Fall Semester in the School of Engineering

Dear Engineering Students,

As you saw from the campus-notice from President Sparks, each school and faculty are implementing plans for the Fall 2020 semester to support our specific pedagogy and curriculum.  I wanted to take a moment to add some fidelity to the plans for classes in your School of Engineering.

Everyone in the School of Engineering has been working very hard over the past several months planning for a variety of potential scenarios for the fall.  Our priorities have been, first and foremost, the health and safety of all our students, faculty, and staff and, second, to deliver the highest quality educational experience possible.   As you likely know, I established three different ad hoc committees in the spring to consider (1) Technology, (2) Project, Lab and Capstone Courses, and (3) Assessment.   Faculty, students, and staff participated in each ad hoc committee and each committee conducted surveys of both students and faculty.  Additionally, the Academic Standards Committee (ASC) convened to consider and make recommendations for the grading policy in the various scenarios.   All this work during the spring semester informed our planning for the fall and will be used continue to refine the plan throughout the summer.

In the fall semester, we teach 100 unique courses with 165 different sections.  Of these, 24 are project, lab, or capstone courses.  Because of the severe classroom and laboratory occupancy constraints imposed by the social distancing protocols, we have decided that lecture courses will be delivered online and we have prioritized in-person classes to project, lab and capstone courses.  A number of our courses that are predominately lecture but that have a project in the course are planning to create “Cooper Boxes” that contain materials and components for the project that will be shipped to students so that the hands-on, project-based component of the courses can be retained.   We are doing our very best to retain the “authentically-Cooper” element of your educational experience.  You should also know that we plan to return to traditional grading in Fall Semester 2020.

We have prioritized the in-person classes to project, lab, and capstone courses because each develop critical skills, knowledge and hands-on experiences that cannot be easily replicated online.  We understand that there will certainly be extenuating circumstances that will preclude some students from returning to the NYC area to take advantage of these hands-on classes and we have planned for accommodations to support those students.  As we get closer to the beginning of fall semester, I anticipate that we will provide additional details on the conduct of these courses.

Additionally, we anticipate that the social distancing protocols will allow us to support independent study projects and research that require access to some of our labs.  For theoretical and computationally-focused research, our IT department has been working hard to expand VPN access to all the PCs in the computer labs and add AWS AppStream 2.0 to provide us with a cloud-based computational capability.   We will also work to support access for professional society and some of our extracurricular activities, but again, this access will be contingent on the direction of the state and an ongoing assessment that adherence to building protocols maintains an adequate level of safety within our buildings.   As was shared in President Sparks’ message, to the extent that we can safely open our shops and fabrication and maker spaces, we will operate them with physical distancing and scheduling protocols to minimize health risks.

Finally, if you feel that you do not have the necessary technology to effectively engage in online learning, and you qualify under the guidelines we have established, there may be financial aid available specifically for this purpose.  To learn about these grant opportunities, please visit here and click on the link to apply.  If you have questions about technology requirements for specific courses you can contact your faculty members directly.  You can contact your advisor or Ms. Nori Perez in the Dean’s Office for help with general questions.

I plan to provide updates throughout the summer as the details of fall semester as we further increase fidelity on the fall semester.

Please remain safe and healthy!

Dean Shoop

  • 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.