HAMMOND | It’s almost as though Crown Point’s Lauren Sokol had three identities as a Purdue University Calumet student.
She was 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.
Secondly, she was an accomplished biology student, who, after earning a baccalaureate degree a year ago, added a master’s degree during Purdue Calumet commencement exercises Tuesday at the Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville.
And thirdly, she gave up the life of an active Boilermaker after three years on the West Lafayette campus — Purdue Dance Team member, Boiler Gold Rush team leader, Pi Beta Phi sorority chapter officer — 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, 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 the program generated a satisfying experience as a restaurant hostess and trainer, it also planted seeds for other opportunities.
After returning to PUC, she was hired by Disney last spring as a campus representative and has recruited 24 PUC students into the program, 14 of whom will begin internships in January.
Academically, she also 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.”
Nominated as an “Outstanding” PUC student twice, Sokol has engaged in protein channel-related research, having received a PUC research grant for her efforts. She has been a Graduate Teaching Assistant and an instructor in the university’s Upward Bound program.
Now 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.”