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A Message from the Dean | May 22, 2020 - Building a School Together

POSTED ON: May 22, 2020

Dear Members of the Faculty, Staff and Student Body,

As we wind down the semester, I want to congratulate all of you not only for having weathered an unprecedented storm, but in fact, inventing an entirely new way of building a school together under the duress of separation and isolation. As I navigated through the final reviews, I was delighted to see so many of you present on each other’s classes, and equally so, to see the level of conversation that enjoyed comments from a much broader set of voices than I am accustomed to hear. Parallel to this, there was a quality of work that demonstrated the commitment and precision that comes with your pedagogy and intellectual projects.

I know how difficult this must have been for you all; it certainly was for me, and yet, I had little time to consider the pressures. The immediacy of your actions and responses to this occasion has been extraordinary. As always, I want to thank Monica and Robyn for their endless efforts in holding us together in all the complexities of our administrative tasks. I thank Mauricio Higuera for his leadership in getting our lecture and public events planned with such poise and oversight—not to mention his engagement in the events as a participant. Robbed of their gallery and archives, Steven Hillyer, Chris Dierks and the entire team in the Archives pulled together several exhibitions with the same critical edge as that which they have accomplished in the Houghton Gallery. Also, alongside me, Hayley Eber has been a pillar of support, who has led us through faculty meetings, cabinets, and curricular group roundtables that will no doubt prove to be critical in how we rethink our spaces of learning in the coming months.

I want to underline that these meetings are a work in progress. We learned from your experiences, and I thank you all for sharing your insights. However, as we proceed, we will also need to make some key decisions, so I am going to ask for your patience, if only to offer more of your participation in the restructuring of courses such that they do not mirror our in-class experiences, but address the speculative potentials of our new online opportunities. Many things will be difficult no doubt, so it will require your ingenuity, agility and resilience to improvise even when we think the plans have been set in cement; that is simply part of the menu, until we know more facts about the pandemic, its reach into our lives and the possible remedies to come. All said, I believe the pedagogical calisthenics it will require to explore new models of teaching, learning and sharing together should become the stuff of delight, for those of you who love the pedagogical culture we have had the pleasure to inherit.

I look forward to speaking to all faculty members tête-à-tête to get a debrief of your thinking and also plan ahead for semesters ahead. For students, I encourage you to reach out to me on an individual basis to discuss the many issues that are of importance to you. Many of you who are returning next year will have strong opinions on a myriad of issues so I encourage you to voice them. For those who are graduating, a new world awaits you, and we are here to support you in all ways we can, to ensure you land on your respective targets whether they be in jobs, graduate schools or independent initiatives. We congratulate you on two extraordinary days of Thesis presentations and look forward to celebrating your graduation on Wednesday. You are an exceptional group of individuals to me, and I am particularly honored to be part of your cohort in the last five years.

Last but not least, I have received many words of kindness from you all, and I truly appreciate it. None of what we do would be possible without your central participation, and you have made it exceedingly easy for me to operate with the necessary latitude any dean would want to make for an extraordinary academic environment. Thank you so much for this semester, and very much looking forward to the adventures ahead!

Nader Tehrani, Dean

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.