Undergraduate Professional Development

The Aba and Leja Lefkowitz Center for Professional Development was established within the Engineering School to strengthen the non-technical attributes expected of its engineering undergraduates. Two interrelated programs, Professional Development Workshops and Seminars (ESC000) and CONNECT, provide a range of training and experiences in career and academic development.

Professional Development Workshops and Seminars

Students are automatically enrolled in Professional Development Workshops and Seminars (ESC000) during their freshman and sophomore years. It is a Pass/No Grade course based on attendance and participation. Workshops, seminars, and other activities address communication, career development, the engineering profession, academic and professional skills, the attributes of professionalism, and the core values of the engineering school. Topics include resumes, jobs and internships, ethics, professional licensing, technical writing, and communication skills. Workshop and seminar presenters and providers include members of CONNECT, Center for Career Development, Center for Writing, faculty, alumni, and expert guests.


CONNECT is a program of workshops and seminars in communication issues and skills for undergraduate engineering students. Traditionally, engineering emphasizes the mastery of content (accuracy, knowledge, grasp of detail) and intellectual process (scientific method, theory, analysis). Performance emphasizes human behavior in specific situations (vocal, physical, social, professional). CONNECT increases awareness of the behavioral elements of communication while the regular curriculum reinforces the importance of content and intellectual process.

Core seminars and workshops are The Purpose and Ethics of Technical Communication and Communication Dynamics, which are delivered as part of ESC000 in synergy with EID 101, the first-semester design course. The focus is on team dynamics, with an emphasis on the interplay between effective communication and core values such as equity, diversity, inclusion, and respect. In future semesters, the Communication Exercises workshop provides participants with ways to enhance the vocal, gestural, spatial other aspects of their personal communication styles. Other topics that may be addressed are memo writing, speaking on short notice, interview skills, visual presentation, workplace communication, and projecting confidence. Facilitators are drawn from the performing arts, corporate training, and academia.

The program was established in 1997 with a grant from the Department of Education and received funding from the National Science Foundation.

CONNECT Facilitation Team

John Osburn, Ph.D., CONNECT Program Associate Director

La Tonya Borsay, M.F.A.: teaching artist, educational consultant, curriculum designer, actor. Certificate: Moscow Art Theater School

Adrian Cameron, B.F.A., M.F.A.: theater, performance, media artist

Julia Cavagna, Bachelor’s in Acting (EMAD, Buenos Aires): teacher, actor, director

Chris Clavelli, Associate Artistic Director (Florida Repertory Theatre), classics instructor (Actors Studio Drama School/Pace U), faculty (AMDA). AEA, AFTRA/SAG, SDC

Rachel Duval, Bachelor in Music/Music Education (University of Washington): public speaking coach, classical singer, consultant. Diploma in Coaching: School of Professional Studies

Jim Elliott, M.F.A. (UT-Austin): Resident Director and Acting Instructor (AMDA). Master Teacher: MIT, Taiwan Performing Arts Center

Deborah Latz, B.A. M.F.A. (Performance and Interactive Media Arts, Brooklyn College): vocalist, composer, band leader (Deborah Latz Group); co-founder Sonic Muses; vocal coach. Certificates: Somatic Voicework™, British American Drama Academy, ACT

Cara Michelle Miller, B.F.A.: communication coach, instructor/lecturer on meridian-based modalities, faculty (Pacific College of Oriental Medicine), teacher (Waldorf School).

Abigail Rabinowitz, B.A. (Brown), M.F.A. (Columbia): Associate Director for Writing in the Sciences and Engineering, Clinical Associate Professor in Expository Writing, NYU; science and technology journalist. 

Jen Wineman, B.A. (Vassar), M.F.A. (Yale School of Drama): director, choreographer, artistic director

  • 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.