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A Year to Remember: Resilience

Dr. Colip addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, tuition, DEI, telehealth and planning our 150th anniversary.

A Message from President Mark Colip

While 2020 has been challenging for everyone, I could not be more proud of the students, staff and faculty of ICO for their perseverance, dedication and teamwork.

Despite the multitude of challenges in 2020, I can proudly say that ICO and IEI delivered on our missions for education and patient care. We have been able to keep every student on track with their educational plans despite extraordinary challenges. Classroom instruction pivoted to the virtual environment and patient care incorporated telehealth and PPE adaptations. While patient care has gradually increased to 80% in the IEI, the city of Chicago still has restrictions for the gathering of large groups, which limits transitioning back to classroom instruction for the time being. Our students have displayed enormous resilience throughout 2020 and performed well above the national average on their National Board exams. I am also proud of the students achieving Dean's List recognition.

Our admissions team did an exemplary job switching admissions applicant interviews to virtual. Although this was a successful alternative to an in-person interview, nothing takes the place of touring through campus and experiencing the energy of the friendly people at ICO. As a result of their diligent efforts, the admissions team successfully recruited and enrolled an impressive class of 125 students. To keep ICO affordable to the best students, we have worked hard to keep our tuition costs under control. Over the past two years, we have had the lowest tuition increases in over a decade. We have also worked hard to decrease operating expenses across all areas of campus.

2020 was a time to reflect on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within the halls of ICO and within the profession. Our commitment to this important issue strengthened, and we are making progress in enacting processes and policies to create positive change.

Lastly, I'd like to give credit to all of our resilient alumni who have persevered in the face of a multitude of challenges that you have never experienced before. My hat's off to you for your diligence to your optometric oath and your dedication to your patients and communities.

Looking ahead to 2021…

We are laser focused on getting our faculty, staff and students vaccinated as soon as possible. In addition to receiving vaccines, we are also exploring ways that ICO can be involved in the administration of vaccines to the local community, by becoming a vaccination site and using our facilities and staff to be part of the solution.

We will also return to projects that were in progress prior to COVID, things like developing a new Master Plan for facilities and real estate. We continue to evaluate our space requirements in the specialty areas of the clinic as well as our expanding research needs. We are also evaluating the use of Brady Hall, which converted from dorm rooms to faculty and staff offices when the Residential Complex was built. Now needing significant upgrades, we are carefully evaluating those spaces.

Telehealth has surged as a result of COVID, playing an important role in the management of patients in all areas of health care. In the months ahead, we will continue exploring opportunities for our faculty and students in this important developing area.

As the oldest optometric education institution in the world, ICO will be celebrating its 150th Anniversary in 2022. We will be the first optometric institution to reach this milestone! Several celebratory events will be planned throughout the year, and planning will be underway in the coming months. My hope is that each of you will be able to participate in some way.

With gratitude for your support and best wishes for a prosperous 2021.

Mark K. Colip, OD '92

ICO President