MCO Ambassadors for Admissions

Third Year Students

Alina Usataia

Alina Usataia

Hi!  My name is Alina and I am an international student from Toronto, Canada. I received my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto, completing a double major in Cell and Molecular Biology, Health and Disease, and a minor in Physiology. After graduation, I took a two year break to work in an optometric practice, volunteer, and travel across the world, after which I joined MCO’s class of 2021. My route towards optometry school wasn’t “traditional”, but it has been incredible nonetheless! MCO was the right choice for me as it was somewhat close to home and had a small class size, which I believe has positively enhanced my learning experience here. I truly believe that optometry is a wonderful profession and I feel grateful for being part of this journey. MCO is a wonderful school as it offers many opportunities to get involved. Currently I am the Optometry Student Government (OSG) Community Service Chair, and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and Optometry Cares Liaison- Elect. If you have any questions, or would just like to chat, please don’t hesitate to email me! [email protected]

Amanda KruseAmanda Kruse

Hello! My name is Amanda and I am from Port Huron, MI. I received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Ferris State University. During my time there I was a RA and became involved in the pre-optometry club. My interest in the profession began in high school when we learned about the importance of vision and how it can impact a person’s day to day life. After job shadowing my optometrist, I determined this was the career for me. I chose to come to MCO for a variety of reasons, but in particular for the smaller class size and the enormous amount of student involvement available. I currently am the Trustee-Elect of the American Optometric Student Association and participate in several other organizations. If there is anything I can help with or any unanswered questions you may have feel free to reach out: [email protected].

 Azra FazilAzra Fazil

Hello incoming members of the MCO Family! My name is Azra Fazil and I am currently a second year optometry student, a member of the class of 2021. I completed my undergraduate studies at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI where I double-majored in Biology and Spanish and minored in German. In my free time, I love running 10K races, traveling to visit my loved ones all over the world, and learning new languages. This summer, I worked as a LASIK Technician, traveled to Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C, and studied Arabic! My interest in optometry peaked after I first started working at a D.O/O.D private practice that performs LASIK surgeries. I truly admired the role that my optometrist and mentor took in managing pre- and post-operative care. Her leadership and expertise added immense value to the private practice and I decided to follow in her footsteps! I chose to attend MCO because of its great reputation as a highly ranked optometry school with quality faculty and staff. Furthermore, after attending a very small liberal arts college for undergrad, I knew I wanted to continue my professional studies in a graduate school like MCO that also offered small class sizes and ample opportunities for students to establish strong bonds with their professors and attending doctors. Optometry school is a challenging yet rewarding experience that truly makes you grow as an individual, both personally and professionally. I look forward to helping you adjust and achieve balance here in your new community!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Bryn LangenderferBryn Langenderfer

Hello, Bryn Langenderfer here! I'm a second year optometry student born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. I graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelor's in Science and Pharmaceutical Sciences, specifically in Pharmacology/Toxicology. I enjoy playing intramural soccer and volleyball with my 2021 classmates. Some of things I always make time for are outdoor activities, exercise and travel. One of my most memorable destinations was San Pedro Sula, Honduras as part of a mission trip. So not surprisingly, I am a member of SVOSH (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) and aim to go on an annual mission trip once I am a licensed optometrist. I'm excited you've taken an interest in MCO and am happy to show you all it has to offer. Feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Casey FesterlingCasey Festerling

Hi, my name is Casey Festerling and I am from Petoskey, Michigan. I attended Ferris State University for 3 years before being accepted under MCO’s 3+4 program. This past spring I earned my Bachelors in Vision Science after completing my first year at MCO. I have always known that I wanted a career in healthcare and it was later in high school when I knew for many reasons that optometry was the career for me! What set MCO apart from other schools is their smaller class sizes, a newer facility, and the amount of faculty to student interaction among multiple other reasons! Here at MCO I am the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) Liaison-Elect and the President-Elect of the Vision Rehab Club. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

