Office of the President

Laura Sparks in Peter Cooper Square, 2016

Laura Sparks in Peter Cooper Square, 2016

Laura Sparks became president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art on January 4, 2017. She is the thirteenth president of the institution, and the first woman in the role.
Sparks is focused on ensuring that Cooper continues to provide students with an outstanding educational experience, positioning the school for continued excellence in the decades ahead, building collaborative efforts across the community, and improving the school’s financial outlook.  Under her leadership, Cooper is now pursuing a comprehensive plan to achieve full-tuition scholarships for all students, returning to its roots of providing a free education for students of extraordinarily high potential from all walks of life.  In the plan’s first year, results exceeded financial goals with an operating cash surplus that reversed years of deficits.  Another key initiative in Laura’s early tenure was to reawaken the school’s historic Great Hall as an iconic forum where people contest and shape the important issues of our day.
Sparks is a leader in the field of community-focused philanthropy. As the executive director of the William Penn Foundation, a leading philanthropy with an endowment of more than $2 billion, she was responsible for numerous initiatives addressing social and environmental challenges in Philadelphia, America’s fifth largest city, and for designing programs in education, public space, the arts, and the environment. A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Sparks holds an M.B.A. and a J.D. with honors from the University of Pennsylvania.

Read more about her background.

Read her Messages to the Cooper community.

President Sparks holds regular Office Hours for faculty, staff, and students to share ideas and concerns. There is also a suggestion box for you to share your thoughts.

  • 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.