Planning for Fall 2021

It was a year ago that our buildings had been closed for the first full week as the pandemic firmed its grip on New York City. With a full year of extraordinary change behind us, now is an important time to reflect on all that we’ve learned together in the midst of a pandemic and to plan for our next chapter.  From Zoom to Teams to turning home into classrooms, studios, and offices, we’ve accomplished much during a year that’s been characterized by resiliency, creativity, innovation, discovery, and compassion for one another.  I’m pleased to say that now is also a time of cautious optimism as we look ahead to the coming months and the 2021/22 academic year.   

Our optimism is fueled by the upward trajectory of vaccination rates in New York and around the globe and by the measured reopening plans for New York City and beyond as determined by local, state, and federal authorities.  That optimism is also tempered by the very real presence of COVID-19 variants and the expectation that public health measures such as masking, testing, and social distancing will continue to be necessary parts of everyday life for the foreseeable future. 

Still, informed by this combination of factors as well as our continuing analysis of public health directives and COVID-19 epidemiology and the input of a wide range of students, faculty, and staff, we have made the decision to plan for a return to in-person learning for our Fall 2021 semester.  We will spend the coming months planning, following CDC guidance and state and local regulations. Since the guidance and regulations continue to shift, sometimes on a daily basis, we will plan for flexibility, creating options that suit evolving recommendations and requirements.  

Because social distancing may still be a requirement in the fall, we expect to prioritize in-person experiences like labs, studios, workshops, the AACE Lab, crit spaces, exhibitions, and more computer centers.  If necessary, some courses may remain online so that we have the physical space to properly accommodate the above priorities safely and consistent with what the CDC, scientists, and public health experts prescribe.  Our planning process will be guided by our commitment, as always, to uphold The Cooper Union’s educational mission; protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff; and engage students in an experience that is compelling, rich, and inventive.  We will continue to solicit feedback along the way to understand any concerns or emerging circumstances for students, faculty, and staff. A school-specific survey will be forthcoming to the student body this week. Please take a few moments to complete the survey to help us with our planning efforts.  

Our planning for a return to in-person learning will evolve over the next several months, and we will share regular updates with you.  The process will be intentional about evaluating the unexpected upsides discovered during our remote year so that we can retain the best of what’s worked well.  We will also be mindful about maintaining flexibility knowing that roadblocks may remain for some students to return to campus in person in the fall. 

Our approach to this past academic year was necessitated by an abrupt disruption last March, and all that we learned during our Spring 2020 experience informed a thorough, careful planning process for this current academic year.  We know how capable our community is in being nimble and dynamic because we lived out those characteristics this year. The planning for the 2021/22 academic year will rely on these capabilities. I look forward to keeping you posted as plans develop further.  In the meantime, I urge you to continue wearing your masks, practice social distancing, and get vaccinated when you can so that we all have the opportunity to welcome each other back to Cooper Square in person this fall.  


  • 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.