Erica HalmErica Halm

I am a current second year at Michigan College of Optometry. I grew up in Williamston, Michigan and did my undergraduate studies at Michigan State University as a part of the Lyman Briggs residential College and Honors College. I majored in Human Biology and graduated with Honors in 2016. Before applying to Optometry school, I took a gap year and worked at a private practice in DeWitt, MI and a Medicare/Medicaid clinic in Lansing, MI. I have always had a strong passion about optometry and MCO has continued to fuel my love for the profession. Michigan College of Optometry has an excellent staff and brand new facilities, which makes it an excellent place to learn and thrive. For me, attending MCO was an easy choice. With the small class sizes and friendly faces, it’s safe to say that MCO feels like home.  Please email me if you have any questions, [email protected].

Jeffrey ReardonJeffrey Reardon

Hello, I am Jeffrey Reardon and I am part of the Michigan College of Optometry Class of 2021. I grew up in South Lyon, Michigan about 15 minutes from both Brighton and Novi. I completed my undergraduate studies at Ferris State University with a B.A. in Chemistry. It has always been a priority for me to be serving those both in and outside of my community, that in combination with my interest in the health care field lead me to Optometry. Optometry presents a unique opportunity for doctors to spend an extended time period with their patients, opening the door to the meaningful relationships I was hoping to create in my profession. I ended up choosing to attend MCO because of the small class sizes, state of the art facility, and student focused faculty. The smaller class sizes at MCO create the perfect opportunity to become close with both your classmates and the faculty. MCO also has provided the opportunity for me to be involved in many different organizations including the American Optometric Student Association, Fellowship of Christian Optometrist, and SVOSH. If you have any questions about MCO or Big Rapids feel free to contact me at [email protected].  

Jesse BirschingJesse Birsching

Hello, I am Jesse Birsching from a town near the Frankenmuth area, and I was a Ferris undergraduate. I completed 5 semesters at Ferris State University and was accepted in the 3+4 admissions at the Michigan College of Optometry. I had known that I had always wanted to go into health care because my family has a long record of being in the hospital, but what pushed me towards optometry was purely that I loved eyes and how I could combine a wide variety of sciences (e.g. math, physics, biology, etc.) all into one profession. I know MCO was a great choice because it has already given me many opportunities I never knew I would have such as research opportunities. If you are looking at applying, MCO is a great choice academically, financially, and socially. I have helped tutor and give advice to pre-optometry students at Ferris, so if you have any questions I would love to help. [email protected] 

 Leah BrunelleLeah Brunelle

I grew up in Hampton, New Hampshire, where I received my first eye exam when I was six years old and have been wearing glasses ever since.  In 2013, I moved to Michigan and began school at Michigan State University, where I received my bachelor’s degree in Human Biology.  While there, I worked at a clinic in Lansing and during my past few summers have worked in New Hampshire at a private practice.  After these experiences, I decided to attend MCO in order to become an optometrist, a career path that I believe positively impacts people’s lives every day.  This decision has been one of my best yet, my learning experience here has been hands-on and fun thanks to friends, staff, and our beautiful facility.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! [email protected] 

Mark KaczmarekMark Kaczmarek

Hi! My name is Mark Kaczmarek and I am from Hartland, MI. I attended Saginaw Valley State University where I majored in Biochemistry and was a member of numerous music ensembles. I was a 3+4 admission to MCO, so I was able to complete only three years of undergraduate studies and prerequisites for the program before starting optometry school. Additionally, I was awarded a B.S. in Vision Science as an interim degree after completing my first year at MCO. I grew up around my parents (both opticians) owning and operating two private practices, so ever since an early age, I knew the exciting and rewarding field of optometry was right for me. The opportunity to start the program a year earlier was well worth the extra effort in my undergraduate studies, plus there is the added bonus of saving a year of tuition! Aside from it being the only optometry school in Michigan and having one of the smallest class sizes available, the 3+4 admissions program is something that really drew me to MCO. To enrich my time in school, I am a member of many interesting and valuable student organizations. I am also currently one of two class representatives for the class of 2021. During our second year, we plan the orientation weekend for the incoming students, our annual formal dance, and a golf outing. Attending MCO was the best decision I could have made; the top-notch faculty are always very approachable, and everyone really does become like family. The friends you make here will definitely become friends for life. If you have any questions at all, please reach out to me anytime at [email protected].

