The Council on Shared Learning


Today’s civic, professional, cultural, and political environments call for graduates who can think and approach problems analytically across a variety of disciplines and from a variety of perspectives, debate various positions, work collaboratively to design solutions, and communicate effectively in a variety of different ways.

Charge to Council on Shared Learning

In response to the recent Middle States Commission recommendations; a review of the concerns raised by the Joint Student Council, The HSS Movement: Protest to Decolonize our Curricula, and various informal student groups; and consultation with the four academic Deans, the Dean of Students, and faculty for the Humanities and Social Sciences, I am pleased to announce that a “council on shared learning” will be formed to identify those academic experiences and goals that are to be shared by all Cooper students. The council will identify and advise the President and Cabinet of the shared literacies, inquiries and proficiencies in a holistic education that serve to make students’ time at The Cooper Union relevant, compelling and distinctive, regardless of their professional field of study. As part of this effort, the council will engage the broader community in a discussion of opportunities across the Schools and a re-envisioning of the role of Humanities and Social Sciences to prepare students for active democratic and global citizenship and service, to inform and enrich students’ professional practices, to foster imaginative and critical thinking, and to serve as a standard bearer for an integrated liberal1 and professional education.

Working from The Cooper Union’s new statements of vision and mission the council will, among other issues, examine and make recommendations regarding:

  • Those experiences and bodies of knowledge that provide students with the sense of agency that Peter Cooper hoped would inform the making of modern citizens;
  • Ways in which both academic programs and support services for students and faculty may instill a shared sense of The Cooper Union as a learning community;
  • The ethical and educational challenges and opportunities facing students from rapid changes in technology and demographics.

It will also make recommendations about new ways to help students learn and how the faculties and academic programs can be best shaped and resourced to meet the shared learning goals. The council is expected to produce an interim report in May 2019 for discussion and consideration by the cabinet and the faculties. A final report by November 2019 will inform the adoption of new institutional level learning objectives and further program development by the curriculum committees of the Schools and HSS.

Guiding Principles

The council will commit to doing a thorough review of the issues covered in the Charge to the Council in all four academic programs, a re-envisioning of the role of humanities and social sciences as a central and signature feature of The Cooper Union experience, and meaningful enhancements to the Architecture, Art, and Engineering programs and co-curricular experiences to achieve shared learning goals.

The council will engage actively the faculty and students of the three schools and HSS in deep and genuine discussions and planning. These discussions and plans will be documented, including recommendations for implementation and effective assessment.

We will emerge with a recommended program of supplemental learning objectives better aligned with our institutional vision and mission and compelling enough to be recognized as a distinguishing feature of our institution. It should engage students in ways that are relevant to the practices they are building and their lives beyond Cooper. It should prepare Cooper graduates for active citizenship. It should create opportunities to make meaningful connections across disciplines. It should prepare students to effectively read, think, write, and speak to generate imaginative solutions to complex societal problems and to influence constructive paths forward to achieve them. The program should create opportunities for faculty to shine through their research, pedagogical approaches, and/or engagement with communities outside of Cooper Union. The approach will be informed by a review of student needs, a scan of other compelling programs, and a self-assessment of current programs at Cooper Union in the light of the new statements of mission and vision.

This will be an inclusive and engaging process, informed by the work and report of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and seeking the insights, advice, and counsel of outside experts to examine new models of curricula development and organization. After an initial organizational period, the council will

open many of its meetings to all faculty, staff, and students to hear its deliberations and to solicit and share ideas.

Members of the Council

The council will be composed of the following members:

9 students

We will work with the Joint Student Council, and individual School Student Councils, to develop a nomination and selection process, ensuring that there are opportunities for any current student to be nominated.

9 faculty members

Any current member of the faculty may be nominated (by deans, students, or oneself). We will make selections informed by the collective input of the four deans, with an eye toward ensuring adequate and diverse representation of each of the four academic programs and the library. We will select two interested full-time faculty members to serve as co-chairs.

2 members of the administration

The Dean of Students and the Director of The Writing Center, two positions that interface regularly with faculty and students in ways that are integral to the core academic programs, will also serve as members of the council.

All faculty nominations should be submitted here by December 14, 2018 so that appointments can be made by January 14, 2019.

We look forward to engaging with the council on this important work.

Laura Sparks, President
and Toni Torres, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Institutional Effectiveness

1 “Liberal education” in this sense refers to intellectual enlargement rather than something immediately practical; “liberal” in the sense of free thinking, without orientation or ties to particular politics; “intended to bring about the improvement, discipline, or free development of the mind or spirit” (Merriam-Webster) or “an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change” (Association of American Colleges and Universities).

  • 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.