CROWN POINT | It’s almost as though Crown Point’s Lauren Sokol has had two identities as a Purdue University Calumet student—three, actually.
--One, as an enterprising campus representative for the Disney College Program, with which she served for eight months as a hospitality intern at Florida’s Disney World in 2010.
--Another, as an accomplished biology student, who, after earning a baccalaureate degree a year ago, is on task to add a master’s diploma during Purdue Calumet Commencement Exercises Tuesday at the Radisson Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville.
--And the third, as a former Purdue West Lafayette student, who gave up the life of an active Boilermaker—Purdue Dance Team, Boiler Gold Rush Team Leader, Pi Beta Phi sorority chapter officer— after three years to complete her Purdue education closer to home for family reasons.
“I wasn’t sure I’d like it here, living at home and driving to campus every day,” the 24-year-old, Lake Central High School graduate said. “But I’ve really enjoyed the small class sizes, and I’ve gotten to know my professors.”
She also found a better fit for herself academically.
“I started at West Lafayette in bio-medical engineering; then I switched to public health, but I was still trying to find myself,” she said. “When I transferred here I got into biology and really enjoyed it.”
She also got into the Disney College Program, a national educational initiative in which college students can advance their strengths and interests through job-related internships, training and career development opportunities with Disney.
“I’d heard about it when I was at West Lafayette,” she said, “and our family had visited Disney, so I decided to apply online for an internship.”
While her acceptance into the program generated a satisfying experience as a restaurant hostess and trainer, it also planted seeds for other opportunities. After returning to Purdue Calumet following her internship, she was hired by Disney last spring as a campus representative for its College Program. Subsequently, she has recruited 24 Purdue Calumet students into the program as interns, 14 of whom will begin in January.
Academically, she also has made an impressive splash. In fact, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Radmila Sarac said she has been “continuously impressed with Lauren’s motivation and commitment to learning.
“She really stands out as a student and as an individual. She is approachable, demonstrates patience, is passionate about science and thoroughly enjoys teaching other students what she has learned, whether in the classroom or lab. She has many strengths that certainly will allow her to succeed in her future endeavors.”
Nominated as an “outstanding” Purdue Calumet student for two consecutive years, Sokol has engaged in protein channel-related research, having received a Purdue Calumet research grant for her efforts. She also has presented her research on and off campus. Additionally, she has been a Graduate Teaching Assistant, as well as an instructor in the university’s Upward Bound program.
As for what’s next, she admits she is weighing her options.
“I am considering teaching positions at local colleges and research lab openings in Chicago,” she said. “I’m also looking into opportunities at museums and continuing my education in a Ph.D. program.”
Asked what advice she would offer prospective college students, she said, “Be open-minded...”