The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art: Facilitating Economical Education for Students
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

The world has plenty of places that hold historic value and have stood as a testament to the same. Similarly, many institutes have witnessed some iconic moments take place within their space and one example is The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Founded in 1859 by inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist Peter Cooper, The Cooper Union is an illustrious college of art, architecture, and engineering. It was built on the ideology that education should be accessible for every individual regardless of their gender, race, religion or economic status. The institution currently holds the position of being one of the most prestigious private colleges in the world.

Mr. Cooper intended for the school to find a place among the political and cultural occurrences within the city. This is where the school’s Foundation Building, a New York City landmark played a significant part. The Great Hall in the basement of the Foundation Building turned into a hotspot of activity, becoming a meeting place for plenty of intellectuals from every part of the social strata.

At the time when it opened, the Great Hall was the largest secular meeting room in New York; one of our country’s most consequential incidents occurred here when Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak in the Great Hall in 1860. Largely unknown to the general crowd of New York back then, he gave his Cooper Union Speech, popularly known as the Right Makes Might speech. It played a significant part in his nomination for the presidency. Apart from this, the Great Hall has also been a platform for important events such as the birth of the NAACP, the women’s suffrage movement as well as the founding of the American Red Cross. Several renowned intellectuals like Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Rebecca Solnit, and Salman Rushdie have made their voices heard in the hall along with 10 serving and future US Presidents.

A Glimpse into the Infrastructural Initiatives

The Cooper Union’s Foundation Building not only houses the Great Hall, but also the School of Art along with The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. It also includes the library as well as the Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Gallery, which supports the pedagogy of the School of Architecture through public exhibitions and events.

Additionally, Cooper’s 41 Cooper Square building is home to its Albert Nerken School of Engineering and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The building consists of various laboratories, classrooms, and studios along with conference rooms, lounges, the 41 Cooper Gallery,  which supports the pedagogy of the School of Art and serves as a highly visible site of artistic activity for the Cooper Union community, neighborhood, and city at large, and the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium.

For the students’ academic pursuits The Cooper Union Library equips them with complete research guidance through its curricula within the streams of architecture, art, engineering, and humanities. They also possess extensively archived material that is related to the origin and history of the institution.

The students can seek comfort within the school’s Residence Hall, which comprises apartment-style accommodation with a capacity of about 170 Cooper students; it is primely offered to first-year students. The dormitory has various educational and recreational programs that create a long-lasting community among the students.

The Cooper Union also considers student health to be a top priority for which the Office of Student Affairs provides varied services beyond the boundaries of college. Cooper Care is an app that students can access 24/7 via their mobile devices and connect to a licensed healthcare provider to discuss any medical concerns.  These providers can prescribe medication if indicated and appropriate . Mental health is a significant concern in the world today and Cooper Care also provides students 24/7 access to mental health professionals who can help students triage mental health concerns and determine next steps and the levels of care that may be most appropriate. As a small campus that houses approximately 900 students, the institution ensures support through its own full-time, on-staff Student Care Coordinator and Counselor and through a network of local mental healthcare professionals who are within the vicinity of the campus. Additionally, Cooper’s Office of Student Affairs also organizes events such as therapy dog visits, yoga classes as well as stress management and conflict resolution workshops to help support student wellness all year long.

A Facilitator of Change and Growth

In January 2017, the institute saw a significant wave of change when Laura Sparks became the 13th President and the first woman to serve The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Her expertise in education, philanthropy, and community-focused economic development earned her the position which she has been handling with utmost precision. Her focus has constantly been on the improvement of the school’s financial outlook while building collaborative endeavors across the community.

Laura ensures that the school continues to provide its students the required educational experience along with keeping the school ready for excellence in the decades ahead. Under Laura’s guidance, the Cooper Union is readying itself for an extensive plan which will help students receive full-tuition scholarships and will bring the institute back to its roots. It has always believed in making education accessible for students from all walks of life.

The current academic year of 2019-2020 marks the first planned increase in scholarship levels since tuition was instituted at Cooper in 2014 with, on average, 77% of tuition now covered for undergraduates. Laura has also implemented another key initiative involving the reactivation of the school’s historic Great Hall. This is where people contest and shape the important issues in the world today. Since her arrival at the Cooper Union important leaders like Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis, acclaimed contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei, and feminist  writer Rebecca Solnit have made their presence known at the Great Hall.

Exhibiting Academic Excellence

The Cooper Union offers a Bachelor’s degrees in three primary disciplines: art, architecture, and engineering. The School of Engineering offers degrees in civil engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in general engineering. It further provides post-graduate degrees in engineering as well as architecture along with options for minors such as computer science, mathematics, art history, and more. Every student across Cooper’s three professional schools are required to take a core curriculum of humanities and social sciences courses in which they learn to think, write, and critically investigate their work and its impact on society.

Academic work at The Cooper Union is very project-based. Architecture education here is grounded in the belief that exercising individual creativity is a profoundly social act. The students work in an open studio where they explore essential skills of drawing, model-making, and design development. This is done alongside both analytical and critical uses of digital technologies.

The School of Art students can regularly be found in critiques discussing ideas that connect their own artistic practices to debates in art, history, and politics. In their first year students must take a series of foundational courses after which classes in multiple disciplines such as drawing, painting, photography, performance, and sound are offered to them.

At Cooper, engineering education starts with the faculty’s extraordinary commitment to teaching. Through mentorship from these experts in the fields of chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, students develop a strong foundation in the fundamentals of their discipline and apply that knowledge for the benefit of society. Small classes and project-based, experiential learning provide opportunities for students to enhance their education through research and collaboration with peers and faculty.

Moreover, Cooper Union’s Center for Writing provides feedback and support for any written content or verbal communication. The writing associates hold advanced degrees and are experienced classroom instructors as well. Their subject area also belongs to writing technically for engineering and architecture along with art and general humanities.

The Annual Display of Students’ Efforts

The Cooper Union also holds a wide range of events where students can showcase the knowledge earned throughout the past year. During the annual End Of Year student exhibition, the entire campus transforms into a gallery displaying student work from The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the Albert Nerken School of Engineering. Cooper Union also holds numerous free, public programs throughout the year, often in collaboration with other leading organizations such as Architectural League of New York, the Public Art Fund, and IEEE among others.

To know more about The Cooper Union, its culture and the opportunities it provides, click here (

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