The campus is closed and staff will work remotely at least until the governor announces the reopening of the New York City Region. See the Coronavirus / COVID-19 Updates page.

Peter Cooper Student Lectures

“I desire that the students of this institution may have the privilege to occupy one of the large halls once in every month, for the purpose of a lecture to be delivered by one of their number to all students and such friends as they may think proper to invite.”
--Peter Cooper, 1859 letter to Cooper Union Trustees

The Peter Cooper Student Lectures feature four students from across Cooper Union who will each deliver a twenty-minute lecture on a given theme. Sponsored by the Center for Writing, lectures will be presented together in the Great Hall during the Spring semester (day and time to be announced) to an audience of peers, faculty and community members. See submission details below. The deadline for submissions for Spring 2020 is November 27, 2019. The inaugural theme will be on "Belief and Doubt."

Belief and Doubt

As we’re driven toward ever-increasing specialization in our education and work, our lives are circumscribed by more “black boxes”—aspects of modern life we must take on faith, like the functioning of our smartphones, the certainty of the scientific method, the practice of politics, the way our clothes and food and even our culture are manufactured and delivered to us. Simply put, we have to trust others to do what we can’t truly see or understand.

Partly as a consequence of these conditions, we’re also living through an age where people no longer trust experts and have grown suspicious of anything beyond their immediate experience. By some accounts, this is a golden age of doubts as much as it is one of beliefs. We’re conscious of the way that others might be manipulating us, of abuses of power, of conspiracies and plots and misrepresentations. We’re also more likely to take only one side of a debate and utterly reject the arguments of those we disagree with.

The Peter Cooper Student Lectures are an opportunity for students of the Cooper Union to reflect on this moment of belief and doubt as we try and make our way through an increasingly divided society.

Submission Details

We will select one student to work within each of Humanities & Social Sciences, Engineering, Art, and Architecture, for a total of 4 selected students; your project need not align with your home school. In other words, Art students could potentially be advised by Engineering professors, Architects advised by HSS professors, etc.

Students selected will receive a $250 honorarium as well as support from the Center for Writing and faculty mentors in developing their talks. Support will range from refining arguments to practice with public speaking.

Students are invited to submit 250-400 word proposals that address the theme "Belief and Doubt," with the goal of developing the proposals into ~20-minute lectures on the topic. The deadline for submissions of proposals is November 27, 2019. Submit proposals here.

Four submissions will be selected to be developed into public lectures.


  • Be specific: The best proposals will focus on specific “case studies,” which might emerge from your own disciplinary work or from other interests.
  • Your goal is to engage your audience, so consider the things that get people interested: meaningful, difficult questions, storytelling, and, again, specificity (rather than grand, vague pronouncements!)
  • Try to be clear: proposals that present their ideas within a coherent structure and with well-written prose (edited, proofread) will be more successful.
  • 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.