Building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community of faculty, students, and staff is at the heart of our mission and values. As part of the 2018–2023 Strategic Plan, SUNY Optometry clearly states the shared value of “service to diverse communities,” with the explicit goal of “making its programs broadly accessible to all.” Strategic Goal six further promotes the enrollment of a highly qualified and diverse student body. The goal is to shape a student body that is reflective of the communities we serve.

The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) provides leadership and counsel on matters related to inclusive excellence at SUNY Optometry. The mission statement of the office is:

“To promote and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of College operations, and to foster a sense of share responsibility and belonging.”

The Office is led by Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), Dr. Joy Harewood. The Office of DEIB, in collaboration with other offices within the Student Affairs division and Human Resources, provides support and resources to advance the mission of and vision of the College. The Office of DEIB can be reached at

Dr. Joy Harewood

Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Joy Harewood

Inspiring Programs in STEM
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Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED)
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Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan 2.0
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Race in Optometry Series
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Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan 2.0 Progress Tracker

1. To increase the number of students and faculty from underrepresented minoritized communities in our study body and academic workforce by making the College a destination of choice for underrepresented students, faculty, and staff.
  • The percentage of students from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in optometry (URiO)* has increased by 35% in the last 5 years.
  • The percentage of faculty from backgrounds that are URiO has increased by 20% in the last 5 years
  • A historic high of 17 students from the College’s pathway program CSTEP were enrolled at SUNY Optometry in 2022. The CSTEP program was nationally recognized with the “Inspiring programs in STEM” Award. Click here for more information

*The races and ethnicities that are historically underrepresented in optometry (URiO) are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx/Latine and American Indian/Alaska Native.

2. To create and foster a culture of inclusion and belonging for all people.
  • The College has had a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) since 2016
  • The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging was established in 2021
  • The Middle States Commission on Higher Education recognized SUNY Optometry as having significant resources to support student mental wellness. Click here for more information about our mental health services for students.
  • SUNY Optometry has led a nationwide discussion on “Race in Optometry” for the last three years. The six webinars are available to view here.
  • Eye See You, a digital magazine, was launched in 2021. This monthly newsletter celebrates the diverse communities at the College.
3. To produce students and residents who are equipped to care for a diverse patient base.
  • Graduating students consistently and increasingly report that they are well-prepared to communicate with diverse patient populations in a culturally appropriate manner

Graph 1 - communication

  • Graduating students and residents report they feel prepared to care for patients with diverse identities

Graph 2 - care

4. To educate the College community on cultural humility and cultural sensitivity and empower them to apply those principles to patient care and community service
  • Anti-racism and anti-discrimination training was delivered to all members of the campus community in 2021.
  • Individuals who are part of selection committees (admissions, faculty search committee, etc.) are trained in bias mitigation.
  • The Office of DEIB has supported and coordinated 19 cultural events from 2021-present to celebrate our diverse campus community. A total of 1164 people attended the events.
5. To expand and strengthen community partnerships to better serve our diverse population
  • The Student Affairs Department has engaged with four new community partners for recruitment and outreach over the last 3 years.
  • SUNY is the only optometry school to partner with an Area Health Education Center (AHEC) as part of the AHEC Scholars program. Click here for more information about the program.
6. To create a sustainable model that incorporates the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging into all aspects of the College.
  • The Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CIE) was created in 2021
  • The College’s Strategic Plan was updated to incorporate the goals of the DIMP 2.0 in 2022.
  • The College was recognized for its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion with the 2023 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. Click here for more information.

Student Groups

Pathway program: CSTEP
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National Optometric Student Association (NOSA)
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In 1969, the National Optometric Association was founded by 25 black optometrists in Richmond, Virginia. One of the organization’s missions was to develop ways to enhance the delivery, effectiveness, and efficiency of eye and vision care services to underserved communities. After 10 years, the NOA founded its student organization, NOSA. The National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) incorporated the goals of furthering the professional development of its student members and increasing the diversity in the profession of optometry by enhancing the recruitment and retention of minority students. NOSA is an international service organization comprised of 21 active chapters with over 1,000 optometry students combined who are dedicated to increasing access to eyecare for minority and underserved communities. NOSA’s mission is to advance the visual health of minority populations by investing in the success of compassionate students who are eager to serve these communities.

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SPECtrum provides a welcoming and safe space where members and allies of the LGBTQ+ campus community can come together to discuss and study diversity, and achieve a greater understanding of the spectrum of sexuality and related social issues.

SPECtrum also looks to work with the external community to identify segments of the LGBTQ+ population in need of optometric care and services, and to then either provide or coordinate that care. In addition, the club will explore possible sources of funding for portable equipment to enable community screenings, as well as for ophthalmic materials for patients in need.

Asian Culture Optometric Student Association
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ACOSA aims to spread and celebrate Asian culture through speakers, events on/off campus, and of course Asian food! ACOSA also works with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at SUNY to bring awareness of Eastern ways of thinking to the Western world by sharing the traditions/customs of how various cultures celebrate their holidays and festivities. Join us at our meetings and events to make some fun memories with friends!

Jewish Optometric Association
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JOA stands for “Jewish Optometric Association.” Our aim as a club is to educate and inspire our fellow students. We have regular events (most of which are now happening on Zoom, due to COVID), featuring enlightening speakers and amazing food. We send out a weekly newsletter discussing that week’s Torah portion, which sometimes also includes fun new recipes.

At JOA, we strive to create an inclusive environment that feels like “family”, for students and faculty who associate with the Jewish community or are interested in learning more about Judaism. Come join us at our next JOA event and see what we’re all about!

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MOSA aims to promote a sense of unity and belonging for Muslim members of the campus community and to educate all members at the college about Islam. It is natural to feel overwhelmed in such a vigorous program, which is why MOSA is intended to be a space that offers spiritual and social support to our members. By conducting monthly Islamic talks, offering academic help, and hosting events that discuss balancing studies with Optometry school and life post-graduation we hope our members have a smooth process at SUNY. MOSA aims to collaborate with other faith-based student organizations to engage in interfaith dialogue and promote tolerance. Additionally, we intend to increase access to eyecare in underserved communities by participating in joint health screenings with local Muslim healthcare associations. MOSA is welcome to all members of the campus community. To be a member you don’t need to be a Muslim, just an open mind and a desire to learn is all you need to join!

Family Resource Group
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The common purpose of SUNY Optometry Family Resource Group is to provide support for students with familial responsibilities; to create a support network, which will assist students to achieve academic success by maintaining good mental health and reducing stressors. We define family not only as your immediate relatives (spouses, children, siblings, and parents) but as anyone who is a member of your support group during your time at SUNY Optometry. Whether you may have your own family, are living with family, are far from family, or perhaps in a long-distance relationship, this club welcomes all students who may be presented with academic challenges which affect their personal lives and vice versa. Being able to communicate our challenges not only to the administration and faculty but also to our families will ensure the continuous support and/or compromises we need to succeed. This resource group will focus on advocating for improved resources and policies to support members of the SUNY community with families.

Full list of student clubs and organizations
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