A handful of students from the graduating class of 2015 were invited to share a statement (1) reflecting on their time at Cooper, (2) looking to their future, (3) the future of the institution, and (4) any other thoughts/feelings/emotions they would like to convey.
While the invitation to contribute spanned multiple students in each of the 7 undergraduate majors, as you can see below a majority of the students declined to contribute. The reasons varied, including a lack of response to the invitation entirely, a concern with sharing their opinions with the larger Cooper Community for fear of criticism, the simple reality that the weeks follow graduation and extremely busy for many and some more personal reasons. I think the statements below speak as loudly as those who did not contribute anything, and it shines some light on the current nature of the larger Cooper Community. I hope you enjoy this small snapshot into the Cooper Union Undergraduate Class of 2015:
with a degree, i can now spend the rest of my life trying to figure out all that has happened to me these past 4 years, transforming this wild ride from an abstract whirlwind inside of me to intentional and conscious action and writing that are full of integrity.today, i finally graduated from cooper union. i don’t really believe in endings but i do acknowledge this mark as signifying a change in my relationship with this institution. no longer am i obligated to function under the system and concede my deeply held beliefs about this place as a “student”. the system can be purely irrelevant to me. because cooper is mine too.witnessing the rupture tuition has caused in our community and history has been tragically painful and emotionally demanding. yet, i am truly terrified to even think about the version of me without cooper. i won’t label this experience as “worth it cause of all the great lessons i learned” – it will undermine the depth and actual worth. there is no closure for me, but rather a continued embodiment of the intuition and insight cooper has taught me. i will eternally be grateful for all that cooper has given me – for the deeply personal and intimate relationships with my dear professors and radical students, for unleashing my creative power and destroying all conception of boundaries and for the crazy wild and FREE distinctive tradition of cooper union.i imagine that thoughts of cooper will always elicit profound sadness in me. not simply for the breakage of our cherished vision, but because that vision is radicalized and unique in the first place. a glimpse of hope though springs in that cooper is a model of resistance that is not capable of being destroyed. resistance of action is action and it is ALL embodied through our beings. our mere existence defies narratives of rationality.
Reflecting on my time spent at the Cooper Union, I can scarcely even imagine what my life might of been like had I attended a different school. The unique set of challenges and opportunities that were presented to me helped shape me as a person, and I am very thankful for the chance to have experienced all that Cooper had to offer. As a mechanical engineering major, Cooper gave me the chance at hands on experience that few schools can match (although there is tons of room for improvement still). Even though I had to force everything to work out this way, I was able to make my schedule such that I was building something in the machine shop every single semester, even as a freshman, which would be unheard of at most larger schools. From my first project at Cooper, making an exercise game on a treadmill, to my last project, designing and building a fully operational lathe to expand our machine shop, I enjoyed them all, and each one taught me very valuable design lessons that I am sure will help me in my future career.
I’ve recently entered into a tremendous fellowship; I am now an alumnus of the Cooper Union. Our institution is ailing right now. While I was a student I worked to help our institution as I could – but I think I could have done more – I think we all could have done more. Now as a new graduate, I am ready to commit myself to the radical work required to restore Cooper Union to its position as the most progressive institution of higher education – beyond just the cost of attendance. I hope many of us will participate in this endeavor. Our time and our expertise is more valuable to this institution right now than blind undirected giving. Let us help create a healthy forward-thinking institution that can live within its means. Let us show, contrary to what some might think, that right does in fact make might – and that we can continue our founder’s mission forever. As we forge the way forward, let us never forget not just the pecuniary gift of Peter Cooper but also his unique morality, integrity, and love for all.
ON COOPERIt’s always difficult to make evaluative statements like these. But I suppose I’ll discuss my social, and professional, and personal (spiritual) experiences here at Cooper.1. I’m really grateful to have spent four years here. I met people here that I know I never would have had the chance to meet had I not entered this place. Some of the professors I’ve had I will be forever grateful to. The Cooper environment really lends itself to a close relationship between the students and the faculty. With one in particular, I took more than a half-dozen classes. I don’t know where else that happens.
2. Something I have learned while at Cooper is how people who have fundamentally different ways of viewing the world can have a conversation. By virtue of being at Cooper Union at this particular time in its history, I learned plenty about politically-sensitive discourse.
3. Considering where I am right now, though, it’s hard to say how my plans will change. I do look forward, though, to being able to appreciate the nuances of medicine. I have a feeling my academic journey will impact my trajectory in ways I cannot yet fully appreciate.
4. I’ll never forget what a blessing it is to be able to further my education, both then and now. I look forward to contributing back to Cooper in a manner that perpetuates the spirit of access to education.