NSU breaks ground on new home for Oklahoma College of Optometry
Northeastern State University breaks ground on new home for Oklahoma College of Optometry
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Northeastern State University broke ground on the new Oklahoma College of Optometry facility this morning. The long-awaited celebration marks the next step in the college’s mission to better serve students and patients in the years to come. NSUOCO is the only optometry college in the state and one of only 23 in the nation.
“This morning we start the construction of a building that will match the reputation of the level of instruction and the level of patient care that has been provided here for decades,” Dr. Steve Turner, NSU President said.
Current plans for the project include creating an 85,000 square foot complex—nearly triple the amount of usable space at the existing facility—to house additional exam lanes, labs, classrooms, clinical conference rooms, seminar rooms, an auditorium and optical shop.
According to Turner, it is the most expensive construction project in NSU history at a projected cost of $39.3 million and only reached this point thanks to years of planning and support from across the state and community.
NSU officials discussed finding a new home for the Oklahoma College of Optometry back in 2016 to better address space needs for the growing program. Efforts to find facilities to better accommodate the program led to NSU officials launching the “Building Excellence: A Vision for the Future” fundraising campaign in 2021.
Since launching the fundraising effort, NSU has secured support from various stakeholders to help make the new home a reality. This includes, but is not limited to, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate, the Cherokee Nation, the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, Cherokee County Commissioners and private donations from faculty, staff, alumni and other friends of the university.
“We needed to bring up the resources, the facilities that we had, in support of this top optometry school, so that we can also support additional students because as we all know, optometrists are critical to health care,” Sen. John Haste said.
A longtime partner to the Cherokee Nation, NSUOCO has served as the eye care provider for the Cherokee Nation since the college’s founding in 1979. This longstanding partnership means NSUOCO students, residents and faculty are able to experience thousands of immersive learning encounters each year while providing state-of-the-art care to a diverse and often underserved population.
The new facility will complement other comprehensive and specialty services ongoing at the various NSUOCO clinics throughout Green Country. NSUOCO and Cherokee Nation officials also look forward to increasing optometric care to patients through the creation of this new optometry facility.
“By investing $5 million in the NSU College of Optometry, we are investing in a brighter future and equipping communities and families across our reservation with the tools necessary to improve health outcomes for generations to come,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “It also reinforces our longstanding partnership with the university, as this infusion of funds will bolster the school’s infrastructure and enable it to continue its tradition of excellence when it comes to optometry education. The institution has Cherokee Nation’s unwavering support in its mission—improving the vision and well-being of people in northeast Oklahoma.”
Dr. Kyle Tate, President of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, discussed the strong relationship between the association and NSUOCO and how it has led the state and country in the field for decades. “In optometry, we are known for being the best,” Tate said.
Excitement for the new facility is shared across the campus community, from alumni of both NSU and NSUOCO to current undergraduate students. While the new building will surely be impressive with its updated designs and amenities, the NSU community knows that its impact will reach far beyond the facility’s walls.
“Standing tall, Northeastern State University's Oklahoma College of Optometry will act as an inspiration for students who seek an education in the field of Optometry for years to come,” Northeastern State Government Association President Asa Robbins said.
Groundbreaking- NSU, state and tribal officials break ground on the new home for the Oklahoma College of Optometry. Pictured left to right are: Dr. Jerrid Freeman, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Rep. Dr. Carl Newton, Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, Rep. Bob Ed Culver, Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, Sen. Blake Stephens, Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner, NSUOCO Associate Dean Dr. Nathan Lighthizer, Cherokee Nation Executive Medical Director Dr. Roger Montgomery, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Dr. Steve Turner, NSU President, RUSO Board Chair Connie Reilly, Sen. John Haste, OAOP Executive Director Joel Robison, Dr. Kyle Tate, OAOP President, NSUOCO student Kylie Endres, NSU Vice President for Administration and Finance Christy Landsaw, Tahlequah Mayor Suzanne Myers, Dr. Debbie Landry, NSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, NSGA President Asa Robbins, NSU Vice President of University Relations Dan Mabery and NSUOCO Dean Dr. Doug Penisten.