May 14, 2020                                                                

The May 14, 2020 Council meeting was held via WebEx.  15 council members alumni, and 6 guests attended.

CU President, Margaret Matz AR’81, opened the meeting at 6:30 PM and asked for an approval of the minutes of the previous meeting.  Curtis Wayne AR’75 made a motion to approve the minutes of the April Council meeting.  Mark A. Vasquez ME’88 seconded the motion.  There were 13 votes for approval and none opposed.

Guest Speaker:

Margaret welcomed all.  She introduced Chris Mignano, ME’21, who gave a presentation on Community building.  He first spoke about what community means to him and then about projects he is doing now to strengthen the Cooper Community and some plans he has for the coming school year.  He spoke about the Cooper Launch Series which was a series of alumni talks with students conducted on line during school club hours during the pandemic.  Chris is the primary organizer for this series which featured 4 alumni. Jen Collins A’93 and her business partner Jen Nash, have given two workshops on networking.  Mary Lynch ChE’82 did a workshop on using LinkedIn and the alumni directory to expand your network.  Anna Brook Eng’04 gave a talk on legal careers and applying to law school.  And Simon Lok EE’97 gave a talk on being an entrepreneur.  One of the new projects that Chris will be doing during the upcoming school year is helping to organize a 2nd CU TEDx talk.  (The First CU TEDx Talk was given in 2012.)  Another of the projects that Chris plans to be a part of is an alumni affinity group for alumni that are graduates of both Regis High School and The Cooper Union.

Jen Collins asked Chris how far along he is in the planning for the TEDx, and Chris indicated that he had tried to contact a rep at TEDxOpen without any success so far.  Mark A. Vasquez offered to help put Chris in touch with some contacts who have knowledge of the application process.

Updates on on-going projects:

Margaret Matz asked Mary Lynch ChE’82 to provide an update on the commencement plans.  Mary said there is no date for the in-person ceremony, but there will be a virtual tribute on the same date as the Commencement was originally scheduled, May 27, 2020.  Alumni have been asked to contribute a video, an audio recording, or a written tribute congratulating the graduates and welcoming them into the alumni body.  Those tribute messages should be sent to Crystal Ortiz.

Awards Committee Chair, Laura Spinner A’89 said that she is beginning to formulate plans for a virtual 2021 Awards Ceremony, just in case that is necessary.  She wants to ensure that the awards are still given out in 2021 and that the winners are appropriately honored.  She also wants to remind alumni that you can nominate nominees for these awards now.  The on-line form is available.   She would like to send out an e-mail blast reminding alumni that nominations can be made on-line year-round.  Susan Shaw offered to help with the e-mail blast.

Alumni Trustee, Aftab Hussain ME’97 provided a trustee update.  He stated that the movement of all teaching from classrooms to virtual classes held on-line was an extra expense.  There have been multiple new COVID19 issues to deal with.  CU President, Laura Sparks has been working with other college leaders to collaborate on policies.   Aftab wants everyone to know how important is for Alumni to support the current fundraising effort.

Donato Giacalone AR’83 attended the last School of Architecture Faculty meeting.  Some items announced during that meeting were that there will be no summer program this summer.  The anticipated enrollment for the fall programs is good.  18 undergraduates have made deposits and 7 graduate students have confirmed they will be in the Master’s program.  The school is waiting to hear from 2 other candidates for the master’s program.  The faculty and students from the Architecture School will be attending the Venice Biennale in 2021.  There will be space for some alumni too.  The Theme for the Cooper Union Venice Biennale exhibit is “How do we live together?”

Lily Zand AR’88 attended a different Faculty Meeting where it was announced that the school is providing the virtual classes as Pass/Fail/Incomplete courses.  There will not be any Letter grades offered.  This is consistent with what other colleges are doing.

Co-Chair of the Events Committee, Nanwei Chen CE’13 announced that there were 2 successful events during the past month.  The first was a virtual happy hour and CU storytelling event which was a great success.  20 people attended.  The 2nd event was a virtual trip to Greenwood Cemetery and Peter Cooper’s gravesite. This event was organized by Barry Drogin EE’83 and 30 people attended.  Both events were recorded so that they can be viewed later.

Barry Drogin EE’83 thanked Mark A. Vasquez and Kelly Occhiuzzo Zack A’90 for their assistance organizing the Greenwood Cemetery event.  He mentioned that the PowerPoint that he used is currently available on the CU History Project Website.   

Co-Chair of the Events Committee, Mark A. Vasquez mentioned that the next CUAA event is the June 2nd virtual happy hour event.  There are preliminary plans for another alumni showcase event, but no solid plans yet.

Election Committee Chair, Shankar Venkataraman BSE’03, said that election participation is similar to past years.  There have been 515 ballots submitted so far.  Next Wednesday night, May 20th, will be “Meet the Candidates Night.” This will not be an in-person event.  It will be conducted on Zoom and it will be recorded. It will be uploaded and available on-line right after the event.  Officer candidates will have a chance to each make a statement and then respond to questions asked by a moderator.  Barry Drogin asked if alumni can ask questions, and if so how.  It was decided that alumni should send their questions to our CUAA email address,

Teller’s Committee Chair, Athena Denivo CE’94, made the suggestion that right after the Meet the Candidates Night, a reminder email be sent to all alumni with a link to the video and a reminder that you can change your ballot up until the close of the election on May 23rd.  

Athena explained the role that the Teller’s committee performs.  According to the constitution, we need a minimum of 3 alumni to review the ballots and validate the election results.  The committee has 5 members.  Once the election ends, the Teller’s committee will take over the Survey Monkey account and change the password, to ensure no one has access.  Then the committee will meet on the last Thursday of May to jointly view the results and compile the official tallies.

Margaret Matz asked if anyone else has any items to share.  Chris Mignano provided more information about the on-line classes.  He mentioned that the Spring semester courses with the Pass/Fail grades are not affecting anyone’s GPA.  He also said that the engineering students were told that this fall the courses may be a hybrid model of some on-line classes and some in-person classes, where the students practice social distancing.  It is also possible that the classes may be all on-line. The School is currently sending out surveys to students to determine if they have living arrangements that will support the hybrid model.

Claudia Giordano asked if there is any news about the incoming freshman class and if there are any plans for a block party in September.  Several people mentioned that a block party was previously ruled out.  Mary Lynch, suggested the spirit of the question, is are we doing anything for the incoming students in September?  In the past, we sometimes had the block party tied to freshman orientation.  And we have always helped with freshman orientation in some way. VP Alumni Activities, Kelly Occhiuzzo Zack A’90 mentioned that we will continue to work with the Alumni Affairs office on this.  We support the freshman orientation every year, but she has not heard anything about the plans yet.  Nanwei Chen mentioned that the Events Committee will also support The Alumni Affairs office with their plans for freshman orientation.  Mark A. Vasquez added that there would not be any way to hold a block party this year.  It isn’t possible during the COVID 19 crisis.

June Council Meeting

Mary Lynch announced the next Council meeting will be on June 4th and the election results will be announced at that meeting.  She also reminded people that this will be the final meeting of the year, and committee chairs and officers should aim to complete their year-end reports by then.  Margaret Matz announced that we will have Will Shapiro AR’13 as a guest speaker at the June 4th Council meeting.

Mark A. Vasquez made a motion to close the meeting.  Dennis Kong IDE’08 seconded that motion.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 PM.

Minutes taken by Mary Lynch, CUAA Secretary