Updated: January 22, 2013 6:21AM
It’s almost as if Crown Point’s Lauren Sokol enjoyed 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 biological sciences student who, after earning a bachelor’s degree a year ago, gained her master’s in the same discipline during PUC Commencement on Dec. 18.
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.
Sokol is among the class of 738 fall graduates, 190 of whom earned master’s.
“I wasn’t sure I’d like it ... living at home and driving to campus every day,” said Sokol, 24, a Lake Central High School graduate. “But (I) really enjoyed the small class sizes, and I (got) to know my professors.”
She also found a better fit for herself academically.
“I started at West Lafayette in biomedical 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 ... .”
Her acceptance into the program generated a satisfying experience as a restaurant hostess and trainer, but also planted seeds for other opportunities. After returning to PUC following her internship, Disney spent her last spring as a campus representative for its College Program. Subsequently, she has recruited 24 PUC students into the program as interns, 14 of whom will start in January.
Academically, she also has made a 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,” Sarac said. “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 ... .”
Nominated as an “Outstanding” PUC student for two consecutive years, Sokol has engaged in protein channel-related research, having received a research grant for her efforts. She also has presented her research on and off campus.
Additionally, she has been a graduate teaching assistant, and an instructor in PUC’s Upward Bound program. As for the next stage of her life, she admits she’s 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.”
Spring semester admission deadline is Jan. 4 — Though the PUC campus will be closed Dec. 24 and 25, there is still time for new, transferring and returning students (those returning after an absence of two or more years) to enroll in spring-semester classes.
The first step is to be admitted to PUC, and the deadline for degree-seeking students is Jan. 4. The semester starts Jan. 14.
All prospective students can apply for admission online by visiting the “Admissions” page on the PUC website: webs.purduecal.edu/admissions/students/. For more information, call 989-2213 or (800) 447-8738, Ext. 2213. Prospective graduate students should contact the Office of the Graduate School at 989-2257 or (800) 447-8738, Ext. 2257.