Competing against university students from as far away as Brazil and Denmark, Cari Croninger took second place in the promotions division of the 2017 Michigan State University Design Contest for College Students. Her submission was a colorful graphic image of Micky Dolenz from the band The Monkees.

Croninger never imagined that she would be creating an award-winning piece when she completed an assignment to create a human head in Adobe Illustrator and later incorporated that headshot into an advertisement, promotion or an article illustration.

“I was shocked. The award means a great deal to me. I can put it on my resume, and it’s nice to know that people out there are enjoying my work,” Croninger said.

Initially Croninger considered attending The Arts Institute, but she is glad that she chose Collin College.

“I discovered Collin had a great animation program. I made a really good decision to take 3D animation at Collin College. The professors here are incredible,” she said.

As a child, Croninger watched all her father’s DVDs of The Monkees television show.

“I am a huge fan of Micky Dolenz. Last year I saw Micky and Peter Tork in concert. I wanted to pay a little homage to them. I wasn’t expecting the recognition. I had never created that style of art. I had completed paintings, but this was graphic art,” she said.

Croninger was taking Basic Design from Kevin Kreneck, graphic arts associate professor. With the students’ permission, he entered five student pieces in the contest. According to Kreneck, this is the first time a Collin College student has won an award in the international competition.

“I feel fortunate because we were going up against the nation’s largest and best-funded universities. This kind of win is vitally important on so many levels. In the span of my 20 years in teaching, Cari is one of a handful of truly brilliant students, and I am honored to have been a part of what I expect will be a long and very successful career,” Kreneck said.

Croninger says Kreneck is one of her favorite professors.

“I really enjoyed the pacing of his class. The assignments, like sketching tiny pictures to get bad ideas out of the way so I can get to the good one, helped me. His class was really about how to develop and choose good ideas. He is a very entertaining teacher, and he tells stories about being in the industry,” she said.

According to Kreneck, several of the competition divisions align well with his class content. He notes the students generate the ideas for their work while he facilitates and provides direction.

 “Along with extensive lectures, there is a lot of one-on-one advising and small group demonstrations. For the professor, it’s a very labor-intensive process, but I believe it’s crucial. We in higher education have to provide a reason for students to choose the brick and mortar schools over the online digital classroom. One-on-one instruction and providing a very definitive path to greatness is stuff you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.