Katie Sokol, who will graduate with a degree in biological sciences, will attend SUNY College of Optometry in the fall.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2014 profile: Katie Sokol
May 12, 2014Tweet
Despite being the youngest of 10 children, Katie Sokol had no problem with following in the footsteps of two older brothers who attended Binghamton University.
“Binghamton is a diverse campus that is affordable,” said Sokol, a 22-year-old biological sciences major from Scarsdale. “Once my brothers came to Binghamton, I knew I wanted to come here, too.”
Sokol’s transition to Binghamton University was made smoother by what she called a “brotherly foundation:” Benjamin graduated when Katie was a sophomore in 2012, while Michael graduated in 2010.
The decision to attend Binghamton pleased Sokol’s parents, she said.
“They know this is a good area,” she said. “My mom loves antiquing, so she loves to come up here. I’m Jewish – and there is a great Chabad and Hillel here. They are happy about a great state school and a great education.”
Sokol knew early that biological sciences was the area of study for her.
“I always knew that I loved science and the health field,” she said. “One of the good things about finding what you like (early) is that you get to learn more of what you want. Every class has so much information.”
Sokol plans to take her biological skills and apply them to optometry. She has already served as an intern at SUNY College of Optometry in Manhattan and has shadowed optometrists in Scarsdale, the Bronx and Kansas. She said she quickly learned the importance of patient-doctor interaction in primary eye care.
“One doctor I shadowed had three generations who always came to him,” she said. “Even though you may only see your eye doctor once a year, it is never ‘OK, fix your problem.’ Instead, it’s ‘Let me help you.’”
An optometrist can even make a difference in the life of a child, Sokol said. For example, she mentioned a child experts thought had a learning disability. In fact, all the child needed was a new pair of glasses to properly see at school.
“You can help people with the rest of their lives,” she said. “You can help them succeed.”
Sokol will attend SUNY College of Optometry in the fall. It is one of only 21 optometry schools in the United States and offers a four-year program with a fifth-year option for residency. She admitted, however, that optometry school is “a little scary and nerve-wracking.”
“It’s such a big step,” said Sokol, who has served as e-board president of the Pre-Optometry Club on campus. “You’re not only learning for yourself, but you’re learning for your future patients. I’m really going to know the eye well!
“It’s good to know or have an idea about what you are going to do when you graduate,” she added. “It really motivates you to reach a goal. The fact that I’ve gotten to this point puts a smile on my face.”
Sokol credits the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) with helping her through trying times and ensuring that she remained on her career path.
“EOP is always there for you if you need advising or support,” she said. “It’s a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and you say hello to anyone. You can talk about anything from a current concern to something you want to do in the summer.”
Vanessa Young, interim EOP director, is one person Sokol said made a difference in her time at Binghamton University.
“She’s helped me overcome some difficult struggles,” Sokol said. “I would leave her office feeling better just by getting a lot off my chest.”
Young called Sokol “one of the most thoughtful, spirited, dedicated and well-rounded students” she has ever known.
“From the first time I met with Katie for advising, I was impressed by the plans she had made for herself,” Young said. “It was very clear that she was focused, confident and eager to embrace the opportunities available at Binghamton to enhance her academic and personal growth. Through her family, she learned to care about others and has been active in community service and leadership, serving on the executive board in several roles of the Pre-Optometry organization on campus.
“Katie has dreamed of becoming an optometrist for a long time and has been skillful in balancing both academic work and extracurricular activities. She has not skipped a beat in her determination to be successful and to help others.”
Coming from a large family has helped Sokol remain driven to assist others, while helping her see the world differently, she said.
“I’m not quick to judge people and assume things,” she said. “I have to work hard for what I want. I don’t want to disappoint my siblings by not doing the best I can.
“It’s exciting to finish this chapter of my life and accomplishing what I came here for. I know how much I’ve grown over the past years personally, intellectually and emotionally.”