Dr. Angel Novel Simmons named associate dean of student services and alumni relations for the College of Optometry

by | May 31, 2024

She is focused on supporting students and also building up the college’s alumni presence, including reinstating a quarterly newsletter showcasing alumni achievements and hosting the annual August Academe.
Dr. Angel Novel Simmons

Dr. Angel Novel Simmons has begun serving as associate dean of student services and alumni relations in the College of Optometry. She began her new role on May 13. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Angel Novel Simmons has always felt at home in the College of Optometry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

With that in mind, it didn’t take long for Simmons, who graduated from the college in 2003, to return as a faculty member. After completing her residency in ocular disease management, she dabbled in a few different practice modalities in the St. Louis area for about five years before joining the faculty in the College of Optometry in 2009.

“It was always my thought to come back to academia just because I felt like UMSL did such wonderful things for my life,” she said. “I wanted to be able to pass that down and pay it forward to the students who were coming through our program after I did.”

That’s exactly what Simmons will be doing in her new role as associate dean of student services and alumni relations for the College of Optometry, which she assumed on May 13. The role builds on the work Simmons has been doing over the past 15 years as a clinical educator and part of the college’s admissions team, which includes recruiting, interviewing students and making admissions decisions. During that time, she also created the Eyes on Diversity program, which seeks to encourage high school students to consider optometry as a career path.

“I’ve been on the student and admissions committees since I joined faculty and have just continued to foster my love for students through all the various avenues that I’ve taken here at school,” Simmons said. “I just felt like it was now time for me to move into a different role where I can support the students in additional ways.”

On the student services side of her new role, Simmons will continue to assist students throughout their experience in the College of Optometry, starting with recruitment all the way up to post-graduation plans. But her role will also focus on building up the college’s alumni presence, including reinstating a quarterly newsletter showcasing alumni achievements and hosting the annual August Academe, featuring continuing education for optometrists across the area to maintain licensure. This year, the event will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the College of Optometry’s first graduating class in 1984.

“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with our alumni and encouraging them to reinvest in the school,” she said, “whether through supporting mentorship programs or coming to our continuing education programs.”

As both an alum and faculty member, Simmons feels she’s able to speak to current and prospective students in multiple ways, from what it was like to apply and be a student in the program to all the changes that have happened over the years to make the program even more successful.

“It allows me to showcase all of the growth that we’ve had here at UMSL and how we can continue to foster great optometry students,” she said. “They literally are some of the best in the country. We have a small ratio of faculty to students in the classroom and clinical setting, which allows for more one-on-one time and more specific instruction on how to navigate patient care, which I think is a benefit. We get to know them well, so we have that ability to support them because we know them so intimately.”

As she steps into her new role, Simmons is excited to continue supporting optometry students in all the ways that they need. She hopes to implement more programs focused on mentorship and fostering belonging, for instance, to ensure student success across the board. She’s also looking forward to showcasing the College of Optometry to the rest of the community and making sure current students have as rewarding an experience as she did.

“This is a great place for students to be, and it’s a great place where we foster support,” she said. “I just want to make sure we’re continuing to recruit those students that desire that and that they know they can grow from that level of support. We’re a quality source for education, the students that we graduate are at the highest level, and they can be proud of their college that they graduated from.”

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Heather Riske

Heather Riske

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life
Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.