Matthew HubertyMatthew Huberty

I completed my undergraduate studies at Ferris State University where I was part of the 3+4 program and received my degree in Vision Science.  I become interested in optometry at a young age after being helped by vision therapy.  In high school, I had the opportunity to shadow a number of ODs and knew it was the profession for me.  After speaking with some of the MCO faculty and seeing the facility, I was committed to fulfilling my education here, and I am now a proud member of the class of 2021.  Please contact me if you have any questions, [email protected].

Philip PeltonPhilip Pelton

Hi! my name is Philip Pelton, I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan. I attended Ferris State University for my undergraduate studies and I participated in the 3+4 program. I received a B.S. in Vision Science. I participated in vision therapy at the age of 6 and I have needed glasses since I was 9 years old. This really fueled my interest in optometry. In high school and also while attending Ferris State, I  job shadowed numerous optometrists in multiple different practice settings and after each shadow I thought of another reason why I wanted to be an optometrist. I chose MCO because the faculty and staff treat you like a colleague, and with a small class size your classmates become your family. MCO also has newly updated facilities, making it an optimal place to learn and improve your clinical skills. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you may have! [email protected]

Rachel BruinsmaRachel Bruinsma

Hello! My name is Rachel Bruinsma and I was born and raised in New Era, Michigan. I attended Valparaiso University and was a member of their NCAA Division I volleyball team. I received a B.S. in Biology and Psychology in 2017. I shadowed many different medical professions during my undergraduate studies searching for the perfect fit, and I am so happy to have found it in optometry. I chose MCO for the small class size, impressive facilities, and friendly environment. MCO has brought me so many great friends and I look forward to creating even more memories over the next couple years. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me! [email protected]

Reese EngelReese Engel

Hi, I’m Reese Engel and I am from Hemlock, Michigan. I did my undergraduate studies at Michigan State University where I got my degree in Human Biology. I enjoy staying busy and helping others so I also worked as a tutor and teaching assistant in biology courses at MSU. I became interested in Optometry after realizing I didn’t want to go to med school, but wanted to find something in the medical field. I was looking for a career that would allow me to be personal with my patients, improve their quality of life, while allowing me to spend time with family as well; Optometry was the perfect fit. As soon as I started my search on where I wanted to go, I knew MCO was the best option. The small town and easy going atmosphere of MCO really makes it easy to focus on your studies in preparation for your future career as an optometrist and the student-to-faculty ratio is awsome. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected].

Sasha ShammamiSasha Shammami

My name is Sasha Shammami and I am currently a second year student. I did my undergraduate studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, where I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. I am currently the President Elect of our student body, OSG. Before optometry school, I worked at a private practice in Commerce Township, MI where I was an Optician. I also shadowed my optometrist, which really set me on pursuing a career in optometry. MCO was definitely my first pick because of our small class size and our amazing faculty. MCO faculty is extremely helpful and they really listen to the students. If you have any questions about anything at all, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected].

Second Year Students

Alyssa VanWerden

Alyssa VanWerden

I went to Hope College for my undergraduate studies where I earned a biology degree. Before jumping back into school, I took a gap year to travel around Europe and get some optical experience as an optician. I can’t wait to get back out there and travel after school! So far at optometry school, I am president-elect for our Optometry Student Government (OSG) and am involved in SVOSH. I also like to play intramural soccer and volleyball with my classmates. We were even lucky enough to win volleyball last winter. My classmates are one of my favorite parts about MCO. It feels like we have become a little family and everyone is willing to help out one another whether it is practicing for proficiencies or studying for exams. I had a really tough time deciding where to go to optometry school and I 100% made the right choice!  [email protected]

