Stacey Evans, a graduate of Goodwin University’s Vision Care Technology program, had her first “ah-ha” moment in the Opticianry industry when she fitted a young boy for his first pair of glasses. His pupils needed dilating, and his parents were a bit edgy in the exam room. To ease the tension, Stacey turned the frame selection process into more of a game.
The boy and his family came to pick up his first pair of frames. Stacey adjusted the glasses for just the right fit, and the boy walked over to the retail windowsill. The boy excitedly told his mom, while looking through his new lenses, that he could finally see beyond the trees. Immediately following, Stacey and the boy’s mother sat and shared an emotional moment, relieved that the boy was able to improve his vision and view his world in a brand-new way.
“There are everyday things that many of us take for granted,” Stacey stated, but in the Opticianry field, “we can help provide the sense of sight to every patient we encounter.”
An education that turns professional visions into practical realities
While attending Goodwin University, Stacey found the school’s state-of-the-art optical lab and training store helpful for her future career. In the facilities, students study how to fabricate frames, design, and dispense contact lenses all the while learning from, and working with customers in real-time.
“Being a part of the process from start to finish was a great hands-on experience,” Stacey shared.
Stacey learned that with hybrid classes available on evenings and weekends, Goodwin’s Vision Care Technology program was outcome-oriented, organized, and flexible.
“We knew from the first day of registration which days we would be on campus each semester, and I found that very valuable,” Stacey specified.
When asked about the Vision Care Technology program’s professors, fellow graduate, Emmalee Cuevas had a long list of positives about her educational experience at Goodwin.
“Maryann Santos, Program Director, and Rebecca Soto, Practicum Coordinator and Assistant Professor, are by far the best professors I’ve had,” Emmalee explained. “Their devotion to their students and program is like nothing I have ever seen. They push you to do better and be better,” she detailed.
Maryann Santos and Rebecca Soto are Universal Design for Learning teaching fellows in one of only two opticianry programs in the state of Connecticut. “There is no such thing as a dumb question to them,” Emmalee went on. “They are always willing to spend the extra time with whoever needs help. They are non-judgmental and very giving individuals,” she described. “I will be forever grateful for everything I have learned from them and what they have done for me as a person. The Vision Care Technology program is like a family,” Emmalee Cuevas confirmed, “No one is left behind.”
Rods, cones, and the revival of SOCO
Before 2020, the Society of Connecticut Opticians (SOCO) was dormant for 15 years. However, after receiving a travel grant, Goodwin graduates Stacey Evans and Emmalee Cuevas attended an Opticians Association of America (OAA) Leadership conference in Florida. It was evident upon their return to the Nutmeg state that the society would not stay stagnant for long. After attending the conference that gathered opticians, Opticianry students, and apprentices from around the country, the women were invigorated and inspired.
At that time, in the state of Florida, the field of Opticianry was threatened with deregulation. Congress leaders and state representatives attending the OAA conference came together to fight for the field’s future. When in attendance, “it got me thinking– who is watching my back,” Stacey divulged. “I, along with many others, fought very hard to get where I am,” she indicated, “and if there isn’t an organization keeping an eye on things, what will stop this from occurring in Connecticut?”
Stacey Evans and Emmalee Cuevas recognized that the camaraderie of optical organizations in other states was captivating. “I wanted to restore something that would be a support system for anyone willing to encourage the next optician wholeheartedly,” Stacey Evans envisioned. “Other societies protect small businesses and are united to help one another accomplish their dreams,” Emmalee added. “We believed that with unity and the right people, we could revive the association.”
The two Goodwin grads then set their sights on energizing SOCO from its dormancy, and the goal quickly turned into a realistic reality. Both Stacey and Emmalee are now Board members of the Society of Connecticut Opticians, where Stacey Evans also serves as Secretary.
A commencement celebration and surefire scholastic spectacle
With 20/20 vision being a term to express optimal visual clarity, for learning and licensed opticians, the year 2020 had been an anticipated one for years.
Then came COVID-19.
The annually awaited Vision Expo East, an international expo known to be “the” place for optical vendors, education, and networking, held in New York City, was canceled.
Commencement ceremonies also came to a screeching halt. “It was devastating not to be able to finish out the school year with classmates,” Stacey Evans admitted, and somehow, something needed to take place to celebrate students’ academic achievements.
On the evening of June 3, a virtual graduation event recognized and honored the class of 2020 graduates from Goodwin University’s Vision Care Technology program and Middlesex Community College’s Ophthalmic Design & Dispensing program. During the celebration, pets, parents, friends, and families gathered around computer screens instead of graduation stages, cheering on each graduate one by one. Through internet connections, the overwhelming smiles and strong sense of the optical community predominated.
Goodwin University’s Rebecca Soto, Practicum Coordinator and Assistant Professor, was one of the evening’s commencement speakers. In her speech to students, she strived for graduates to stay educated and encourage one another. She recommended that listeners viewing from home reach out, network, and continue to find resources in the field. Above all, it was altruistically articulated that opticians should remain the kind-hearted humans they are in their everyday work.
The ceremony concluded with a motivational quote from Helen Keller. “The only thing worse than being blind,” Rebecca recited, “is having sight, but no vision.”
The Society of Connecticut Opticians’ mission is to inspire and unify the profession of opticians in Connecticut. After Goodwin graduates Stacey Evans and Emmalee Cuevas made it their mission to revive the dormant optical association, inspiration, innovation, unity, and a real sense of community is precisely what prevailed.
Are you interested in becoming an optician? Check out or Vision Care Technology program!
The names of Goodwin graduates, as seen in the image above, from left to right are April Samkin & family, Vision Care Technology Program Director, Maryann Santos, Emmalee Cuevas, Christie Agee, Luz Mesa, Kathrine Williams and partner, and Stacey Evans. Congratulations graduates!
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.