Dr. Stephanie Messner Named Chair of ACOE

In July, Dr. Stephanie Messner was named Chair of the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education. ICO's President, Dr. Mark Colip, congratulated Dr. Messner's distinguished service and described the accomplishment by saying, "Serving as chair of ACOE is a herculean job under normal conditions. To serve the profession in this role during a pandemic is... remarkable!"


We asked Dr. Messner to share how she views the new role and what challenges she anticipates moving forward.


What are you looking forward to as Chair of ACOE?

I have been on the Council since 2013 and served as Vice Chair last year. But the role of Chair carries more responsibility, including more interaction with the AOA, so I am looking forward to taking that on. I enjoy serving on ACOE because it is fun to work with a group of really smart people who engage in high level, intellectual discussions about quality optometric education.


What made you want to pursue the chair position?

I didn’t really pursue the position – it pursued me!  With that said, I am honored to take the reins of an optometric organization at the national level. I believe it is an important way for me to serve my profession.


What is one thing that ICO has taught you that you will bring to this new chair position.

I have learned many things from my 35 years at ICO, but perhaps the one that is most applicable to the ACOE role is how to be flexible. I have learned there may be more than one good way to approach a situation, and that is an important principle within ACOE culture. The Council is not prescriptive to programs and encourages their creativity.


What do you see as the biggest challenges in taking on the role of ACOE Chair?

As with everything these days, the pandemic has impacted operations of the Council.  Much of our work involves site visits to both optometry degree and residency programs, so we have had to cancel all of our visits since March and to become creative with other means of program monitoring. 


In addition, we have to develop policy, in alignment with the USDE, to provide guidance to our accredited programs regarding flexibilities that are permitted due to COVID interruptions. I anticipate that this will be ongoing for some time. . .


Another major challenge is that Joyce Urbeck, ACOE’s long-time Director retired in July. Joyce holds a wealth of institutional knowledge regarding all aspects of ACOE; her departure leaves a big void. So it will be challenging to serve as Chair at a time when a new Director takes over. Fortunately, we have an excellent group of ACOE staff and they will keep us moving in the right direction.


Thank you Dr. Messner for your continued service to the field of optometry!

More About Dr. Messner:

Dr. Stephanie Messner currently serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean at the Illinois College of Optometry. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry where she also completed a residency in Primary Eye Care. She joined the ICO faculty in 1985 and has held a variety of teaching and administrative positions during her tenure at the institution.


Dr. Messner is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. Currently, she serves as Chair of the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education and has chaired the Residency, Planning, and Professional Development Committees for ACOE.


She has been an active volunteer within ASCO, and currently chairs the OAT Committee in addition to her work on the Leadership Development Task Force. She is a past member of the Illinois Optometry Licensing and Disciplinary Board and current member of the Greater Chicago Interprofessional Education Consortium Steering Committee.

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