Continuing EducationFuture LeadersBy Maryann Santos, Program Director, Vision Care Technology, Goodwin College
At the college, our Vision Care Technology students are introduced to the “players” in our industry beginning with the 3 O’s (opticianry, optometry, and ophthalmology), frame, lens, and laboratory representatives, and state and national organizations.
The one organization that unites all opticians is the Opticians Association of America (OAA). Each year the OAA puts on a State Leadership Conference drawing opticians, optical students, apprentice opticians, state society members, and industry representatives and optical leaders from across the country.
Student and apprentice optician attendance has been on an upswing in recent years. The first year of “Leadership”, there were 5 or 6 students, the past three years, there were more than 30 student attendees! Many return bringing classmates and/or colleagues, and some have entered leadership positions themselves after the networking opportunities they developed at the conference. The student track of three day courses includes topics on how to run a board meeting, understanding the various officer positions and committees within the make-up of a state association, and how to become a leader at your college, state association and even on a national level.
Students can apply to the OAA for a grant to help defray the cost of attending. Many who are not awarded a national grant, are able to receive support from their state associations. The state associations also financially support apprentices from their states who indicate their commitment and desire to attend.
The students develop a strong bond and remain connected through an OAA Leadership student Facebook page and online chats. Before leaving the conference, they develop a "leadership action plan". Upon their return home, students work on implementing their plans and keep in contact with their leadership classmates and mentors throughout the year. In addition, the students elect a representative to serve on the OAA Board of Directors.
Upon their arrival to the conference, students and apprentices are assigned as members of the welcoming committee and immediately meet other students and leaders. When not in student leader development classes, they attend general sessions and breakout sessions with national leaders as guests of their home state associations. State associations have created positions for student leaders to be able to serve as directors to their own boards.The passion for our profession grows from this conference. Megan Tyler, 2nd year Goodwin College Vision Care Technology student said, “Leadership 2017 was an anticipated event for me as a first year Ophthalmic Science Student. With so much still unknown about the profession and how I would even fit in to the world of optics, I was skeptical about my take away from it. The three days that I was in Savannah, GA, felt like I was a part of something incredible, something that was going to change the way people see the world (literally). Going into the 2018 year, I cannot wait to return, because walking into a room of strangers and feeling like you can accomplish the world with the amazing work that we do and feeling like you are at home, will be a feeling I will never forget. A feeling I will return with to the OAA State Leadership Conference every year.”
This year’s OAA State Leadership Conference will be held February 8-10, 2018 in Charleston, SC. Let’s make this a record turn-out! For more information and registration, go to http://www.oaa.org/events/2018/02/08/2018_oaa_ldr_conference.
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