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Samantha Fordyce

One of Ferris State University's core values is excellence, and Samantha Fordyce exemplifies this value. During her time at Ferris, she excelled academically as a doctorate student in the Michigan College of Optometry and athletically on the volleyball court.

Since arriving on campus in 2008 from her hometown of DeWitt, she learned how to balance the demands of the optometry program with those of a collegiate athlete.

"At the Michigan College of Optometry, Samantha is an all-star both literally and figuratively," said Robert Buckingham, the college's associate dean.

Samantha was recognized for her work with the Vision Service Plan Scholarship for her clinical excellence in primary care and the J. Pat Cummings Scholarship for being an outstanding student clinician exemplifying the highest standard of eye care practice. She has also been active in professional organizations through her membership in the American Optometric Student Organization, the Michigan Optometric Student Association, Beta Sigma Kappa and Optometric Student Government. It is no surprise that she was selected as the MCO Student of the Year for 2014.

As if that were not achievement enough, Samantha was also a starting setter and team captain for the Ferris women's volleyball team.

"Samantha managed her time well and always had her books out on the bus," said head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm. "Her greatest strength is her conviction to live her values of kindness and love and to stay true to her goals no matter what the obstacle."

She received First Team All-Conference honors from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and was honored with Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award and the GLIAC Conference Commissioner's Award. She also was selected to the conference all-tournament and all-region teams.

Additionally, Samantha was recognized with the Willie Bouyer Leadership Award, bestowed upon a Ferris student-athlete who embodies inspirational leadership and dedication to fellow student-athletes.

While she is honored by the awards, her fondest memories from playing volleyball are not about the team's winning record or the awards garnered, but rather the camaraderie with her teammates and celebrating with them during games.

"I love volleyball and how electric it gets in Ewigleben Sports Arena," she said. "When someone cranks the ball down after a long play, it is just the best feeling in the world. You're exhausted, but still do tuck jumps and stomp on the floor."

In addition to her efforts in the classroom and on the court, Samantha has shown her concern for others by volunteering with the volleyball team and MCO in programs such as for Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity and Students in Need of Eye Care.

That expectation was fueled by Brandel-Wilhelm, who taught her players to be "well-rounded individuals," Samantha said.

"For Tia, it's not just about championships, wins or awards, but it's about getting a well-rounded education, learning to be a team player and a leader within a group, and giving back to your community," she said.

The one thing Samantha did not do much of during her time as student was sleep. She would often study until 2 a.m., then be up at 5 a.m. for volleyball practice and conditioning.

"It was exhausting, but a worthwhile experience," Samantha said. "You start to learn what you are capable of when you're a student-athlete. You learn how far you can push yourself and make yourself that much better. It's a really rewarding experience."

As a student at MCO, her favorite classes were optometric procedures and pediatric optometry.

"In procedures class you learn how to work the phoropter, so it's the first time you feel like an optometrist," she said. "I also loved the course on pediatrics, because working with kids is my passion and area of interest."

During her last year of the program, Samantha completed rotations in three clinical practices.

"My first clinical rotation was at the Grand Rapids VA Clinic, where I saw a lot of disease like glaucoma and macular degeneration," she said.

She also did a rotation in Southern California at an ophthalmology and optometry group practice, where she worked with two ophthalmologists: a glaucoma specialist and oculoplastic specialist.

"I learned a lot about lid surgery, how you manage patients and the best ways to bill and code," she said.

Her most recent rotation was at WOW Vision Therapy in Saint Joseph, Mich., where she focused on pediatrics. Most of her work involved helping children improve their ability to see and read, or to correct an eye turn.

"We work to improve their quality of life," she said. "That's why I like pediatrics."

"When you work with a child, you have the ability improve their functionality throughout school. When someone doesn't enjoy reading, they don't reach their full potential. They can't gain what they need to out of their classwork, so when you teach them that aspect and help them to become more efficient, then you give them the ability to reach whatever they want, to reach the potential they choose to reach, which I think is amazing."

After graduating from MCO in May, she heads to a pediatrics residency at the Illinois College of Optometry.