Kevin Slavin: Entrepreneur, Artist, and Alumnus to Give 2024 Commencement Address

POSTED ON: April 23, 2024


Entrepreneur, academic, and artist Kevin Slavin, a 1995 graduate of The Cooper Union, whose work spans the intersections between science, technology, and culture, will give the keynote address at the college’s 2024 commencement. 

An alumnus of Cooper’s School of Art who studied sculpture, Slavin’s work has received multiple design awards, international technology patents, and extensive media coverage. His TED talk "How Algorithms Shape the World" has been viewed some 10 million times. He currently serves as the Head of Creative and Marketing for Ginkgo Biosecurity where he applies his background in microbial sensing to public health and national security. 

“Kevin Slavin is a creative whose work in education, tech, and the arts carries forward the kind of interdisciplinary thinking that Peter Cooper envisioned when he founded The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art,” said Laura Sparks, president of The Cooper Union. “Kevin’s commitment to Cooper Union and its mission is extraordinary, and we are very grateful for his ongoing service from mentoring students to teaching to having served and led on our Board of Trustees.” 

Slavin co-founded Area/Code in 2003, which developed some of the earliest technologies and designs for location-based services, including the first use of QR code in North America and the first real-time, location-based mobile game. As an academic, he was recruited as the first tenure-track principal investigator without a graduate degree at the MIT Media Lab. While at MIT, he was the founding co-editor of the MIT Press Journal of Design and Science, and developed some of the earliest techniques for urban metagenomics, using honeybees to sense the microbial environment of cities. This work led to exhibitions at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, publication in peer-reviewed science journals such as Environmental Microbiome, and reviews with DARPA for its potential use in early pathogen sensing. Slavin returned to New York in 2017 to become the Chief Science and Technology Officer for The Shed, as it was being conceived and built in Hudson Yards. While there, he led the vision for situated technology and science-based programming for New York's first major cultural institution since Lincoln Center. Elected by fellow alumni, he served on The Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2017 and was vice chair from 2016 to 2021. 

“Speaking at the 2024 commencement is a way to celebrate the enduring bond between this institution and the many chapters of my life: as a student, an alum, a teacher, and later, the vice-chair of the Board. In the broader perspective, it's another important opportunity to connect with Cooper students, for whom I'll do just about anything,” said Slavin.

The ceremony will take place in Cooper’s historic Great Hall stage on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. The program will also be livestreamed for public viewing at

  • 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.