NOTE: The partnership described in this article, published Sept. 28, has since been terminated. See the Oct. 1 story on that here.
Nova Southeastern University's school of optometry is taking on a new moniker, according to an announcement made on Tuesday, but some optometrists are concerned about how the re-branded institution might be affected by the change.
The new name, NSU National Vision College of Optometry, honors a substantial gift from National Vision Holdings, the retailer that owns America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Eyeglass World, Vista Opticals and Vision Centers inside some Walmart stores.
Documents from March 2018 show Nova was seeking a $5 million donation for the optometry college’s name, as part of wide-ranging funding campaign for the institution. The school’s representatives would not confirm that amount.
Describing the company as an optometrist-centric organization, CEO Reade Fahs said in a statement that he “cannot think of a better way for National Vision to invest in future optometrists than by supporting the educational institutions that provide their degrees.”
However, some optometrists are voicing concern that corporate branding may be counterproductive. A petition of protest signed by 2,037 people as of this writing expresses the view that the affiliation “compromises the integrity of our profession.” A Facebook group, Keep the Prestige–Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, includes more than 1,000 members.
Irv Rosenbaum, DPA, EdD, executive dean and provost of NSU’s Health Professions Division, chalks those fears up to what he calls misinformation. “We’re looking to correct that,” he says.
The most important misconception, he explains, is the idea that the school’s educational mission will be compromised. He describes a wall of separation between National Vision and the educational mission of Nova’s optometry program. No curriculum, course work or academics will be altered at all, according to Dr. Rosenbaum. The name “National Vision” won’t even appear on the graduates’ diplomas.
“We’re a non-profit,” he explains. “We rely on philanthropy.” Part of that philanthropy will provide for scholarships, the NSU team says. “National Vision will not be involved in the administration of the scholarship fund; that will be handled by NSU,” says a spokesperson for the company.
Dr. Rosenbaum also notes that NSU grads will not be given preferential consideration for positions at National Vision outlets—another concern voiced in the wake of the announcement.