MCO Ambassadors for Admissions

Third 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].

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]

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]

 Jon KendallJon Kendall

Hi, my name is Jon Kendall. I completed my undergrad at Michigan State University in 2008 and spent 10 years teaching AP physics, chemistry, and biology at a public high school in southwest Michigan. I live in Cadillac with my wife Erin, and my daughters Kenz and Evie, which makes me a commuter student, one of a handful of married students, the only parent in my class, and the oldest student in my class. Before applying to MCO, I was worried that it might be too late to change careers, but the understanding and support from the faculty and staff here has been amazing. If you have questions about nontraditional students, commuting, finding time as a grad student to be a parent or spouse, or getting back into the academic groove after an extended time away, please reach out to me. [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 ColvinThomas 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]

Second Year Students

Aleesha Anderson

Aleesha Anderson

I am originally from Minnesota but went west for my undergraduate studies, and I attended South Dakota State University. Staying in the Midwest but traveling east this time, I headed to Michigan for optometry school. During my summer and holiday breaks from my undergraduate studies, I was a technician at a local optometry office. I loved having the time to talk to the patients, get to know them, and explain the purpose of each test. This inspired me to pursue a career in optometry, which led me to MCO. I love the small class sizes, the interactions with the professors, and the close community feel. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. [email protected]

Alex Couch

Alexandra Couch

I completed my undergraduate studies at Central Michigan University and received a degree in Biology. When I started job shadowing a local Optometrist during my second year there, I knew I had found my calling! I love helping people, and I wanted to be able to develop long-lasting relationships with my patients. The profession seemed like the perfect fit for me, and on top of that, eyes are just plain cool. I really wanted to be involved at MCO, and I earned the pleasure of being the Class Representative for the Class of 2023. I love bridging communication between the students and faculty and being a resource for my classmates. MCO is a fantastic community, where everyone supports everyone, no question is a bad question, and we treat each other like family!  [email protected]

Alissa Athanasakos

Alissa Athanasakos

I attended York University in Toronto for undergraduate studies in Biology, and lived in the Greater Toronto Area my whole life. My interest in Optometry grew from observing the profession by shadowing local optometrists and from my curiosity in understanding the mechanics behind vision. I love travelling and to be active outdoors. I joined the intramural soccer team at MCO and participated in the 5K virtual run to benefit the CDC and to support those battling Covid-19.  MCO is a great school, with its small classes sizes you really get to know your entire class, upper year students and can easily find one-to-one time with the professors. MCO is an extremely supportive environment all around! Feel free to reach out on any social media or email me - [email protected]

Areli Mayorga

Areli Mayorga

Hi! My name is Areli and I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. I grew up going to the eye doctor from a young age when I discovered I was nearsighted. Since then the optometrist has been one of my favorite places to go to since I knew that at each visit I would be getting new glasses that would help me see better. Getting my first pair of contact lenses in middle school transformed my life. I could not believe how incredibly clear I saw the world for the first time! For undergrad I went to both the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids. I am also a first generation college student, so representing my community and those in it is very important to me! I chose MCO because I quickly realized the value of going to a small school where you can form tight bonds with classmates and professors. The small class size and small town feel of MCO makes it a very peaceful place to be. Currently, I am involved in various club’s leadership like: the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, Contact Lens and Anterior Segment Club, and the Michigan Optometric Student Private Practice Association. I am in my 2nd year now and I cannot believe how much I have already learned and grown as a student in optometry school! Feel free to email me with any questions ([email protected]).

Connor Monaghan

Connor Monaghan

Hi there! My name is Connor and I’m amongst the Class of 2023 here at MCO. My hometown is Bay City, MI and I completed my undergraduate studies at both Delta College and Ferris State University. Having been accepted into MCO as part of their 3+4 program, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Vision Science. My career choice stems from an early age - where I had hopes of becoming a doctor of some sort - and that interest carried into high school. I felt optometry was not only the most pragmatic approach when selecting my profession, but also the most intriguing as well as offering the hands-on experience/patient interaction that I desired. Choosing MCO to further my education in this regard was a no-brainer; the low class size undoubtedly creates a family-type atmosphere beyond compare - not to mention the high-end facilities at your disposal to really get the most out of your learning experience. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

Courtney Bieszczad

Courtney Bieszczad

I first became interested in optometry when I visited my hometown optometrist in St. Clair, Michigan. A year later, I decided on Ferris State University for my undergraduate studies, where I completed the 3+4 Program. If I could do it all over again, I would not change any of my decisions. I believe the close knit atmosphere and high regard for education makes MCO the perfect optometry school. As this is my 5th year in Big Rapids, I can answer almost any question about this small scenic college town. Feel free to email me!  [email protected]  Thank you, Courtney Bieszczad

Hannah Gaudette

Hannah Gaudette

Hello! My name is Hannah Gaudette, and I am from Grosse Ile, MI. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan- Dearborn, where I majored in Biological Studies and minored in Psychology. When I was in preschool, I was prescribed my first pair of glasses and an eye patch. My early introduction to optometry and my great doctors are what sparked my interest in eye care. I confirmed my passion for optometry by shadowing and working in eye clinics throughout high school and my undergraduate studies. MCO is a great place to learn and make lifelong friends. One of my favorite things about MCO is that faculty and students are always willing to help if you ask for it. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!  [email protected]

Jason Spaude

Jason Spaude

Prior to attending MCO I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky where I studied agricultural and medical biotechnology. While there I competed on their NCAA rifle team and was able to gain an appreciation for the optics of shooting and how to see the target better. This led me to the field of optometry where you are able to help people see their target better every day. At MCO, I am the student liaison for the Michigan Foundation for Visual Awareness. MCO is a great place to prepare you to become a successful optometrist. It is a close-knit community with state-of-the-art facilities and personable faculty. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

