Welcome to the New Semester - Fall 2014

To All Members of the Cooper Community:

I am writing to offer my warmest welcome for the new semester. We look forward with optimism to the academic year ahead, thanks to the talent and commitment we witness every day among members of this community. I hope that you all can feel a sense of joy and anticipation as classes begin.

My wife, Jessie, and I joined incoming students at an orientation camp at Port Jervis, NY, last week. Over 200 freshmen attended what was the first such camp in 12 years. Our goal, in part, was to recreate some of the special experiences of the days at Green Camp that I know many of our alumni remember fondly. It was a pleasure to witness students from all three schools getting to know one other and then returning to campus with high energy and a warm sense of the Cooper community. My special thanks go to Vice President Dean Baker and Dean Chris Chamberlin, as well as to the upperclass students who participated as camp counselors, for helping make this orientation such a spectacular success.

I know the faculty, the staff and our returning students join me in extending our hearty good wishes to the freshman and transfer students who are enrolling for the first time. We are excited to have you here, and we look forward to the contributions you will make to the intellectual life of the institution.

237 first-year students have enrolled this fall. Of these, 25 have enrolled in architecture, 65 in art and 147 in engineering. You show exceptional academic preparation and aptitude for your respective courses of study, according to the deans and faculty who reviewed your applications. The class also continues The Cooper Union’s tradition of strong economic diversity, including almost 22.4 percent eligible for Pell grants. A summary of data describing academic qualifications of the entering class is available online.

The incoming class incudes students of diverse backgrounds and demonstrated accomplishment. To help the larger community get to know you, we will be running a series of brief profiles of incoming students on Cooper’s social media and its website.

My special thanks to Mitchell Lipton, to all the staff in Admissions, and to all the faculty who participated in the admissions process. Cooper is fortunate to have your leadership in ensuring that we continue as a place where the most able students want to study.

I would like to share some news from each of the three schools about recent faculty and alumni recognition, the success of their summer programs, and upcoming events.

School of Art

Faculty and graduates of the School of Art have achieved extraordinary recognition in the past few months:

Assistant Professor Sharon Hayes and adjunct instructor Anna Conway A’97 were awarded 2014 Guggenheim Fellowships for exceptional creative ability in the arts.

Two Cooper graduates won Fulbright Fellowships. Kanchan Wali-Richardson A’12 will travel to the city of Varanasi in eastern India to observe how devout Hindus, for whom the Ganges is a site of religious devotion and ritual, interact with environmentalists who are trying to contend with overwhelming pollution in the river. Theresa Zeitz-Lindamood A’13 will travel to Bologna and Rome in order to investigate the work of 16th century painter, Lavinia Fontana.

The Outreach Summer Program brought together a diverse group of high school students, primarily from NYC public schools, self-identified by their interest to pursue a degree in art. A four-week "Drawing Intensive" provided three days a week of rigorous classes complimented by an Art Issues and Writing course, while a six-week "Pre-College," modeled after the school’s Foundation Year, brought older students a curriculum of 2DD, 3DD, Drawing, Art Issues, and Writing. Classes were taught by professional artists and poets, and assisted by undergraduates. In addition, four New York City artist teachers were awarded residence in the school’s undergraduate studios, providing for students the perspective of an older artist at work, each dealing with a personal history of their medium in progress. This year's artists in residence were Amie Cunat, Yen-Hua Lee, Kamau Patton and Emily Weiner.

Looking forward, an exhibition titled Monument to Cold War Victory, organized by Associate Dean Stamatina Gregory and artist Yevgeniy Fiks, will open in the 41 Cooper Gallery on October 7. The exhibition gives an insightful look into the relationship between monumentality and subjectivity as they relate to complex, diverse political and artistic positions. 

The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture

Former assistant Professor Lydia Kallipoliti and Professor Michael Webb were awarded grants from the Graham Foundation, Ms. Kallipoliti for her upcoming exhibition project Closed Worlds: The Rise and Fall of Dirty Physiology and Professor Webb for his upcoming publication Two Journeys.

The school’s faculty, staff and students edited three recent publications:

  • Director of the Institute for Sustainable Design Kevin Bone edited, with Steven Hillyer and Sunnie Joh, a book called Lessons from Modernism: Environmental Design Strategies in Architecture, 1925-1970. The book examines 25 works by diverse architects over the period, exploring how environmental concerns were integrated into design. Daniel Barber, one of the authors represented in the volume, will lecture at Cooper on October 2.
  • Steven Hillyer, director of the school’s archive, edited Tony Candido: The Great White Whale is Black, based on an exhibition of the work of painter, architect and professor Anthony Candido, held at Cooper in 2010.
  • Thesis 2014 presents the thesis work of the most recent graduating class.

The school’s summer program "Introduction to Architecture" had 19 students—up from 11 last summer—drawn from the tri-state area, as well as Venezuela, Mexico, South Korea and California.

Pritzker Prize-winning alumnus Shigeru Ban AR’84 was profiled in the August 11 issue of The New Yorker.

Associate Professor Tamar Zinguer had a visiting scholar fellowship at the Canadian Center for Architecture this summer. Adjunct instructor Gia Wolf had an installation in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern that opened on August 23.

We can look forward to two upcoming exhibitions in the Houghton Gallery:

  • The Critical Moment: Architecture in the Expanded Field, on view September 12 to 17, showcases the work of the Master of Architecture II Advanced Design Studio, now in its fifth year.
  • Drawing from the Archive: Analysis as Design, celebrating the pedagogy of analysis at the School of Architecture, will show from mid-October until the end of November.

