UPPER CUMBERLAND – Tennessee’s only accredited Opticianry Program has a new name but the same mission.
It’s now known as the Vision Care Technology program at Roane State Community College, and it still offers a comprehensive two-year education leading to an associate’s degree and the likelihood of a secure financial future. Applications are being accepted through June 15.
“We have a lot of students who commute because the payoff is so good,” said program director Rebecca Morton. She graduated from the program in 2010, making the drive from Knoxville to Roane’s State’s flagship campus in Roane County to attend classes.
She takes over the post held by Mike Goggin, who was hired as director in 1995 and remains on staff in a part-time position as a post-retirement employee.
The Vision Care Technology program occupies three labs and a classroom on the second floor of the Yager Building. It’s one of only 25 opticianry programs nationwide.
Up to 24 students can be enrolled in the program, which “covers all aspects of opticianry,” Morton said. There are still some spots remaining right now.
Students, under the watchful eyes of licensed supervisors, fill prescriptions for residents, fellow students and faculty members as part of their education and the cost is less than retail.
They also serve as fashion advisors, helping clients select which frames are most suitable among the hundreds of options on display in lighted cabinets. Goggin, who wears glasses himself, calls glasses “face jewelry that makes a fashion statement.”
He says the Vision Care Technology program can make glasses that “fit into your lifestyle,” including dark glasses and specialty glasses for sports competitions. A variety of coatings and types of lenses are offered.
“Every pair of glasses or contact lenses is custom designed for that patient’s specific needs,” Morton said.
Goggin says a certified optician is well paid and it’s a stable field with job security. One graduate of the program operates a high-end clinic where one particular style of frame costs “in the thousands,” Goggin said.
Second-year student Brianna Stafford, who already works for a privately-owned clinic in Maryville, said she’ll get a raise when she graduates in May. The Knoxville resident researched her options and said Roane State’s program made the most sense. “You get a lot of hands-on training,” she said.
Stafford was Roane State’s representative at the Opticians Association of America Leadership Conference held in February in Destin, Fla., and was one of only 23 students nationwide who attended.
“I think eyes are interesting,” said second year student Anthony Laboy of Lenoir City. He works at an optical chain in the Turkey Creek shopping complex in Knox County and said he, too, will be getting a raise upon graduation.
“All the people here [in the Vision Care Technology program], it’s like a family,” Laboy said. “Everybody knows everyone.”
Those interested in getting a new pair of glasses should make an appointment and bring a prescription less than a year old from their eye doctor. The clinic plans to be open this fall from 9 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. on Tuesdays. Face coverings will be required for entry. The clinic is in Room 209-A in the Yager Building. Call (865) 882-4635 during clinic hours to make an appointment.
The deadline for students to apply for the Vision Care Technology program is Monday, June 15. For more information about the program, visit roanestate.edu/opticianry or send an email to Rebecca Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.