Student spotlight: Brooke Barnes, Bluffton University


originally published by Bluffton University and available here

The future is clear

Brooke Barnes ’24 is preparing for the future through personal initiative and the support of mentors.


Brooke Barnes ’24 has always wanted to help people, and for the biology major from Shelby, Ohio, that means pursuing a career in health care. Barnes is currently applying to graduate schools with the goal of becoming an optometrist. 

“I’ve learned a million and one things and feel very prepared for the graduate school interviews I have coming up,” said Barnes.

Barnes took the OAT in January which can be described as the optometry equivalent of the MCAT test to get into medical school. At Bluffton, she is growing her research skills by completing a project under the mentorship of Dr. Angela Montel, professor of biology.

“It’s optometry-based and looks into how nutrition affects the health of the eyes,” explained Barnes. “I’ve seen a lot of diseases and conditions people have with their eyes—cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma.” 

In May, Barnes traveled with Sarah Lehman, assistant professor of biology, and other Bluffton students to Ecuador for a cross-cultural experience. In addition to visiting historic and geographic sites including museums and a volcano, participants volunteered at the Centro Medico clinic. Barnes shadowed both an optometrist and an ophthalmologist.

“It was such a good experience,” said Barnes. “We go to do cultural experience and to see so many sites in Ecuador, but I felt like I was learning in the process. I got to work closely with the optometrist because I have experience working in an optometry office.”  

During summers and breaks on campus, Barnes works at Ashland EyeCare in Ashland, Ohio. Originally, she filled in as a receptionist but has progressed to working in all areas of the office. 

“I’ve learned where everything is in the eye. They let me look in the microscope and taught me how to read an Optomap,” said Barnes. “I’ve also worked in their lab where they cut glasses.” 

On campus, Barnes works as a biology student assistant and resident advisor. She is a member of Science Club and runs on Bluffton’s cross country and track and field teams. 

“Being involved on campus with cross country is one of the best things I’ve done for myself,” said Barnes. “Going to a new place, a new school is kind of scary, but when I put myself on that team, I instantly had friends and connected with other people.” 

Now entering her senior year on campus, Barnes is looking forward to working out with her teammates, growing the Science Club and developing her knowledge. Mostly, though, she’s ready to “just be around everybody at Bluffton again.” 

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