February 27, 2013

SUNY Optometry Signs Agreement with Empire State to Develop Unique OD/Graduate Business Program

(L-R) Empire State Acting President Meg Benkey, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and President David Heath at a recent event

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, the SUNY College of Optometry and SUNY Empire State College, a statewide Institution that focuses on nontraditional teaching and learning, have signed an agreement to jointly develop and deliver an advanced graduate certificate in optometry business management. The 18-credit, six-course certificate will be fully applicable to the MBA program offered through SUNY Empire State College’s School for Graduate Studies.

Development of this new joint program is a response to an increased interest from optometry students in recent years for an advanced business education that will complement their clinical training and help them prepare for the demands of managing organizations or working with corporations and government agencies on health care-related issues.

While dozens of medical, dental and other professional clinical educational institutions in the United States have introduced joint clinical/business education programs over the last decade, this partnership between SUNY College of Optometry and SUNY Empire State College would create the first such joint program to be offered by a school of optometry in the United States.

“While it’s clear that there is a growing demand from incoming students for a business education that will complement the clinical education that they receive here, the timeliness of such a program is even more fortuitous given the acceleration of healthcare reform on the horizon and what that will mean in terms of the practical application of optometry,” said Dr. David A. Heath, president of SUNY College of Optometry.

“Working together to promote high-quality graduate education creates connections among the two college’s faculty, greater access and opportunity for students and sets out a path for possible future collaboration,” said Meg Benke, acting president of SUNY Empire State College. “Development of a new joint graduate certificate, fully applicable to an MBA, is an example of sharing resources and it’s what SUNY “systemness” is really all about.”

SUNY College of Optometry, which offers one of the most competitive optometric education programs in the country, currently graduates approximately 75 ODs each year and this new joint program represents the continued commitment of the college to the career development of its graduates. Recently the college established the Career Development Center specifically designed to help students and graduates achieve their career goals.

SUNY Empire State College’s School for Graduate Studies offers nine graduate certificates, six of which are applicable to the college’s MBA program. This joint program would be the seventh. Four of the six courses would be delivered to College of Optometry students online by Empire State College and two will be from SUNY Optometry’s OD curriculum. SUNY Empire State College’s non-centralized, statewide campus system and its commitment to online instruction, helped to make it an excellent fit for a partnership with SUNY Optometry’s busy students.

“The new certificate program will leverage the strengths of both institutions and makes effective use of the existing SUNY resources,” said Tai Arnold, acting dean of SUNY Empire State College’s School for Graduate Studies. “I commend the College of Optometry’s leadership and Empire State College’s graduate business faculty for creative collaboration that will meet the needs of SUNY Optometry students and alumni.”

“The teaching models at Empire State provide our students with a lot of flexibility,” said Dr. David Troilo, the SUNY College of Optometry’s vice president and dean for academic affairs, who played a key role in establishing the agreement between the two institutions. “For students like ours with clinical training that involves such rigorous time demands we needed to partner with an institution that could offer the learning options that Empire has available.”

Once the certificate program has been developed, it will be submitted to the SUNY Board of Trustees and, if approved, the program then will be reviewed by the state Department of Education.