students. I worked alongside other packaging students, where we put our heads together in a subject, we were all passionate about. In other courses, such as Design for Industry, I was paired with students in various majors, like engineering technology, technology education and business administration. This allowed us to combine our specialties and become greater as a whole.

UW-Stout's collaborative learning style allowed me to learn and grow alongside my peers.

The third polytechnic tenet is career focus, which might be the strongest of all. Stout's ability to encourage students to delve into industry before they graduate is incredible; most schools don’t do this. Stout holds a career conference every semester, allowing students to acquire co-op and internship positions throughout college. Internships are required, forcing students to dabble in industry before graduating, which is a good practice because students get to test their major to ensure it is right for them and gain skills from working in the field.

Anna Kent, Scholar Athlete Banquet, with packaging professors and Chancellor Frank
Anna Kent at the Scholar Athlete banquet, with Chancellor Frank and packaging professors Min DeGruson and Kate Liu / Anna Kent

Many Stout courses have industry connections as well, allowing students to hear from industry professionals and work on real world problems and products. For example, in the GNC Collaboration Experience course, I was paired with packaging and graphic design students to create an olive oil giftpack. We work closely with Great Northern Corporation, out of Chippewa Falls, to create this design for one of their clients. This course allows me to work with graphics students, as I will in the real world, and work on a product that exists in the market today. Throughout the course, we receive feedback from GNC and their client to develop our design into a manufacturable, shippable and aesthetically pleasing giftpack that could be sold in store.

Altogether, Stout’s applied learning, collaboration, and career-focused tenets prove their dedication to student success. Without these ambitions, I would not have experienced what I did in college, because I would not have had the opportunities I did at Stout.

I am grateful for Stout’s drive to teach and grow their students through these tenets.

How did your involvement impact your experience?

My various involvements in college taught me an important lesson that will stay with me forever. That is, invest in what interests you. I think it is important to find things that you are passionate about and involve yourself in those things. Being your authentic self is the best person you can be.

I was president of both the Academic Honor Society and the Packaging Association. I was the student ambassador for the Packaging Advisory Committee. I was also involved in Cru and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. I played on the women’s tennis team and was captain my senior year.

I have held multiple on-campus jobs as well. I worked for the athletic department as a Health and Fitness Center employee and an Athletics statistician. I also worked in the packaging department as a lab assistant and teaching assistant.

My involvements in and around campus have allowed me to create meaningful relationships and make a difference in areas that interest me.

I have earned multiple scholarships, including the Freshman Legacy Annual Scholarship; Carter Family Scholarship; Prent Corporation Packaging Scholarship; Packaging Corporation of America Scholarship; and the Boston Scientific Scholarship. I have also received the Chancellor’s Scholarship; IoPP PepsiCo R&D Scholarship; Specright Sustainability Scholarship; TAPPI Dan Siegel Memorial Scholarship; Charter Bank Scholarship; and the IoPP Packaging Education Scholarship. I received scholarships to attend two packaging-related conferences including the PackOut Conference and the TAPPI Flex Place Conference.

These scholarships have allowed me to attend college with less financial stress than I anticipated. With that, I was able to focus much more on my academics and involvements, rather than a heavy workload working a part-time job.

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Throughout college I have received a few awards for my accomplishments: the Samuel E. Wood Medallion; Co-op and Internship Student of the Year; Scholar Athlete; and the IoPP Achievement award. I have also received the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement and was named to the Dean’s Four-Star Recognition List each semester. These awards made me feel accomplished for all I had done in my college career.

How did you overcome the challenges you faced in earning your degree?

One of the biggest challenges I experienced was the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit, classes were moved online, sports were canceled and there was little in-person interaction. The pandemic truly changed my life in college. For over a year, my learning environment changed drastically. With classes moved online, I rarely engaged with my peers in groupwork. In addition, I had little opportunity to work on campus in Stout’s state-of-the-art labs, and it was harder to learn course content with lectures being solely virtual. To add, I had very few opportunities to meet new people and engage in new experiences like clubs and intramurals. When the pandemic settled, students cautiously returned to an interactive environment on campus.

The university made informed and smart decisions as we learned how to safely resume campus life. At this point, I was extremely excited to be back on campus. I was excited to work side-by-side with my peers in the lab and around campus. I returned to my athletic career on the tennis court and began to attend club meetings in person. This challenge taught me to be appreciative of my time with my peers and the importance of collaboration, self-care and technology.

What are you most proud of as you finish your degree?

As I reflect on my experiences at UW-Stout, I am very proud of all I have accomplished in the past four years. To start, I completed my college degree in four years, including two eight-month co-ops. That is, three years on campus completing courses, eight months living in the Twin Cities working at Boston Scientific, and eight months living in Appleton working at Kimberly Clark. To graduate in four years, I came in with high school AP credits, and I completed a few courses over Winterms and summer terms. It was a busy four years, but it was worth it.

Tennis Team at WIAC Tournament
Anna Kent (front row, right) and the Blue Devil tennis team / Anna Kent

To add, through heavy courseloads and involvements, I earned a 4.0 GPA. I believe this proves my dedication and hard work throughout my college experience. I have always prioritized my academics and performing at a high level, and I am extremely proud of my ability to do that.

Lastly, I am proud of being a D3 collegiate student athlete. Juggling academics, clubs, work and a sport was often times overwhelming and exhausting. At the same time, it was rewarding. Forming meaningful relationships with my teammates as well as competing on the court and enjoying the game has made the whole experience well worth it.

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