Building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community of faculty, students, and staff is at the heart of our mission. 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 IX 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 mission statement of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is:
“To instill and celebrate diversity, inclusion, and equity in every aspect of the College’s operations.”

The expected outcomes for a diverse and inclusive community include an improved student experience, an improved patient experience, and a motivated and engaged workforce.

We can accomplish our mission and these outcomes by working together to build and support three essential pillars of diversity and inclusion:

Dr. Joy Harewood

The Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) provides leadership and counsel on matters related to diversity and inclusion at SUNY Optometry. The office of the CDO, in collaboration with other offices within the Student Affairs division and Human Resources, provides support and resources for underrepresented minorities. The CDO, Dr. Joy Harewood, can be reached at

Pillar 1. Representativeness and equality

A diverse and inclusive community means a diverse and inclusive staff, faculty, patients, and student body. To achieve this goal, we will need to work diligently to recruit and retain a workforce, patient base, and student body that represents the very communities we serve. In doing so, we must understand, recognize, and eliminate potential bias in our selection process and in our admissions, promotions and hiring practices. The College excels in the representativeness of its staff and is working diligently and strategically to make progress in the representativeness of faculty and students.

Pillar 2. Understanding, acceptance and respect

A diverse and inclusive community is built on understanding, acceptance, and respect for differences in values, beliefs, lifestyles, ethnicities, and races. People from various backgrounds share experiences that shape their values, beliefs, and how they perceive the world. These values, beliefs, and worldviews in turn shape how we solve life problems and fulfill our potential. Understanding and acceptance is having the empathy and humility to try and see the world from another person’s perspective and accept that there are multiple ways to achieve the same end. Although we may have differences in opinions and may not always agree, we should always treat each other with respect. Respect is at the core of human dignity.

Pillar 3. Minimizing implicit biases

A diverse and inclusive community is aware of and works diligently to minimize both implicit and unconscious biases. Implicit biases are the automatic cognitive associations we have in our minds about certain groups of people. Biases are a byproduct of our judgmental nature. They are formed automatically and unintentionally, and shape our attitudes, beliefs, and actions towards those who are different from us. Although we all carry unconscious biases, by reflecting on how we see and treat others, we can identify, manage, and—when necessary—eliminate biases.

The two main types of biases we must monitor are:

  • Similarity (in-group) bias: the tendency to surround ourselves and trust those who are similar to us
  • Stereotype bias: the tendency to predict how people from certain groups will behave

Let us work together to build a diverse and inclusive community cemented on the pillars outlined above.

Your support and feedback is critical to the work we do. I look forward to hearing your experiences and ideas about how to make our SUNY Optometry community even better.

Download SUNY Optometry’s Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan:
Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan 2.0 (Flippingbook)

Diversity Inclusion Plan cover

Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan Progress Tracker: Please click here for updates on each of the goals outlined in the Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan.

Download SUNY Optometry’s Task Force on Race and Equity final report:
Task Force on Race and Equity (Flippingbook)

Join the SUNY Optometry Diversity
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As its primary objective, the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) project at SUNY College of Optometry exists to increase the number of historically underrepresented minority students in CSTEP-targeted professions, most particularly in the growing and dynamic profession of optometry.

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National Optometric Student Association (NOSA)
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In 1979, after ten years of service to under-served communities, the NOA sought to establish a student organization to promote service among optometry students and carry forward the NOA’s mission of advancing the visual health of minority populations. In addition to fulfilling this core mission, the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) incorporated the goals of furthering the professional development of its student members and increase the diversity in the profession of optometry by enhancing the recruitment and retention of minority students. NOSA is an international service organization comprised of over 1,000 optometry students who are dedicated to increasing access to eyecare for minority and under-served communities. NOSA’s mission is to advance the visual health of minority and under-served communities by investing in the success of compassionate students who are eager to serve these communities.

Celebrating Diversity at SUNY Optometry
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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.

Chinese Culture Optometric Student Association
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CCOSA aims to spread and celebrate Chinese culture. Chinese civilization is one of the oldest, with a records dating back at least 5000 years. Today, Chinese is the most common language spoken worldwide, and China contains the largest population of any country. CCOSA works with the Confucius Institute and the Cultural Diversity Committee at SUNY to bring awareness of Eastern ways of thinking to the Western world through speakers, events on and off campus, and of course, Chinese food. CCOSA also facilitates cultural exchange with students from Wenzhou Medical University, at which SUNY has an externship site.

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!

SUNY Optometry Hosts Diversity Hackathon

See Politico New York’s full article on SUNY Optometry’s 2018 Diversity Hackathon NEW YORK, October 2, 2018 – SUNY Optometry hosted its first-ever diversity hackathon on Friday, September 28. The event addressed the lack of diversity in optometry and sought answers to one question: How can SUNY Optometry increase the diversity of its student body? […]