HSS Mission & Objectives

Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Mission

The Cooper Union is committed to the principle that an education in the Humanities and Social Sciences provides the ethical, social and humanistic framework crucial to personal development, professional excellence, and engaged citizenship. Through their work in Hss disciplines, students will gain a deeper awareness of the world in which they must live and act. They learn to think, write and speak clearly and effectively. Most significantly, an education in the liberal arts offers students the opportunity to become attentive to the social and humanistic implications of their professional work and to acquire the basis for a satisfying cultural and intellectual life.

HSS Program Level Objectives

The objective, supporting The Cooper Union’s overarching mission, is to instill an understanding of the breadth and richness of intellectual discovery across the humanities and social sciences. This includes developing a familiarity with representative literary texts, major historical themes and ideas, and analytical methods. Students will learn how to relate this humanistic knowledge to their professional, civic, and personal lives. This broad objective might be further articulated as:

  1. Developing in the student skills in critical analysis within a range of disciplinary structures
  2. Developing in the student skills necessary for engaged citizenship
  3. Developing an appreciation of world cultures and of America within a global context
  4. Developing in the student skills in writing and non-written expression enabling that student to take part in active citizenship and to compete effectively in her or his professional arena

HSS Course Objectives

HSS Core

By the end of the four-course sequence, we expect students will be able to:

  1. Analyze literary texts as both aesthetic objects and cultural artifacts
  2. Contextualize cultural understanding within a set of political, economic, and scientific developments
  3. Identify transformations in political, economic, social, scientific, and civic experience over time
  4. Consolidate analytical, contextual, and historical understanding through argumentation, comparison, and research

HSS1 The Freshman Seminar

HSS1 develops college-level skills in reading and writing, analysis, and argumentation through engagements with major texts and themes. Through close reading and extended discussion, students learn to craft evidence based arguments in written and spoken form. Students experience one of four tracks that share the common goals of encouraging aesthetic understanding of the literature of major historical periods and developing the writing and speaking skills necessary for college-level work.

HSS2 Text and Contexts: Old Worlds and New

Through the semester students will:

  1. Engage with foundational texts in the creation of the Modern age through close reading and class discussion. Students develop further their skills in reading and interpreting a range of texts in a range of genres (letter, report, treatise, essay, drama, non-fiction narrative)
  2. Describe how course texts differently perform, reflect upon, elide or otherwise register the major social, political, and intellectual developments of their respective periods, in particular a) the transformations and conflicts produced by European expansion, b) the movement of ideas, people, and commodities across oceans, c) the reception of ideas and impact of migration and commerce within regions and emerging national contexts
  3. Distinguish, and provide critical definitions for, the major periods and movements in the Early Modern Period, specifically History - Renaissance Humanism, the Reformation, the Puritan Revolution and the Enlightenment - with an appreciation for the problems of periodization
  4. Outline the contribution of the Scientific Revolution to the nature of knowledge, and describe in more detail the role of one major figure such as Bacon, Galileo, Descartes or Newton
  5. Trace and analyze, by citing specific authors and historical experiences, the changing conceptions of the political realm, including the development of the modern state; the relationship between politics and religion; and the rise of political individualism

HSS3 The Making of Modern Society

The Making of Modern Society is a history course in which students explore the key political, social and intellectual developments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course is organized chronologically, beginning with the Industrial and French Revolutions and ending with the transformations brought about by the end of the Cold War and the challenges of twenty-first century violence and globalization. Lectures provide students with an analysis of particular events and a survey of change over time. In their work in sections students discuss how assigned readings, including contemporary texts, illuminate the complexities of historical experiences of modernity. Throughout the semester students will use a textbook that outlines the historical links and comparisons between Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. Students will learn:

  1. To identify and trace the transformations in politics brought about by challenges to the old regime in Europe and the Americas and changing ideals of political, civil and human rights
  2. To identify and trace the transformations in society, economy and politics brought about by urbanization, industrialization, and the rise of industrial capitalism
  3. To identify and trace experiences of empire, war, and genocide, and their contemporary legacy, in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. With the goal of broadening historical understanding, developing clear communication skills, and improving research skills students will write analytic essays, read texts, and speak and discuss with each other about issues that engage them as professionals in training and citizens of their local, national, and global communities.

HSS4 The modern Context: Figures and Topics

HSS4 introduces students to the process of writing and research in the humanities and social sciences by focusing on a critical figure or topic from the modern period for the duration of the semester, cultivating depth of understanding rather than breadth of knowledge. Toward this end, the course develops the skills that students need to:

  1. Produce a substantial research essay with an original argument
  2. Marshal a variety of secondary sources (e.g., books, journal articles, images, Internet resources, interviews) in support of the argument
  3. Present research findings in oral form
  4. Engage in collaborative research activities (e.g., peer review, group projects)
  5. Master the conventions of citing both primary and secondary sources
  • 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.