Northeastern State University is home to one of only 23 accredited optometry schools in the United States and the program is viewed as successful program, but the vision for this specialized college is still growing.

Plans are in the works to create new facilities for NSU's Oklahoma College of Optometry. The new campus will be built with the intention of expanding the existing college in Tahlequah so it can educate more optometrists and service more patients.

Alex Clover is the optometry program representative for NSUOCO. He works with NSUOCO, as well as the Green and White Alumni Association, to promote the optometry college and help facilitate this new venture.

"The NSUOCO administration is continuing to work with senators and representatives from the state of Oklahoma on the [American Recovery Plan Act] Committee to secure funding for our new school building. Conversations happening with other entities are also showing progress," said Clover. "We are looking forward to the next couple of months as we finalize the donor and fundraising portion of this process and continue to move forward. Great developments are being made in terms of the new building, with the hope and plan to break ground sometime in the second half of 2022."

Dr. Steve Turner, president of NSU, has laid out a vision plan.

"Four years of programming and planning have resulted in an exciting vision of an optometry complex that serves the community, students, residents and alumni," wrote Turner. "The proposed 101,500-square-foot complex will feature state-of-the-art equipment, up-to-date classroom technology, and specialized clinics for low vision, vision therapy, vision rehabilitation, primary care and contact lenses, as well as a surgical suite for Oklahoma optometry’s expanded scope of practice. The estimated construction cost of the new complex is approximately $26 million."

NSU's current facilities already service over 40,000 patients per year. The new campus should inflate that number to nearly double.

There are existing structures on the main campus, as well as the Walls Vision Center in Broken Arrow, the latter of which was only built a few years ago. Named after Dr. Lesley Walls, the founding dean of NSUOCO, the Broken Arrow facility was designed to be physically accessible to elderly and handicapped patients. It functions as a rehabilitative-focused optometry facility wherein patients recovering from brain injury, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the eye can get the help they need.

The facilities now on the Tahlequah campus are too small and will require renovation in several areas. The need for new facilities has been apparent for a few years now.

"The time has come for a first-class program to move out of second-hand facilities," wrote Turner.

Candace Riley is the executive assistant to the dean of the college of optometry and has sat in on many meetings focusing on the new facilities.

"We are fundraising and planning for [the] whole new optometry complex on the Tahlequah campus," said Riley. "It will be built across the street from the alumni center."

The land plot for the new facilities is at the corner of Crafton Street and Cedar Avenue. It will be three stories high and feature a clinic, labs, classrooms, and more.

You can help

The plans and designs can be viewed by the public by searching NSUOCO Building Flyaround on YouTube. Donations can be made through the Green and White NSU Alumni Network.

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