 Amy BellAmy Bell

Hi, my name is Amy Bell, and I am from Petoskey, MI. I attended Ferris State University for my undergraduate education and completed the 3+4 admissions process to the Michigan College of Optometry. I became interested in optometry as an opportunity to help individuals with low vision. My grandmother was legally blind, and therefore, I hope to someday specialize in low vision diseases and help individuals like her maintain independence for as long as possible. The Michigan College of Optometry’s small class size, low student to professor ratio, and family atmosphere were appealing to me and has made attending this school an incredible experience! While attending the Michigan College of Optometry, I am currently the secretary of the MOSA (Michigan Optometric Student Association).  If you have any questions about undergraduate studies at Ferris State University, completing the 3+4 admissions process, or anything else, please do not hesitate to email me at [email protected].

Ashley Bonneau

Ashley Bonneau

Hello, my name is Ashley Bonneau and I am an international student at MCO from Essex, Ontario, Canada. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Windsor where I received my Bachelor of Human Kinetics degree. Having been exposed to health-care professions my whole life I knew that’s where I wanted to be. In my second year of university I started looking into different career options in the health field when I came across optometry and fell in love. After that I started job shadowing and looking at schools of Optometry. MCO was at the top of my list because they offer small classes with an excellent student to professor ratio. Further, as a Canadian student, MCO utilizes a professional tuition rate as opposed to paying an out of state/international fee. In my spare time I love to play sports and spend time with friends I have made here at MCO. If you have any questions feel free to contact me [email protected].

Austin KashatAustin Kashat

I went to Oakland University in metro Detroit for my undergraduate studies. I knew I wanted to go into healthcare but didn’t decide on Optometry until my last year. I made the decision after shadowing my optometrist, where I saw what an impact she had on her patients. After looking into more of the day-to-day duties, the job opportunities and the overall mission of the field, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I chose MCO because of its reputation academically and the city itself. I can safely say I chose the perfect career for myself, and am going to the perfect school for it! If you want to know more about MCO and what to expect from optometry, don’t hesitate to email me!  [email protected]

Blaze SammonBlaze Sammon

My name is Blaze Sammon and currently in my second year. I attended Ferris State University for my undergraduate and received my Bachelor of Vision Science through the 3+4 program. My home town is Grand Rapids where I live with my grandma and brothers. In my free time I enjoy river fishing, meditation, and outdoors. Currently, I am the president elect for the Michigan Optometric Student Private Practive Association (MOSPPA). I look forward to meeting you.  [email protected]

Brendon YarochBrendon Yaroch

This second year of optometry school will be my sixth year at Ferris State, and it’s no exaggeration when I say that I’m looking forward to it. I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris in 2018 and in the process of obtaining that degree my level of appreciation for this community has only grown. My interest in optometry is rooted in my high school years, where I was first introduced to medical professions in general by obtaining my EMT license with Livingston County EMS. My first exposure to the profession of optometry came during my initial tour of Ferris State, which led to job shadowing with my local doctor the following summer. Those shadowing hours made all the difference in helping decide to pursue this career, and I honestly do believe that MCO is the best school out there to help me achieve my goal. The faculty here are absolutely dedicated to aiding in your success, which makes all the difference in my mind. If you have any questions (optometry-related or not), please feel free to email me at [email protected]

Caleb Mergener

Caleb Mergener

My name is Caleb Mergener. This is my fifth year attending Ferris State, second year at MCO. Coming here was a dream come true for me as I have been pursuing this since my junior year of high school (Home School). This past semester I was awarded the Army's Health Professional Scholarship (HPSP).  One of my favorite parts of optometry is how quickly and suddenly you can make an impact in someone's life, with a precise glasses prescription you can change someone's life instantly. One of my favorite parts about MCO is the small class size. My class has 37 students and I know everyone by name. If you have any questions (about anything, it can be not related to MCO or optometry) please don't hesitate to ask, my email is [email protected].