Albert Nerken School of Engineering

The Invention Factory program continues to inspire Cooper undergraduates. This summer, the judges awarded first prize to the team of Abiyaz Chowdhury EE’16 and Eric Nguyen EE’16, who invented a device to easily convert a toilet from a single- to a dual-flush system. Second place went to Deanna Kovalcin ME’16 and Jessica Marshall EE’17 for a universal tape dispenser and cutter.

On August 7, the Great Hall held an assembly for four national heroes who fought battles overseas and at home. Three of them were original members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American aviator unit in the military, established during World War II. The veterans visited The Cooper Union at the invitation of Henry Rey, who taught "STEM Takes Flight at Cooper Union," a part of the Summer STEM Program for high school students. "STEM Takes Flight" used flight simulation stations to teach students the principles of science, technology, engineering and math.

Work has begun on four revenue-generating programs, which were approved by the Board of Trustees in June. These include growth of the long-standing Summer STEM program, which enrolled over 140 high school students this summer (up from 60), offered nine sections, and provided need-based full scholarships to 60 students. New bachelor of science degree programs will be offered in chemistry and in computer science, and a non-thesis option will be provided in addition to the thesis option for the master of engineering degree. Applications for these last three programs are being reviewed by the New York State Education Department.

Three new faculty have joined the school with the fall term:

Marcus Lay is a tenured associate professor of chemistry, who joins Cooper from the University of Georgia. There, Professor Lay operated a materials research laboratory where undergraduate and graduate researchers learned a variety of techniques used in chemistry, nanoscience, and the electronics industry. He was co-principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-sponsored Center for Nanostructured Electronic Materials.

Anita Raja is a tenured professor of computer science, joining Cooper from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. An internationally recognized expert on the topic of meta-level control in multi-agent systems, Professor Raja has led efforts establishing metareasoning as a core research area in artificial intelligence. She is co-editor of a textbook, Metareasoning: Thinking about Thinking (MIT Press, 2011). Professor Raja is principal investigator of a new NSF-sponsored research project to investigate the value of more advanced machine learning methods in sorting complex medical data that may predict preterm births.

Philip Yecko is a tenured associate professor in physics who specializes in fluid mechanics and stability theory, numerical analysis and dynamical systems. At Monclair State University, he participated in the Science Honors Innovation Program supporting opportunities for undergraduates to conduct scientific research, as well as to participate in conferences and workshops.

The school has been awarded two grants by edX to produce two massive open online courses (MOOCs) in advanced placement (AP) computer science and in AP chemistry, this fall. The courses will be free and open to all and target high school students preparing for their AP exams. Anita Raja is directing the projects, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Ruben Savizky and chemistry adjunct Lori Zaikowski are teaching.

Administrative Notes

First, I am grateful to Elizabeth O’Donnell, who has agreed to continue as interim dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture this year while our search continues for a permanent dean.

In the Albert Nerken School of Engineering, Anita Raja will serve as associate dean in charge of research and graduate programs. Professor of Mechanical Engineering George S. Sidebotham will take on a new role as acting associate dean this fall, while George Delagrammatikas is on sabbatical. Dean of Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering Teresa Dahlberg has been granted tenure.

In the central administration, I am pleased to announce that Mitchell Lipton has become vice president of enrollment services. Mitchell’s expanded responsibilities include all functions related to admissions, records, the registrar, international student advisement and financial aid. Mitchell began at Cooper in 1997; I am grateful for his leadership in adapting our admissions and financial aid programs to continue strong, despite challenging circumstances. He has successfully broadened the scope of our outreach, recruitment and programming to support enrollment. In collaboration with the deans, the faculty and the staff of the schools, Mitchell and his team have demonstrated that, with its new financial model, The Cooper Union can continue to attract the most able students and those best suited to our programs of study. This essential work is by no means complete, but it is very well begun; we must continue to work together to carry it forward.

Christopher Chamberlin has been appointed dean of students. Dean Chamberlin will provide leadership and oversight for the Office of Student Affairs, including residence life, career development, student activities, community standards, ADA accommodations, mental and physical health, immunization records and other areas.

Mindy Lang has been named creative director in the Office of Communications. In this role, Mindy will lead efforts to develop visual and written marketing content for the institution in support of the work of admissions, alumni affairs and fundraising, the schools, and other offices. She will determine how best to represent The Cooper Union’s identity and messaging in print and digitally.

I am delighted to welcome William E. Mea as our vice president for finance and administration, effective this month. Bill oversees financial planning and budgeting, the controller’s office, human resources, information technology and legal affairs, among other responsibilities. Bill began working on the transition as soon as his appointment was announced in June, and he is learning about Cooper very quickly. I know he looks forward to meeting as many members of the community as he can in the coming weeks.

I have decided to defer a search for a new vice president to lead the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development in order to allow time for strategic planning about both alumni engagement and fundraising. In the interim, both Director of Development Jeanne Lunin and Director of Alumni Affairs Caitlin Tramel will report to me. Chief of Staff Lawrence Cacciatore will work alongside me to coordinate our efforts in these important areas.

Finally, I would like to offer a word of thanks to three departing colleagues from Huron Consulting who have completed or will soon complete their assignments at Cooper: Robert Spencer, John Curry and Todd Weinstein. All have devoted tremendous energy and intelligence to helping us understand and address a very difficult set of financial challenges. We owe them our enduring gratitude. I know that Robert’s daily presence, in particular, has given many members of our community confidence in our ability to be transparent and even optimistic in the face of daunting circumstances.

Having worked with them, and looking forward to a new academic year with all of you, I know we can anticipate a bright future for Cooper, and for the students and faculty who will continue to give life to its mission.


Jamshed Bharucha

  • 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.