MCO Ambassadors for Admissions

Third Year Students

Abigail MaynardAbigail Maynard

Hi, my name is Abby Maynard! I am from Holt, MI, which is just outside East Lansing.  I am a born and bred Spartan so naturally I attended Michigan State University (Go Green!) and was a part of the Honors College and Lyman Briggs! I fell in love with optometry for multiple reasons! It is a great environment to work in, you get to work one on one with patients, and truly help to improve the quality of their vision! I have worn contacts and glasses for 10 years and at my very first appointment my mom actually predicted my future as she encouraged me to be an optometrist! I've worked at an optometric practice in Okemos, MI (the same one I went to 10 years ago) and have learned a lot from the doctors there who've taken me in as a student with open arms.  I truly feel lucky to be a part of the MCO community as everyone - students, secretaries, and professors - encourage and help you to succeed.  The small class size is a huge benefit because I am able to work closely with the doctors! Additionally, the optometry building is filled with top notch equipment and creates a great learning environment! MCO also has a wide array of student organizations to get involved in.  I am currently the president-elect of the Michigan Optometric Student Association (MOSA) as well as a member of AOSA.  The eyes and vision continue to excite me every day and I hope they excite you too! Please email me with any questions you may have; I’m happy to help! [email protected]

Abigail ZielkeAbigail Zielke

Hi, my name is Abby Zielke, and I am from Frankenmuth, Michigan. In highschool, I was searching for a career path that would combine my love for science and passion for serving—optometry was the perfect fit! I attended Saginaw Valley State University, where I received my undergraduate degree in biology. Choosing to attend MCO was the easiest and best decision I have ever made. Returning to Big Rapids and to my classmates each semester feels like coming home. I am currently serving as the Michigan Optometric Student Association (MOSA) secretary, as well as a second year Cornea and Contact Lens Representative. I am also involved in SVOSH, the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists (FCO), and the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA). Please contact me with any questions you may have about MCO, Big Rapids, applying to optometry school—anything! My email is [email protected].

Ankur PatelAnkur Patel

Hi! I’m Ankur Patel and I am from Canton, Michigan. For my undergraduate studies, I went to Wayne State University for a year before transferring to Michigan State University. I spent two more years there before I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology. All my life I was exposed to the field of Optometry. I got my first pair of glasses around 4th-5th grade and ever since then, it was yearly visits to the Optometrist. In addition, a bursting pipe hit my grandpa while I was in middle school and he had a procedure to get a prosthetic eye. Along with all of this, my grandma received cataract surgery while I was in high school. Seeing family members struggle with such a keen sense like vision made me realize I wanted to help people with their vision. When it was time to apply for Optometry schools, I knew MCO was the right place for me because of the small student-faculty ratio, how close it was to home, and the state of the art facility. I have gotten involved in multiple student organizations including Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanities (SVOSH), Vision Rehab Club (VRC), and am Secretary of the American Optometric Student Association. MCO is a very friendly environment and we would love to have you as part of our family! If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

Caitlin WinsorCaitlin Winsor

Hello, I am Caitlin Winsor and I am a part of the Michigan College of Optometry Class of 2020. I grew up in Middleville, Michigan which is just a half an hour past Grand Rapids. I graduated from Hamline University (St. Paul, Minnesota) in 2014 with B.A. in Exercise and Sports Science and Psychology. At Hamline University, I was a NCAA Division III Goalie for the Women’s Ice Hockey team. I chose Optometry because of the long term relationship with patients, the lifestyle, and the ability to positively impact patients. In the end, I chose MCO because of the small class sizes and state of the art facility. At MCO I have made many new friends and have enjoyed being involved with many organizations, such as Fellowship of Christian Optometrists (FCO) as President-Elect, Vision Rehabilitation Club (VRC), and SVOSH. If you have any questions about MCO or Big Rapids, you can message me at [email protected].

Ethan ZimmermanEthan Zimmerman

For my undergraduate studies, I attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan where I majored in Biology, served as our Optometry Club president (2 years), and lettered in Varsity Football (3 years). I have always loved to be involved in my community and continue to do so by holding the following positions at the Michigan College of Optometry: Optometry Student Government President-Elect, Community Service Chair for the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, and the American Optometric Association – Political Actions Committee Student Liaison. I became interested in Optometry later in my studies, after initially wanting to attend medical school. After realizing optometry suited me better from a family aspect later in life, and that it provided me more of an opportunity to impact patients’ lives from a much more beneficial regard, here I am at MCO! The BEST optometry school in the country. MCO is unrivaled when it comes to combining a personal learning atmosphere, hardworking staff and students, and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. These factors mesh together to produce some of the best doctors in the country, and I am proud to be a part of it! [email protected]

Evan ZimmermanEvan Zimmerman

I attended Hope College for undergraduate studies and graduated in the class of 2015. I majored in biology and played on the baseball team my freshman year. After graduating, I took a year off to travel and save up money. Attending MCO was a great decision and getting involved is not difficult. I am treasurer of MCO’s branch of AOSA and on the executive board for VRC. I first developed an interest in eye care when I first got contacts in eighth grade. I saw how it drastically improved my ability to see the baseball when I played and appreciated how important sight was to perform activities we love. MCO is not only an excellent program to educate for optometry, but the small class size makes it feel like home. Faculty members are very easy to talk to and are always trying to go above and beyond assisting us students. You grow close with your class members and planning fun activities is easy since everyone is on the same schedule! Feel free to email me any time. [email protected]

