CSTEP Irises

For decades, our Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) has focused on increasing the number of historically underrepresented minorities (URMs) and economically disadvantaged students in the profession of optometry. As New York and the country is becoming increasingly diverse, our program has made significant in-roads in making optometry more visible to students seeking entry into the health professions – and helping them get there. This effort is noticeable in the increased number of diverse students in our SUNY Optometry community, and in the class of 2024 – arguably our most diverse class yet.

As these changes take place, we seek to continue our efforts and to expand on it by providing services to those students who have made a commitment to enter this profession, that is, to ramp up our efforts to support enrolled URM OD students. As of now, one of our goals in Student Affairs is to find ways to support both former undergraduate CSTEP students who has now matriculated at SUNY Optometry, but also incoming students who are in the high-need category.

As of Fall 2020, we are working to provide more continuity of support year after year. We hope to do so by changing an established support group for enrolled URM students – formerly “SUNY Irises” established in 2017 – and sustaining it by enrolling those existing students, with new members, into our new CSTEP program for SUNY OD students – “CSTEP Irises.”

Here are some benefits for qualified* students in our program:

  • NBEO Boards Part I, II, and III support
  • Professional conferences support
  • Team up with NOSA’s Clinical Tutoring program
  • Clinical manuals when transitioning to the clinic
  • Take-a-Break Events for midterms and finals
  • Study groups
  • Be matched with a URM mentor in the 3rd and 4th year
  • CSTEP-specific workshops and events

*Awards will be given based on the degree of need as well as students’ level of involvement in our vibrant community. For board preparation grants, we will also consider the students’ essay as well.


  • New York state resident (by 2nd year at SUNY Optometry)
  • African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian or Alaskan native
  • If you don’t qualify by ethnicity, you would have to be economically disadvantaged. Please see this chart for parent income eligibility.

We are currently focusing on serving our former students first, and will slowly enroll more students as our resources expand.

For 2020-2021, we have an application for third and fourth year students who are in high-need of NBEO Boards Parts I, II, and III support. The application can be found here, due November 6, 2020: