Meet Jennifer Coyle, OD, MS, FAAO: Dean of Pacific University College of Optometry
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Minnesota, and when I was in middle school we moved to Alaska. My mom was a homemaker. My father worked as a pipefitter, and the pipeline drew him to Alaska. So I feel like I grew up in both places. In Alaska, we lived in a log cabin—it was a true Alaska experience. No running water; we had electricity but no HVAC. We were in that log cabin for about 5 years.
Why contact lenses?
When I came to optometry school, I assumed I was going back to Alaska to a private practice I worked in a practice after high school and perhaps specialize in pediatrics. In my second year of optometry school in the second week of my basic contact lens course, I was just inspired. I become fascinated with the idea that you put this little piece of plastic in the eye and you can see. [Laughs] I had been transformed by contact lenses as a teenager. My mentor Cristina Schnider was very inspirational. It completely changed my career path. I stayed in academia, completed a contact lens residency, and was involved with research because there were questions I wanted to answer. It’s life-changing for people.
What keeps you at Pacific University?
It’s home. I started here in 1989, 30 years ago as a first-year optometry student. It’s a culture that brings the best of people. It’s the people that I learn from, the people I’ve worked alongside as a faculty member. And it’s the people I get to advocate for as a dean. My role is to advocate for multiple constituents: students, faculty, the profession of optometry, my college, and our alumni. The people get me jazzed about doing what I do because we have a common purpose and strong philosophy about how important eyes are to allow a person to function, be successful, and enjoy life. My kids are both graduating from Pacific. So, I’m a student, a faculty member, an administrator, and a parent. [Laughs]
Previously by Vernon Trollinger: Q&A: A variety of pets, master's in nutrition, peanut butter, and jujitsu