VSP and AAOF Practice Excellence Scholarship

History and Purpose

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 2020 will be awarded to 48 students for a total of $182,000, including a travel grant to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO).

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


The travel grant will enable these outstanding students to attend a premier education opportunity in primary eye care, as well as attend a reception hosted by VSP Global 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 $3,250 each to two students entering their fourth year (graduating class of 2022) at each of the institutions of optometry in the United States and Puerto Rico. Each scholarship carries $3,250 in scholarship money.

Eligibility and Nomination

The submission window opens July 15, 2021 and closes August 16, 2021.

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.

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.

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. 

The recipients will be required to attend the reception where they will receive their plaque and $750 travel grant. 

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

Travel Exception

If the recipient cannot attend Academy the year they received the award they can postpone the award to the next year.  

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, Grants and Awards Manager, at: AAOAwards@aaoptom.org or call 321-319-4872.

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 contact:

Jennifer Rubin
Awards and Student Membership Engagement Manager
622 E. Washington St #300
Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: 321-319-4872


The 2020 Practice Excellence Scholarship recipients are:

Chicago College of Optometry at Midwestern University
Michael DeStefano & Rema Idriss

Illinois College of Optometry
Phoebe Chow & Randi-Jo Francis

Indiana University School of Optometry
Sydney Lehman & Nina Rettig

Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry
Safinaz Gamini & Jessica Bertemati

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Carolyn Te & Cynthia Noorani

Michigan College of Optometry
Azra Fazil-Jamal & Amanda Kruse

Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry
Bryan Grossman & Tyler Boyack

New England College of Optometry 
Jonathan Elin-Calcador & Nathan Bates

Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry 
Kayla Cook & Kristina Flaig

Nova Southeastern College of Optometry
Erik Kelly & Austin Mason

The Ohio State University College of Optometry
Kristen Sullivan & Veronica Schuver

Pacific University College of Optometry
hristina Goodrich & Megan Schmauder

Pennsylvania College of Optometry
Gina Piorkowski & Tanya Vigdal

Rosenberg School of Optometry
Bilal Ismail & Michelle Nguyen

Southern California College of Optometry
Bradley Kovach & Lauren Zabaleta

Southern College of Optometry
Jonathan Eide & Alec Waters

State University of New York College of Optometry
Anthony Boyd & Emily Shtull

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry
Sarah Kate Day & Whitney Powell

University of California Berkeley School of Optometry
Joanna Toner & Jeffrey Kong

University of Houston College of Optometry
Linus Klingler & Sarah Wilting

University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Optometry
Katelyn Flood & Kyle Carnahan

University of Montreal School of Optometry
Anabel Cormier & Ariane Dupont

University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry
Hannah Sigmon & Ambrosia Makini

University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science
Joanne Han Qiao & Christina Chen

Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry
Suparna Bajaj & Alexander Bennett

VSP 2019 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.