Five students have a lively conversation on the NECO outside front steps.

Diversity & Inclusion

Exceptional eye care for all begins with diverse knowledge, experiences, perspectives, and contributions.

NECO celebrates the diversity of our campus, our clinics, and the greater community we serve. We embrace and value the different experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs among our students, staff, faculty, partners, and patients.

Still, institutions like NECO, and the eye care profession as a whole, can do better. We’re deeply invested in evolving our diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts.

Prioritizing a more representative profession

NECO senior leadership sign an affirmation on diversity and inclusion.

NECO senior leaders sign an affirmation of their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and encouraged all at NECO to sign.

For far too long, the medical profession—including optometry—in the United States has not accurately represented the nation’s population. This lack of diversity among physicians has been linked to healthcare disparity. Simply put, a more representative profession means increased access to care and improved patient outcomes.

Committed to diversifying the field

According to census data, 13.4% of the U.S. population identifies as Black; however, 3.2% of students in optometry school and 1.8% of practicing optometrists identify as such. Black Eyecare Perspective (BEP) wants to see equal representation in the field; to achieve this goal, the organization launched the 13% Promise—and New England College of Optometry was the first school to sign this pledge.

Increasing the number of Black healthcare practitioners, including optometrists, starts with putting graduate and medical school within reach. In 2020, with the help of donor support, NECO established three new scholarships specifically for Black scholars.

Putting in the work

NECO is committed to creating a more inclusive, diverse eye care profession. Our 2020-2025 strategic plan includes several high-priority goals related to ensuring a welcoming, equitable campus environment.

In addition to expanded recruiting practices and increased financial support, our on-going efforts include:

  • Hiring a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • Forming a diversity alliance comprised of current students and faculty.
  • Appointed an external diversity & inclusion council.
  • Capturing concerns and feedback through multiple channels.
  • Establishing an interactive workplace diversity and inclusion training program.
  • Leading industry-wide discussions on diversity and inclusion.
  • Created the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Select Initiatives & Resources

The Alliance for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion is a group of NECO faculty, staff, and students who help promote a culture where individuals from all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging and can thrive academically, professionally, and personally.

Several of NECO’s student clubs and organizations have a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, including:

Asian Optometry Student Organization
Promotes awareness and acceptance of Asian culture and diversity to improve patient care.

LaVista
Teaches members how to perform an eye exam in Spanish.

National Optometric Student Association (NOSA)
The National Optometric Association promotes the delivery of vision care to underserved communities through consumer education, legislative advocacy, and minority recruitment and retention.

Prism
An LGBTQIA+ and ally organization dedicated to creative inclusivity and diversity within the school and greater optometry community.

Student Alliance for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion
Focused on educating the NECO community about social and professional issues affecting BIPOC students.

View all Student Organizations

We’re grateful for the support and guidance of NECO’s Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council, who guide NECO on best practices to support and accelerate D&I goals.

Brian K. Gibbs, PhD, MPA, is Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer, and Associate Professor at Oregon Health & Science University. He is a visionary and highly collaborative leader with an in-depth understanding of local, national, global, historical, and contemporary social justice issues facing higher education and underserved communities.

Mamie W. Mallory is President & CEO of Mallory & Associates, LLC. She is a recognized Civil Rights Leader and an accomplished Program Manager/Engineer in the Federal Government. She is formerly the Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Mary Otiato is the Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives/Ombudsman, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB). Mary oversees the Central Registry, MCB’s entry point for consumers and responds to consumer inquiries to improve and redesign processes, programs, policies, and service delivery. She has more than 13 years’ experience in management roles in human services organizations, and previously served as MCB’s Greater Boston Regional Director and Chief of Staff.

Jim Sinocchi is Head of the Global Office of Disability Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase. Jim works with leaders and employees across the firm to set the strategy for driving an inclusive culture for recruiting, hiring, and promoting qualified people with disabilities. He represents the firm in forums at the United Nations, in discussions with members of Congress, and in meetings with government officials and nonprofit entities.

Frances West was IBM’s first Chief Accessibility Officer and is founder of FrancesWestCo, a global strategy advisory company focused on working with business, governments, nonprofits, and startups to operationalize digital inclusion as a business and technology imperative. She is author of “Authentic Inclusion™ Drives Disruptive Innovation.” The book draws on her unique personal background and global business experience in technology innovation — from her personal journey as a first-generation, non-English speaking immigrant to her professional path as a woman in technology.

Headshot of Emely.
Voices of NECO

Creating the Pipeline

Emely

I appreciate the huge initiative that NECO has taken to increase diversity in the optometry field by being the first to join the 13% Promise through the Black Eyecare Perspective ‘to redefine the color of the eyecare industry 1% at a time by creating a pipeline for Black students into optometry.’ Being a part of all of this gives me so much hope.

  • Class Year 2025