Emily Voelz

Emily Voelz

My name is Emily Voelz, and I am from Warsaw, Indiana. I got my BS in Pre-medicine with minors in Biology and Medical Ethics from the University of Dayton in 2016. I then moved to Bloomington, Indiana and worked at Cook Pharmica for two years. While living in Bloomington, I realized my interest in optometry through shadowing and exposure to IU’s optometry program. I decided that MCO had the school atmosphere that best fit for me. I appreciate our class size and faculty ratio, and I love the strong community of our small school! At MCO, I feel tremendously supported by my optometry family to become the best optometrist I can be. Please get in touch if you have questions! [email protected]

Ethin Kiekhafer

Ethin Kiekhafer

I completed my undergraduate studies at Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI, where I majored in biology. I enjoy staying involved in school, and am the treasurer of AOSA. I did not become interested in optometry until I was lucky enough to shadow an optometrist during my freshman year of college. I was enthralled by how optometrists can make a profound and immediate impact on a patient’s quality of life. I truly believe MCO does a great job preparing its student to become successful optometrists, especially with the small class sizes, state of the art equipment, and personable faculty. There are also plenty of outdoor activities close to Big Rapids that allow us to get away when we need a study break.  [email protected]

Haylee Bourlier

Haylee Bourlier

Hi, I’m Haylee! I grew up in the small town of Watervliet, Michigan. I went to Ferris State University for my undergraduate studies because of my interest in optometry. I was able to serve as the Pre-optometry Club President and work at the campus library. I first became interested in optometry during middle school when I had my first eye exam. My interest in science and the health care profession made me further realize my love of optometry. MCO is the perfect school for me! I love the small class size, community service opportunities and passionate faculty. Big Rapids definitely has the small town feel, and it is the perfect place for me to live with my husband and puppy, Finley. Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions! Email me at [email protected]

Jacob Jenness

Jacob Jenness

I attended Northwestern College in Northwest Iowa where I majored in biology and played football. I’ve wanted to be an optometrist ever since I shadowed an optometrist in high school. I loved the clinical atmosphere and quite simply found eyes to be fascinating. During undergraduate school, I began searching for places to apply for optometry school and right away MCO caught my eye. I’ve always lived in a small town and have learned to love the feel of community filled with genuine people and that is exactly what I found here at MCO. In addition to the close-knit community that is MCO, the low faculty to student ratio also provides an awesome learning environment that is more tailored towards the individual students. Feel free to email me anytime at [email protected].

James Carpenter

James Carpenter

Hello, my name is James Carpenter. I did my undergraduate studies at Michigan State University where I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Laboratory Science with a concentration in hematology. I first became interested in eye care when I was prescribed my first pair of glasses in fifth grade. The desire to enter the field grew as time went on and I recognized the other positive aspects of the profession. My number one reason for choosing the Michigan College of Optometry was the staff to student ratio. At the graduate level I feel that the more personal the education, the better. MCO is an excellent program and I’m proud to be a part of the class of 2022. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the program. My email is [email protected]

Jordan MarentetteJordan Marentette

I did my undergraduate studies at Grand Valley State University where I majored in Biomedical Sciences. I was accepted to the Michigan College of Optometry under the 3+4 admissions program and graduated with my bachelors degree in Vision Science after completing my first year at MCO. My interest in optometry was sparked after my grandmother had a retinal tear. I was able to observe her entire treatment process through being diagnosed by the optometrist, cryotherapy from the ophthalmologist, and continued follow up care by the optometrist. I was able to work as an optometric technician at Grand Rapids Ophthalmology during my undergraduate years which continued my interest in the field. This past summer I completed an internship at Johnson & Johnson Vision Research Institute in Jacksonville, Florida after being notified of the opportunity by Dr. Dinardo here at MCO. I believe that MCO offers one of the best optometry education programs in the country, and the small class sizes truly build a family atmosphere within the entire school.  [email protected]

Kristin Mohr

Kristin Mohr

I grew up in Minnesota and attended South Dakota State University where I double majored in Microbiology and Human Biology. I first became interested in the field of optometry after shadowing my hometown optometrists and loved the immediate positive impact they made on a patient’s vision. I came to MCO because of the close-knit class size and the student to faculty ratio along with an amazing on-campus clinic. My apprehensions towards attending a school so far away were quickly erased when I got to know how supportive the MCO community is. I look forward to continuing my education here at MCO with some amazing people.   [email protected]

Miranda Geisinger

Miranda Geisinger

My name is Miranda Geisinger, and I am from Plymouth, Michigan. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan- Dearborn, where I majored in Biological Sciences and minored in Hispanic Studies. During my time there, I served as President of the Pre-Optometry Club for two years. I shadowed optometrists in multiple practices during undergrad, and I gained experience as an OD Intern this past summer after my first year of optometry school. I currently serve as the Public Relations Chair for SVOSH. I’m so thankful to be a student at MCO, surrounded by the kindest, most knowledgeable and supportive classmates and faculty. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions about life at MCO!

Ola Nowakowska

Ola Nowakowska

Hello! My name is Ola Nowakowska, and I am from Grand Blanc, MI. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan with a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology and graduated in 2015. I took a few years off in between undergrad and optometry school to work in the eye field and found my passion for vision! MCO's family feel and high academic standards were what really drew me to this school. I am currently a class representative for the class of 2022 and have joined many organizations that have helped me grow my passion for optometry. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out! [email protected]

Paige Fuller

Paige Fuller

I did my undergraduate studies at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. I majored in biology and minored in mathematics. Before optometry school I worked in a hospital as a phlebotomist. This allowed to me to work alongside a wide range of medical professionals and expand my knowledge. After this exposure and a good amount of shadowing, I found that optometry was the route I wanted to take! I cannot image a better fit for me than MCO. I find that the low student to faculty ratio creates such a great learning atmosphere. With that, the optometry clubs help me to stay involved with school and the community. I am currently a member of SVOSH and the web coordinator of MOSPPA. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have if you would like to email me!  [email protected]

Rachel Fazio

Rachel Fazio

Hi, my name is Rachel Fazio, and I am from Sterling Heights, Michigan. I did my undergraduate studies at Ferris State University and was accepted to MCO through the 3+4 program. After finishing my first year at MCO, I earned a B.S. in Vision Science. I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in health care, and through shadowing, I found my passion in optometry. MCO was always my top choice due to their close location, small class sizes, and new facility. During my time here, I have learned so much about this amazing profession, have been given many incredible opportunities, and have truly found my people. If you have any questions, I would love to help! [email protected]

Raymond Chartier

Raymond Chartier

Hello, I’m Raymond. I am a second year here at MCO and attended Oakland University for my undergraduate degree where I received my bachelor’s in biology. I currently serve as the treasurer for SVOSH which is MCO’s Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. I originally was going to attend medical school and specialize in ophthalmology but realized that path was not meant for me. However, I still had a keen interest in the eye, so I decided to apply to optometry school instead. I was accepted to both Ohio State’s and Ferris’s optometry programs but chose Ferris because I believe it would give me the best opportunity to succeed. MCO has been nothing but a blessing to me with its small class sizes, low student to teacher ratio, and family atmosphere. I truly believe there’s not a better school in the nation to attend optometry school than MCO. Feel free to email me below if you have any questions about MCO, student life, housing, or anything else!  [email protected]

Thomas Colvin

Thomas Colvin

I did my undergraduate studies at Ferris State University. While studying at Ferris I was an involved member of the Honors Program. I also spent two years as an in-class Organic Chemistry laboratory tutor, allowing me the opportunity to really dive into the research aspect of science in general. I am a current member of Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH). I became interested in optometry after shadowing and communicating with professionals from multiple areas in the medical field. Optometry grabbed my attention because of the impact clear vision has made in my life, as well as the integral role the optometrist plays when detecting systemic health conditions. MCO has a small class size and faculty that makes optometric education delivery efficient for any student’s learning style. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! [email protected]