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 integrity, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, respect, and social impact. In future semesters, focused workshops enhance the vocal, physical, intercultural, storytelling, and other aspects of professional communication. Presentation coaching, observation, and critique, as well as in-class workshops, are provided to junior and senior courses. 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. It is currently supported by a generous donation from The Aba and Leja Lefkowitz Endowment.

CONNECT Facilitation Team

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

Serena Berne, B.F.A. (Carnegie Mellon U): Acting Faculty, American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA)

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

Jessica Burr, B.A. (Bard College): director and choreographer; founding Artistic Director, Blessed Unrest; theater educator and presentation coach.

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

Julia Cavagna, B. Acting (EMAD, Buenos Aires): teacher, actor, director

Rachel Duval, B. 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

Et Alia Theater, New York-based non-profit that creates conversation through the exploration and exchange of international and multicultural perspectives

Jon Gellert, B.F.A. (Syracuse), M.A. (Emerson), M.F.A. (UCLA): director, theater educator

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

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

Giorgia Valenti, B.F.A. (New York University): actor, singer, dancer; Co-Artistic Director, Et Alia Theater

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.