A Message from Dean Mike Essl: A New Strategic Planning Initiative

POSTED ON: August 15, 2022

Foundation Building

The following message was sent by Dean Mike Essl to the Community on August 15, 2022:

Dear School of Art students, faculty, and staff, 

I’m excited to announce that the School of Art will launch a new strategic planning initiative and the creation of a School of Art Advisory Committee in Fall 2022. We will be seeking input from School of Art faculty, students, and staff to help guide the planning and the future of the School of Art.  The Committee will assemble experts from among Cooper Union’s peer institutions and the field to conduct a meaningful and substantive review of the School of Art’s program and educational model. The Advisory Committee review will replace the accreditation assessment conducted by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). 

On November 30th, 2021, the Faculty of the School of Art voted to withdraw the school from NASAD accreditation. Our decision to discontinue the School of Art’s participation in NASAD and establish an advisory committee took into consideration the relevance of the self-study and review process conducted by NASAD. It was clear that the standards established by NASAD are more appropriate for schools of art that offer area majors such as the BFA in Illustration, Painting, etc., and did not adequately address the generalist program that sets Cooper Union’s educational model apart. The School of Art is unique in that we only offer a Bachelor of Fine Art without concentration, thus our curriculum, learning goals, and outcomes are very different than most schools currently participating in NASAD.

Moreover, we have learned over the past year that many of our peer institutions such as SVA, Pratt, Parsons, CalArts, and RISD have withdrawn from NASAD. This represents a loss of the institutional peers we rely on to conduct a rigorous and substantive review of our program. I believe that the quality of the School of Art will be advanced through the insights, perspectives, and experiences that the Advisory Committee will provide.

The comprehensive review conducted to decide on whether to discontinue participation in NASAD did not surface any negative impact on the student experience or outcomes. A review by our Admissions Office has found no evidence that NASAD accreditation factors into a student’s decision to apply and enroll at Cooper Union. An inspection of career/job postings in the arts did not identify attendance at a NASAD-accredited school as a requirement for employment. Finally, accreditation by our regional accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Educations is based on our compliance with the MSCHE Standards and Requirements of Affiliation and is independent of the review by NASAD. MSCHE has been informed of our decision to withdraw from NASAD and our plan to assemble an Advisory Committee to conduct an expert and substantive review.

If you would like to discuss our accreditation ​status, please schedule a meeting with me by email with Roberta Lee.

I look forward to working with you all in the Fall. 

Mike Essl
School of Art

  • 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.