Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are a primary means of implementing ASCO’s mission of “fulfilling the leadership role in the optometric education enterprise” and for addressing the Association’s Strategic Objectives of faculty development and faculty involvement. They are a practical way to meet special needs and interests within the optometric education enterprise.

SIGs provide forums for professional staff, administrators and faculty with common responsibilities to communicate directly with each other about issues related to their areas of interest and expertise.

SIGs encourage interaction, cooperation and the sharing of expertise and experience.

General Criteria for Establishment of SIGs

To be recognized as a SIG, a group needs to meet the following general criteria:

  • Have a stated mission, goals and objectives consistent with ASCO’s mission and strategic objectives that are best served through a broader body of individuals with common academic or functional needs and interests
  • Have activities that will benefit from structured participation within ASCO
  • Have operational business to conduct between meetings

General Operational Framework and Organization

SIGs operate within the organizational structure of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).

All SIGs:

  • Adhere to the basic operational framework. The ASCO Board may also approve variances as appropriate.
  • Are assigned an ASCO Board Liaison who is invited to participate in SIG programs.
  • At a minimum, SIGs appoint or elect a chair, chair-elect and program chair/program committee responsible for developing programs and raising funds.
  • Only SIG participants from member institutions may serve in leadership positions and vote, if applicable.
  • Report activities, expert counsel and policy recommendations to the assigned ASCO policy committees.
  • Set their own agendas.
  • Plan at least one annual program or activity.
  • Establish and maintain a data base of participants, which is shared with the ASCO staff.
  • Provide a written summary or minutes of each meeting to ASCO staff for distribution.

Criteria for SIG Participation

The Dean, President, or Chief Academic Officer at ASCO member institutions identifies or confirms the individual with primary responsibility for the function or teaching area represented by a SIG as the primary designee.

When a program is externally funded, a SIG may limit funded participation (i.e., one-two participants from each member institution) and set participant travel reimbursement limits. The Deans and Presidents may authorize additional participants if the institution or other sources provides funding.

Participants may also be associated with organizations affiliated with a school or college of optometry such as residency supervisors at external sites and adjunct faculty. Other persons not affiliated with a member institution may be invited by a SIG to participate at the SIG’s or individual’s own expense.

Funding and Management/Administrative Fees

  • SIGs may be partially supported directly with ASCO operating funds, by the schools and colleges, by program registration fees or by external sources.
  • All SIGs will receive a basic amount of annual support (use or lose each fiscal year) in the ASCO budget (support level set by the ASCO Board of Directors).
  • External funds may be required to support program efforts of SIGs. External funds raised for SIGs are reserved for SIG purposes.
  • SIG volunteers are responsible for fundraising (see “Fundraising Responsibility” below).
  • A baseline level of staff services (see “Volunteer Leadership & Staff Services” below) will be provided at no cost to all SIGs upon request.
  • A second tier of staff services (see “Volunteer Leadership & Staff Services” below) will be provided on a fee-for-service or project basis.
  • SIGs can charge registration fees for programs. Registration fees will be used to offset expenses and are reserved for SIG use.

Volunteer Leadership and Staff Services

SIGs are volunteer driven organizations. Volunteer leaders are responsible for developing programs and raising funds to support them, if applicable. While most SIGs will operate on essentially a minimal staff support basis, others will request or require more staff services.

Baseline Services

ASCO provides a base line of staff services to all SIGs upon request at no fee including:

  • On-going coordination of SIGs.
  • Financial services such as accounting, auditing and professional investment advice.
  • Limited meeting organization, planning and on-site meeting services for breakfast or luncheon meetings held in conjunction with the Academy or AOA Congress.
  • Communication assistance including ASCO newsletter articles promoting the SIG.
  • Basic web site services – defined as posting of the ASCO SIG reports, SIG contact person information, and scheduled meetings.

Fee-Based Services

ASCO can arrange for more extensive staff services available from a contractor, chosen by either ASCO or the SIG, or ASCO staff, if available, on a fee-for-service or project basis. The SIG will pay for such services from its own outside funding and/or program registration fees. The ASCO Executive Director must approve all agreements with outside contractors. Such services include, but are not limited to:

  • Management of specific SIG projects (e.g., Ethics Award, grants, etc.).
  • Complete meeting organization, planning and on-site support (including staff expenses) for stand alone workshops, meetings and conferences (i.e., Clinic Directors/Administrators, Ophthalmic Optics Educators, Practice Management Educators meetings).
  • Web page development (part of ASCO website) and maintenance beyond the “basic website services” defined above. Services will be provided by ASCO’s contractor. SIGs could contract for their own web development services and link to the ASCO site.
  • Development of promotional materials for the SIG and its activities.

External Contributors

External support is essential for SIGs sponsoring independent workshops and special projects. SIGs will define the role and access of external contributors at externally funded meetings based on a SIGs’ needs and what is most appropriate to meet those needs.

SIGs are often supported by ASCO Corporate Contributors. Companies funding SIG activities that are not ASCO Corporate Contributors will be required to become a corporate contributor within one year of the sponsored event.

Individual SIGs will determine the role of corporate and other external contributors at funded workshops and other events. Generally, contributors will be provided time to present at the event, attend educational workshops and participate in planned social events (as determined by the SIG leadership). They generally do not attend SIG business meetings.

Fundraising Responsibility

SIG volunteers are responsible for raising funds for independent workshops and special projects. ASCO staff’s role is generally limited to including SIG support on its list of available support options for participants in its Corporate Contributor Program.

Approved by ASCO Board of Directors on June 20, 2006