Grace ShinGrace Shin

Hello! I grew up in the Metro Detroit area and received my B.S. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I became interested in optometry after graduating college while working in a private practice that specializes in the treatment of binocular vision dysfunction. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to see firsthand how optometrists can significantly improve their patients’ quality of life. I chose MCO for my graduate studies because I was excited about the small class sizes and the opportunity to learn in a state of the art facility with the best faculty. If you have any questions about life as an MCO student, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Jaclyn TollesJaclyn Tolles

Hello! My name is Jaclyn Tolles and I was born and raised in Livonia, Michigan. I attended the University of Michigan for my undergraduate studies and received a B.S. in Microbiology and minored in Social Work and American Sign Language.  I was introduced to optometry in 7th grade when all my teachers knew I needed glasses and I failed a vision screening at the family doctor. From then on I became interested in optometry and participated in an internship program my senior year of high school working in a clinic in our local hospital. I chose to attend MCO because after being at a very large school for undergrad I was looking for something smaller for graduate school, and I definitely made the right decision! During my free time, I like to go floating down the river, go for a run, or read a book. I am having a great time at MCO and know you will too! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns at [email protected]

Jennifer MielkeJennifer Mielke

I did my undergraduate studies at Saginaw Valley, where I majored in International Studies. I love to travel and have studied abroad in Spain, taught English in Costa Rica, and traveled through Europe. I became interested in optometry at a young age when I learned I needed glasses in the 4th grade. I had no idea that the way I saw life wasn’t “normal” and I want to help other people see their full potential. I worked for a few years as an optician at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses and as a technician at a private practice. MCO is a huge family and I am going to truly miss it when I graduate. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I would love to help you out!

Laura KellerLaura Keller

Hello! My name is Laura and I’m from Battle Creek, MI. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Michigan State University. I spent my time there as president of the pre-optometry club and working as a technician for some local optometrists. I became interested in optometry after my first eye exam in 4th grade and I knew it was the career for me after job shadowing and working as a technician. I chose MCO for the small class size and friendly environment. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved, and the friends you make here will become family. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me! [email protected]

Mary StollMary Stoll

Hi, my name is Mary Stoll, and I am from Kent City, Michigan. I attended Ferris State University for my undergraduate studies where I majored in biology. I was in the 3+4 program, so I received a Bachelors of Vision Science. I have been familiar with the optometry profession since first getting glasses in fifth grade, but it was not until my senior year of high school that I decide to pursue a career in optometry. After job shadowing while in high school, I fell in love with optometry for multiple reasons! When choosing an optometry school, I knew MCO would be a great fit for me because of the small class sizes and the family feel that comes along with it! I am currently the president-elect of the student chapter of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH), as well as a member of Fellowship of Christian Optometrist (FCO) and American Optometric STudent Association (AOSA). Please email me with any questions you may have ([email protected]). I would love to help in any way I can!

Tyler ParmerTyler Parmer

I graduated from Lyman-Briggs college at Michigan State University in 2016 where I majored in cellular and developmental neuroscience and human biology. I became interested in optometry in college after I shadowed multiple optometrist in different modes of practice. I was drawn to optometry because it allows you to make an immediate improvement in the lives of your patients in a primary care setting. I am the Trustee-Elect of the American Optometric Student Association and I am involved with many other student organizations at MCO. I chose MCO because of the small class sizes and the many opportunities for extracurricular involvement. Please reach out if there are any questions I can answer! [email protected]

Second Year Students

 Alina UsataiaAlina 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].

Ashley BaumanAshley Bauman

Hello! My name is Ashley. I started my college career at a small community college. I then transferred to Ferris State University to complete a B.S. in Biology. I knew that I wanted a career in medicine and fell in love with optometry while job shadowing in high school. I chose MCO because of its updated lab and clinic settings, small class sizes, and faculty that truly care about your education. MCO also makes it easy to get involved in the areas of optometry that interest you. I am currently the secretary of the Optometric Public Health Student Association (OPHSA). If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask by emailing me at [email protected].

Ashley GorneyAshley Gorney

I did my undergraduate studies at Ferris State University and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology before attending MCO. I have worn glasses since I was in third grade, so optometry as a profession always interested me. After working at an optometry office, I liked that we saw a good mix of medical visits and eye exams and I was hooked. Everyday was different and it was always exciting. I also have always been very involved at school so I am one of our class representatives. I picked MCO because of the small student to faculty ratio and am really glad I did!  My email is [email protected] if you have any questions.

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] 

Kelsey KowalskiKelsey Kowalski

Hi, my name Kelsey Kowalski and I am from Fargo, North Dakota. I attended NDSU for 3 years of undergrad and got accepted to MCO in the 3+4 Program. This allowed me to start optometry school and graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Vision Science after completing my first year at MCO. I chose MCO for many reasons. I knew I would have to make a big move no matter what school I chose to attend, so it was important for me to feel comfortable in the new area I would be living in. Big Rapids made me feel like it was a little part of home and I was also very impressed with MCO as a school. I had no doubts that MCO was the school for me and if I were to choose all over again, I would absolutely make the same decision. If you have any questions, please reach out to me. I am always happy 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 operativity 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].

Stephanie SlifkaStephanie Slifka

I am a second year student from Chesterland, Ohio. I graduated from the University of Mount Union with a degree in biochemistry in 2017. Before college, I attended a career center for optical technology, which confirmed that optometry was the profession I wanted to be in, and I have been working for 2 private practice optometrists since 2012. Here at MCO, I am the president elect for the Optometric Public Health Student Association (OPHSA) as well as a member of MOSPPA, SVOSH, and AOSA. Contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions.