Student Spotlight: Marija Benson
Major: Baking and Pastry Arts
Marija Benson earned her B.A. in Liberal Arts and Education from Northeastern Illinois University and her MBA in Business Management from Roosevelt University. She worked as a human resources professional for a number of years and as an independent consultant for her own firm, MBD Services.
But she decided to return to college and enrolled at College of DuPage in 2011. After taking some interior design classes, she enrolled in the Baking and Pastry Arts program.
“I’ve always felt I’ve had a creative bent and I was searching for a creative outlet,” she said. “I believe I’ve finally found that.”
In 2013, Benson was selected as a finalist in the sixth annual America’s Best Raisin Bread competition hosted by the California Raisin Marketing Board (CRMB). This prestigious baking industry competition recognizes professional and up-and-coming bakers from across the country. Preliminary contest judging resulted in 36 finalists selected to receive a complimentary trip to the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas, where they baked their formulas during two days before a panel of distinguished judges from both the artisan and commercial baking industries. Winners were selected based on their recipe’s taste, appearance, originality and value.
Benson competed in the commercial category and although she didn’t receive a prize, she was pleased with the experience, particularly because this was the first competition of any kind that she has entered.
“I was a bit nervous, but I learned a lot, and I met a lot of talented people,” Benson said. “Overall, it was a fabulous experience. It’s a great feeling to know that your products are enjoyed by other people.”
Benson credits Assistant Professor/Chef Nancy Carey as being particularly encouraging and describes her as a “great mentor,” but added that she’s very pleased with everyone in the program.
“There’s a real sense of community in this program,” she said. “The instructors are excellent and highly supportive. I’ve also found that through the fabulous facilities and curriculum, the program offers a tremendous range of experience in terms of mimicking a real-life, professional environment.”
2014 College of DuPage