Annual AAO and AOSA Trade Show Draws Over 20 Vendors
In 2014 three students, Nicole Ethridge (’16), Kelsey Westbrook (’17), and Shannon Niere (’16) originated the idea to create a trade show, inviting optometry vendors to show off the products they offer. Since 2014 the trade show has grown from ten vendors to twenty-one. According to AOA Trustee and Trade Show Coordinator, Theresa Crowley (’18), “Every year vendors tell us that UMSL’s Trade Show is one of the best organized and well planned events they attend.” This year’s event drew a large crowd of optometry students. Crowley had help in coordinating the event from AAO Student Chapter President, Taylor Dahms (’18), and AOSA Trustee-Elect Kate Hamm (’19). The trade show is held in the Millennium Student Center Ballroom on North Campus, which will allow the trade show to grow over the next few years.
The trade show benefits all students in optometry at different levels, “For the first and second years, it’s a way to get acquainted and familiar with the various companies and organizations that are significant to the profession. For third and fourth years, this is a way to start networking with local representatives,” Crowley said. The trade show allows for these companies to promote what they have to offer and develops networks for the students after they graduate.
The trade show is part fundraiser and part industry meet and greet. The profits from the event are used to fund travel grants for students to attend the annual Optometry’s Meeting every summer and the American Academy of Academy meeting in the fall. Crowley commented, “Without financial assistance [from events like this] many students would not be able to attend these types of meetings.”
According to Crowley, the students enjoy the trade show and they receive a free lunch and opportunities to enter raffle drawings for prizes that have been donated by the vendors. Those who attended were given a bingo card that has ice-breaker type questions to help with initiating conversation with the vendors. “Many students end up staying and asking additional questions and walk out of the event with a bag full of free goodies and business cards,” commented Crowley. The feedback received by the students has always been positive and many students find the information engaging and fun. Students who completed the bingo card earned a wristband for AOSA Information Night.
This year’s vendors in attendance included: Allergan, the American Optometric Association, ClearVision, CooperVision, Europa, Heine, Heart of America, HOYA, Johnson & Johnson, Keeler, L'Amy, Midland Optical, Ocular Instruments, Optovue, Pioneer, The Newton Group, Vision Ease, Volk, VSP, Walman Instruments, and Zeiss.
Hosting the trade show on campus allows for the vendors to interact more closely with our students and in turn allows for our students to receive one-on-one interaction with the vendors.