On July 1, 2022, Jennifer Coyle, OD, MS, FAAO, will become the first optometrist and alumna to serve as president of Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Dr. Coyle says it’s an honor to serve in this role as 18th president, and she looks forward to representing these firsts in the university’s 170 years as an institution and 77 years with an optometry program.
Pacific University is like a second home to Dr. Coyle, who has a 30-year history there from her time as a student, to faculty member and dean. She holds three degrees from the university, and two of her children also graduated from her alma mater. “Pacific is a very unique institution, and I’m most excited to be the voice of such a vibrant university that offers diverse experiences for students at every level.” She adds that she’s passionate about their futures as they develop their critical thinking skills at the university and become inspired to serve social justice missions and change the world.
Dr. Coyle says that she feels a deep connection to the mission at Pacific University as well as its rich history; the university was founded to provide access to education for orphans along the Oregon Trail. Today, the school is split close to 50/50 in undergraduate and graduate/professional students. “I truly believe I’m a product of the mission,” Dr. Coyle says. “I was transformed through the experience I had there, and the fact that I was selected as the first OD to be president is a testament to the mentorship and faculty at Pacific.”
AN ADVOCATE FOR EDUCATION AND MENTORSHIP
Dr. Coyle’s career in academia has paved the way for many amazing opportunities within and beyond the doors of optometry. “Optometric education is a fabulous place to spend your career; you have the ability to do something different every day,” she says. “Most of us went into optometry to help people, and by teaching and preparing students, we have a direct impact on their lives and they go out into the world and impact the lives of everyone they see is an indirect impact on the global community.” It’s also a career that allowed her to raise her own three children as she went through the tenure track and became an administrator.
The possibilities are endless, she adds, from opportunities to specialize, collaborate and network with those at other schools or in the industry. “Take time to understand the challenges that your colleagues are working through. Push yourself beyond what may be your initial comfort zone. Pretty magical things can happen when you do, and I’m proof of that.” She says that her own experiences throughout her journey in academia pushed her to raise the bar on her leadership goals. Ultimately, “it led me to pursue the bigger dream of being president.”
There will always be time set aside on her schedule for paying it back and mentorship in the optometric community. “All of the opportunities that I had were because of the strong women mentors in my life.” She encourages colleagues to reach out and talk with someone who may share a similar interest. “It’s incredibly flattering when someone reaches out to you. It’s an affirmation that I’m on the right track.” Learn from each other, and help each other grow. “I think it’s our responsibility to take care of the future by investing in the younger practitioners who are just entering the profession.”
Dr. Coyle will return to campus after 2.5 years away at Marshall B. Ketchum University’s Southern California College of Optometry. “It’s bittersweet for me; I really believe in the mission here in California and how the school is changing the future of health care education, but when I was offered the position at Pacific, I couldn’t turn it down.” She will succeed Lesley M. Hallick, who retires this summer after 13 years as president.