Fall Semester Welcome from President Laura Sparks

Dear Cooper Union,

I am delighted to welcome everyone to the new academic year! This is always such an invigorating time, as I sense the excitement of peers and colleagues reconnecting, new relationships forming, the return to our East Village neighborhood, or exploring it for the first time. There is also anticipation of getting into studios, labs, and classrooms; of beginning new research and creative works; of digging more deeply into the subjects and disciplines you love, while discovering new passions and interests. Whether this is your first day at Cooper, either as a student or member of the faculty, or your commitment to this place runs so deep that you have lost count of how many new academic years you have welcomed here, I look forward to beginning this year with you.

As I greeted our first-year class last Sunday, I felt even more enthusiastic about starting the year together than I usually do. I have spent these past several days thinking about why, and I realized that in this time of great uncertainty in the world, The Cooper Union is a place where we can offer each other comfort alongside discovery, a simultaneous sense of dynamism and familiarity. There is much in the world that holds the potential to derail our spirit right now if we lose our conviction and sense of purpose – from ongoing public health crises to economic struggles, social injustices, and threats to our democracy – but in the midst of these complexities, our enduring connection to one another offers reassurance. No matter where you are in your Cooper Union journey, together we will develop your sense of connection to our collective project of shaping a better world.

This semester, I urge everyone to embrace the opportunities to build and deepen these connections. While we returned to campus last year, the circumstances of the pandemic limited our in-person experiences. This year, we move forward equipped with greater knowledge on how to safely connect with one another in person. Our buildings will once again be abuzz with activity, from weekly breakfasts to student-led activities, exhibitions and public programs, and time set aside to simply share together and learn from one another. You’ll notice as you walk around that our buildings have seen some changes, all designed to create more opportunities to connect with one another in formal and informal settings, whether it’s the new gathering spaces in the library and lobby of the Foundation building or new classrooms to accommodate our shift to block scheduling in an effort to facilitate more cross-disciplinary learning. We have also upgraded our virtual spaces, with a new intranet, Cooper Connect, where you are reading this message. Over the next several days, we will release a series of updates via Cooper Connect to learn about new initiatives in the academic programs, new spaces, and upcoming public programs and community events. Bookmark the site to stay connected to campus news and events.

My sincerest thanks to our faculty and staff for their efforts readying the semester. Our return this fall has been made possible by the careful decision making and work of our Health and Safety Committee and Facilities teams. As was shared in the Health & Safety Update last week, we modified our COVID protocols, consistent with new CDC recommendations. Testing will only be required this week to help limit transmission on campus and establish a baseline for COVID prevalence that will inform our policies and procedures moving forward. After that, testing will no longer be mandatory for campus access; however, masks will still be required inside all campus buildings, and we will re-evaluate our policy on mask wearing indoors during the month of September. Our Facilities team and Health & Safety Committee are to be commended for all they have done to keep The Cooper Union open, safe, and welcoming for all of us, so please share your gratitude with this group, and check here for the latest Health & Safety guidance. Thank you to everyone for working so hard to keep one another safe throughout the pandemic.

I wish you all a wonderful first week as we reconnect with one another and begin what promises to be a remarkable year.

With gratitude,

Laura Sparks

  • 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.