Three MCC Students Win Statewide LAND Awards

Three Muskegon Community College students, Jane Hoppe and Robert DeRose in graphic design/illustration, and Benjamin Skujins in creative non-fiction, have earned statewide awards in the 2022 Liberal Arts Network for Development (LAND) annual competition.

They will honored at an online awards ceremony on Friday, Feb. 18, during Michigan’s 37th Annual Liberal Arts Network for Development (LAND) Conference which will be held virtually. In addition, they will be able to attend the conference for free and their work will appear in the annual publication produced by LAND, an organization committed to community college faculty and student excellence.

Jane Hoppe and Robert DeRose received LAND awards in the graphic design/illustration category.

LAND sponsors five student competitions to recognize outstanding student work in the Liberal Arts: art, illustration, photography, film, creative writing, and Student Scholars, a conference segment which is open to all liberal arts disciplines. Projects completed during the 2021 calendar year are eligible for these competitions.

Charged with using this year’s LAND theme of “Now What?” in their respective categories, Hoppe won $150 for first place, DeRose won $100 for second place, and Skujins won $50 for third place.

Hoppe, who is majoring in graphic design at MCC, admittedly struggled to envision positive images to illustrate “Now What?” given all that has happened in the world in recent years.

“However, this prompt encouraged me to search for the good things that can come out of an unknown future,” added the West Ottawa High School senior and Early College of Ottawa County student. “Opportunity and growth await, but it takes a leap of faith to find those new and exciting parts of life that come after difficult times.”

“Originally, the reaching hands in my illustration are letting go, allowing the figure in the middle to throw itself toward whatever comes next and leave the darker past behind. Now I have come to see another interpretation: hands reaching out to help each other, to take what we’ve learned from those long, dreary months and use it to grow our future together”

For his second place design, Bob DeRose turned to an American essayist, port, naturalist and philosopher.

“I found inspiration in the Henry David Thoreau’s quote ‘Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth,” said DeRose, who is pursuing an associate degree in web design at MCC. “Life’s choices in today’s political climate and this quote inspired me to create the road marker.”

The Hoffman Estates, IL, native earned an A.S. degree in electrical engineering from William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, IL, and a B.S. in Manufacturing Engineering from Western Michigan University. His work as a project/manufacturing engineer took him across the nation and to Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and Japan. When the 2008 recession took its toll on manufacturing, DeRose turned his hobby of a real estate investing into a job as a realtor.

“This allowed me to be a stay-at-home-Dad to our two wonderful children while my wife teaches orchestra at Mona Shores,” he noted. “As my kids and my mother get older, responsibilities at night and weekends makes work as a realtor or travel as a project engineer difficult.”

He also enjoys working on websites and social media campaigns, so he came to MCC to pursue a web design degree and hopes to graduate this semester.

Benjamin Skujins

Benjamin Skujins took third place in the creative fiction category.

Benjamin Skujins titled his third place award for creative fiction “Prodigal Habits Die Hard.”

“This first-person account of gambling addiction effectively relates the physiological effects of addiction, effectively building the tension to engage the reader in their fruitless effort to fight against this illness,” noted the judges.

Skujins, a 2021 North Muskegon High School graduate who plays the euphonium in the MCC Wind Ensemble and Jayhawk Sound pep band, recounted the visceral experience of his casino visit at age 19 with his aunt.

“With the keys plunged into the ignition, the tires squealing out of the driveway, and my white knuckles clenching the steering wheel, I make the quick drive to the casino,” wrote Skujins in an excerpt that impressed the judges. “I feel blood surging to my face, melting my brain. My ears start to ring and everything around me begins to sound as if I’m underwater.”

Skujins plans to pursue a toxicology degree after earning his associate degree from MCC.

For more information, contact Shauna Hayes at