Karina Sandeen

Karina Sandeen

I was homeschooled and completed my undergraduate degree at Winona State University in my home state of Minnesota. I became interested in optometry at a young age and never grew out of my fascination with eyes! In my free time I enjoy playing violin, quilting, woodworking, and being a cat mom. It has been an absolute joy to be here at MCO, finally learning about the things that interest me most alongside my amazing classmates. Part of what makes the experience so wonderful here is our great faculty and staff. Everyone makes you feel like a part of the MCO family. It is a delightful community! If you want to ask me any questions, or just chat about life as an optometry student at MCO, please feel free to email me. I look forward to getting to know you!  [email protected]

Marie Mullally

Marie Mullally

Hello! My name is Marie Mullally and I am a second year from Port Huron, MI. I received my bachelor’s degree in 2019 from Ave Maria University in southwest Florida. When I was 8 years old I received my first pair of glasses, and I have been drawn to the profession of optometry ever since. Having gone to a small liberal arts university I knew I would love the small class size at MCO. The small class size allows the faculty to get to know us individually and assist us more effectively. If you have any questions at all feel free to email me at [email protected].

Natasha Switchuk

Natasha Switchuk

Hello! My name is Natasha and I am an international student from Burlington, Canada. I did my undergraduate studies at McMaster University where I was part of their Honours Life Science program. I was part of this program for 3 years before being accepted under MCO’s 3+4 program. I always had the idea that I would do something involved in healthcare. Close to the beginning of high school I started to learn more about optometry, and being a glasses wearer myself I thought it would be a great profession. When I first visited MCO, I was immediately sold by the amazing building; there really isn’t any other optometry school like it. Not only is the facility state-of-the-art, but the small class sizes and the amazing faculty make it feel like a second family. If you have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to send me an email! [email protected]

Olivia Truscott

Olivia Truscott

Hello! I'm Olivia Truscott and I'm a yooper from Iron Mountain, MI. I studied human biology at Michigan State University for three years. I continued my education with the 3+4 program to get my bachelor's degree in Vision Science after my first year at MCO. It was during my junior year of high school that I found my passion to pursue optometry. Throughout my undergraduate years, I gained experience by working in three different optometry offices. Michigan College of Optometry was my top choice right from the start as I was drawn to the small town and small program. It truly feels like a family! MCO provides a great environment to grow as a professional and develop the skills necessary to become great optometrists. Feel free to reach out with any questions! [email protected]

Rachel Bushey

Rachel Bushey

I completed my B.S. at Grand Valley State University, majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Biology. My campus involvement included president of our pre-op club, tutoring, and marching band (I play trombone). Here at MCO I stay involved by attending presentations, participating in research studies, and being part of a few organizations including being president-elect for SVOSH. Optometry has been a constant in my life from a young age as I have needed glasses since second grade. I spent time shadowing optometrists and started working as an optometric technician in undergrad. I chose MCO for its reputation, small class sizes, and its amazing alumni.  Please email me at [email protected] with any questions.

Rebecca Karl

Rebecca Karl

I am from Grand Rapids, MI and I completed my undergraduate studies at Grand Valley State University. There I majored in Biomedical Science and minored in Spanish. I discovered my passion for vision while at GVSU during my second year. The combined influence from my anatomy course, my love for space and my desire to serve my community brought me to optometry. I ultimately chose MCO for its small class sizes and low student to faculty ratio. The relationships I have made within my class and the rest of the community assure me that I made the right decision with MCO!  [email protected] Thanks, Becky Karl

Sam McNeill

Samuel McNeill

I attended Ferris State University for my undergraduate studies where I got a BS in Vision Science. During college I was involved with the pre-optometry club, on-campus theater, and drew cartoons for the university newspaper. On my summers off I had the opportunity to travel with my brother overseas and intern in a local optometry clinic as a technician. I've been interested in optometry since high school and enjoy the opportunities that our profession has to improve the quality of life for our patients. The people at MCO, both faculty and students, are some of the best people I've ever met and this program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!  [email protected]

Sarah DeVries

Sarah DeVries

I attended Grand Valley State University and graduated with a biomedical sciences bachelor’s degree before coming to Michigan College of Optometry. I enjoy being involved in the school and am the current president-elect for our student body government, OSG as well as being a member of the honors council. I chose MCO due to the small number of students in each class and the exceptional reputation it has in the field of optometry. My time at MCO has been incredibly eye opening (pun intended); I am happy to answer any questions you have about MCO! Just email me at [email protected]!

Taylor Scheurer

Taylor Scheurer

Hey there! I am Taylor Scheurer and I am a part of the Michigan College of Optometry Class of 2023. I am from the Cadillac area, just 45 minutes North of Big Rapids. I attended Ferris State University where I earned my B.S. in Biology. During my time as an undergraduate student at Ferris, I was a commuter, member of the Honor’s Program, involved in the Pre-Optometry, as well as so much more. During high school, I was not sure which medical profession I wanted to pursue, and it was not until my brother endured an ocular injury that I knew that the Optometric Profession was for me. Attending my brothers visits to both an ophthalmologist and optometrist made me realize that patient care is something I want to experience, and from that point on, I shadowed an optometrist to make sure it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Shortly after job shadowing my optometrist, I was offered a position to work as an ophthalmic technician as well as an optician to gain experience for two years. While experience in a practice is not necessary, I would strongly recommend it. While attending the Michigan College of Optometry, I am currently the Community Service Chair for Optometry Student Government, the Secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, a member of the Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH), the Contact Lens and Anterior Segment liaison, and the Sports Vision liaison. I am very happy to be at MCO, surrounded by helpful and knowledgeable students and faculty. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. [email protected]