History and Purpose

VSP Global® has partnered with the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) to provide scholarships for optometry students at every school and college of optometry in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The scholarships will be funded through the VSP Global companies Eyes of Hope® Global Charitable Fund and administered by the AAOF.

Over the last 10 years, VSP has provided more than $1 million dollars in scholarship support to hundreds of optometry students. Joining forces with the AAOF, scholarships in 2017 will be awarded to 46 students for a total of $184,000, including a travel grant to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). The travel grant will enable these outstanding students to attend a premier education opportunity in primary eye care, as well as attend a reception co-hosted by VSP Global and AAOF to help foster networking opportunities and teach the importance of Academy Fellowship.


The travel grant will enable these outstanding students to attend a premier education opportunity in primary eye care, as well as attend a reception co-hosted by VSP Global and AAOF to help foster networking opportunities and teach the importance of Academy Fellowship.

VSP, through the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF), will make two awards of $4,000 each to two students entering their fourth year (graduating class of 2019) at each of the institutions of optometry in the United States and Puerto Rico. Each scholarship carries $3,250 in scholarship money and a $750 travel grant to attend Academy 2018 San Antonio, November 7th - 10th, 2018.

Eligibility and Nomination

The submission window opens July 16, 2018 and closes August 15, 2018.

Scholarship recipients must be a student member of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). Please visit Student Membership for more information.

Each institution's Awards and Scholarship committee is tasked with selecting a pool of five business minded students who meet the clinical and academic standards below and then & choose two scholarship recipients.

The AAOF will not accept applications directly from students for this program. AAOF will notify institutional contacts that the submission window is open for nominations.

Demonstrated excellence

  • Clinical Performance: Candidates must excel in delivering primary eye care services to clinical patients.
  • Academic Performance: Candidates must have a grade point average that ranks in the top half of the class.

Independent practice of optometry

  • Student should have a commitment to enter the independent practice of optometry.
  • Participation in the private practice or practice management club on campus recommended with special consideration given to students who have served a leadership role.
  • At the discretion of the selection committee, the selection process may include a written essay that encompasses the independent practice goals of the candidate.

Award Notes

The VSP/AAOF Practice Excellence Scholarship Program will be based on the above performance criteria only. Recipients shall not be restricted from receiving this scholarship as a result of receiving other awards, scholarships or grants-in-aid.

Per policy of the AAO/AAOF, the recipient of this scholarship will not be eligible to receive any additionally offered travel fellowship from the AAO or AAOF in the same year.

VSP and the AAOF follow the independent practice career choices of the scholarship recipients to determine the value of this substantial investment. Each institution is strongly encouraged to carefully follow the criteria and consider their selections to ensure this program continues in future years.

Each institution will be provided with an institution specific login and password for an online submission toll that will gather the institutions nominations.

Some VSP scholarships at previously determined institutions are named memorial scholarships. Those honors will continue to be attached to the scholarship and should be designated with the institution's submission.

An institution current IRS W-9 form must be submitted or be confirmed on file with the AAOF prior to scholarship processing.

Please send program materials to AAOF via: Jennifer Rubin - Foundation Program Manager Email: AAOF@aaoptom.org / Fax: 407-893-9890

Recognition of Recipients

Once the AAOF is notified of each institution’s selected recipients, scholarship checks in the amount of $3,250 will be mailed payable to the institution of the recipient. 

Each recipient travel grant check of $750 and an engraved plaque will be presented during a special reception sponsored by VSP which will take place at Academy 2018 San Antonio (further details to follow). To receive those travel funds the student must also submit an IRS W-9 form or W-8BEN form if non-U.S. resident , no less than one month prior to attending the AAO annual meeting.

Each recipient of an AAOF travel award is requested to volunteer a small portion their time at the AAOF exhibit hall booth during Academy. Further details will be included in official congratulatory letters. 

Institutions are encouraged to also recognize the recipients at any planned award ceremonies that may be held prior to graduation.

Travel Exception

Students who have academic conflicts and cannot attend the Academy 2018 San Antonio may apply their travel grant to Academy 2019 Orlando. Travel grants cannot be carried forward into the calendar year beyond 2019.

Foundation Policies

Institution representative's typically receive a confirming email within 1-3 business days after receipt on program materials. An additional message is only sent if your institution's nominations are not received by deadline. If you do not receive a confirmation contact Jennifer Rubin, Foundation Program Manager, at: Jenniferr@aaoptom.org or call our office: 321-319-4870.

All scholarship recipients by acceptance of the program funds agree to allow the AAOF and/or the sponsor of the program to publish their name, image, institution information, and any statement or quote provided by the recipient. These items may appear in a variety of media formats that will announce and promote the program including, but not limited to, the AAOF and/or sponsor annual report, optometric media publications, website, social media, and annual meeting promotional materials.

For further information on this program or any other offered by the AAOF contact:

Jennifer Rubin - Foundation Program Manager
American Academy of Optometry Foundation
2909 Fairgreen Street
Orlando, FL 32803, USA
Phone: 321-319-4872 


The 2017 Practice Excellence Scholarship recipients are:

Illinois College of Optometry 
Taylor Harris, Jessica Chan

Indiana University School of Optometry 
Rachel Rexing, Christopher Reed

Inter American University of Puerto School of Optometry 
Bianca Augustino, Christopher McCollum

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Jillian Boyd, Alison Zhou

Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University
Allison Webster, Kristen Johnson

Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry 
Brett Christensen, Derek Blankenship

New England College of Optometry 
Chantelle Davis, Karlee Muller

Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry
Randy Cox, Melanie Newcomer

NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry 
Meredith Kristin Barnes, Samuel Petro

Ohio State University College of Optometry
Cory Lappin, Herbert T. Wentzien

Pacific University College of Optometry 
Abby Taffe, Aaron Salzano

Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University
Jordan Heidelbaugh, Joshua Heersink

Rosenberg School of Optometry University of the Incarnate Word
Katlyn Martin, Lindsey Primeaux

Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University
Katherine Zhang, Mark Yeghiazarian

Southern College of Optometry 
Chelci Reynolds, Allan McCleary

State University of New York College of Optometry
Elaina M. Nellis, Tristan Barrueco

University of Alabama at Birmingham 
Jonathan Davis, Haley Hixon

University of California-Berkeley School of Optometry
Steven Perry, Ece Turhal

University of Houston College of Optometry
Brian Hart, Melanie Deitch

University of Missouri -St. Louis College of Optometry
Taylor Dahms, Ramya Natarajan

Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry 
Kevin Drew, Katalina Yandell

VSP Group Shot

About VSP Eyes of Hope

Eyes of Hope® is a global charity platform supporting activities that directly impact communities to give the gift of sight. United with one mission, multiple programs within the Eyes of Hope platform take on challenges involving access to eyecare around the globe.