Category Archives: News

On the Subject of Reinvention

Tensae Andargachew (ME ‘15)

At Cooper, Reinvention has begun. Well, not exactly. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

No one has forgotten the letter from President Bharucha explaining the deep financial crisis the school is in from a year and a half ago – and everyone since then has worked tirelessly to figure out how to solve it. The Revenue Task Force released a report in December 2011 that proposed keeping the full tuition scholarship and put in place revenue generating programs such as online course, programs for high school students, and professional development classes – all of which were explored in greater detail by the Engineering School’s Reinvention Graduate Tuition Committee.

Additionally, the committee explained how important the full tuition scholarship is and posed the questions everyone wants the answer to – how do we give Cooper its advantage? How do we optimize Cooper’s resources?

A few months later the Expense Reduction Committeee, which stressed how there has been a structural deficit and suggested a number of changes: phasing out of the BSE program, selling the dorms, and figuring out a better way to utilize the space Cooper has. These changes will eventually be taken into effect.

Throughout all of this, Joint Faculty Meetings were held, but unfortunately attendance was not great due to everyone’s non-overlapping schedules. So at some point last summer, President Bharucha asked each of the three schools individually to come up with a plan for their respective schools.

Each school, independent of one another, discussed plans to reinvent particular ways to generate a certain amount of revenue, with all the calculations confirmed by CDG, a firm hired by Cooper. Come winter, when the three deans of the three schools presented their plans to the Board of Trustees, they were met with resistance – not from the board itself, but from student protesters. Because of that, and the “No Tuition It’s Our Mission” protest last spring, “at that moment”, said Dean Bos, “it was interpreted that no revenue whatsoever [should be part of Reinvention]”.

The art faculty eventually then said that revenue generating programs were out of the question, and had to take a stand against it. They voted against forwarding the proposals to the board and wrote a nuanced letter explaining how they felt.

This letter was received, Dean Bos perceives, by the Board of Trustees and the president as an “unwillingness” to move forward with Reinvention, despite the last paragraph of the letter where the faculty essentially affirm their desire to work with the administration and the board.

However, once the students for next year’s class were deferred because no plan was put forward, it was made clear just how important adopting the plans was to the survival of the art school. Since then, the art school has put programs forward for Reinvention: a revenue generating precollege program which can start as early as 2014 where students learn about “how to think about going to an art school” and what a BFA is, and a Masters of Design Practice where students learn a lot about design in the social sphere.

So what does it all really mean? There are many proposals on the table, each of which sustain the three schools individually – not as a whole Cooper Union. Financially, the plan to reinvent has begun – however other aspects of Reinvention have yet to be tackled. The process of bridging the divide between the three schools has not yet begun.

The story of reinvention will continue to be this complicated story mired in conflict, but there is no question now – there is no turning back, the schools have proposed financially sustainable paths to take.

Brian Cusack on Datatel

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

Every Cooper student remembers the night they registered on the WebAdvisor website. Many frustrated students contacted professors and staff members about the new online registration system. However, WebAdvisor is only a part of a larger software program that is being implemented at Cooper. Data can now being integrated across departments. Here’s what the new head, Professor Brian Cusack, has to say about the administrative software, Datatel Colleague.

The Cooper Pioneer: Can you describe your new role as head of Datatel at Cooper? What are your main objectives?

Brian Cusack: In short: it is my job to see that we use the software to its optimal potential. This breaks down to a number of responsibilities; some are short term and some are long term. We are “live” on most of the modules within the system, but there are still some departments that are working through migrations.

In the short term, it is my job to oversee the successful migration of the remaining modules and deployment of the remaining software applications. Longer term I will be working with user areas to prioritize the needs of the institution and coordinate modifications or enhancements as necessary. I am responsible for developing training programs and documentation so we can implement best practices throughout the institution.

Implementing an integrated software package like Datatel is a large undertaking, but the process allows for two important reflections:

• Looking outward – what new features does the software provide our procedures?
• Looking inward – how can updating our procedures gain the most from the software?

I’m here to make sure we make the most of the opportunities both of those questions present.

TCP: Why did Cooper decide to implement Datatel?

BC: In 2008, Cooper performed a Self-Study in preparation for the decennial Middle States accreditation visit. In 2009, the Information-Technology (IT) Committee was convened as specified by the Self Study. This committee was attended by individuals throughout the institution: faculty, administration, staff and students.

The committee visited other campuses, went to conferences, and discussed the needs of Cooper Union. In 2010, the committee submitted its final report. While its conclusions were many and varied, there was one clear overarching recommendation: “In summary, Cooper Union must install a web based integrated enterprise wide system that encompasses all elements of the delivery of a high quality Cooper Union education. Such a system will include modules that address finance, student, human resources, institutional advancement, advisement, course management and room scheduling. The ideal system will be modular in that each component can be implemented on a standalone basis and integrated as additional modules are implemented.”

Prior to 2011, The Cooper Union housed its data in siloed systems. Each department had its own management system and data warehouse which were selected at various times over the last 30 years. This led to many diverse systems across campus, many of which became problematic to reconcile.

In the late fall of 2010, Cooper Union began researching companies that could fit the requirement put forth by the IT Report. All sorts of programs were researched – but most were too big for us, like the very popular Banner. The field of choices was quickly narrowed to two candidates: Power Campus by Sungard HE and Colleague by Datatel.

Both companies came on campus and presented to stakeholders throughout the institution. At the end of the presentations, feedback from the stakeholders was considered, and Datatel was chosen as the integrated enterprise system for Cooper Union.

TCP: How has Cooper benefited from Datatel?

BC: Cooper is already seeing the benefits of Datatel. Some of these include:

• Data integrity and consistency. For example: when a department looks up the address of a student – every department will get the same address. This sounds simple, but with separate systems it was not unusual for something as simple as an address to vary greatly depending on which department you asked.
• Web-based access: among other actions, students can now register online (I know that was a big deal for the students)
• Admissions can now send out automatic communications to email accounts, and students can check their status of their application online.
• Professors have access to advisement tools they never had before.
• The business office has modern reporting tools they never had before.
• We are implementing scheduling software that will help us make the most of our limited space and resources.

TCP: What has been the most difficult aspect of Datatel to work with?

BC: I’ll give you two: change and workload.

Change is always hard. We are changing from diverse systems that were largely custom designed for individual tasks to an integrated system that is designed to work for everyone. Getting what you need (individually) from a system designed for everyone requires a bit of patience. Some individual tasks may not be as simple as they were before; however, they will be far more accurate in their results.

The added workload of training and migration is significant. We couldn’t stop running the school just so that everyone could be trained on the new system and work through the arduous task of migrating data from the previous systems. Many individuals have had to continue fulfilling their full time responsibilities while somehow fitting in the training and migration needs. It has been tremendously taxing on everyone but the dedication of the Cooper staff has been nothing short of miraculous.

Neither of these difficulties are unique to Datatel. They can be expected from any mass-data-migration. For their part, the consultants and technical support team at Datatel has been extremely helpful.

TCP: Do you have any advice for students, professors, or staff members who are still trying to fully transition to Datatel?

BC: Please be patient but don’t be afraid to share questions or comments. We are all learning and training as we go. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. If something is confusing – let me know; one of my new responsibilities is to coordinate documentation and training.

Student’s List: A List of Professors

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

Everybody knows about the Dean’s list; it typically consists of all the students that have received a 3.5 or higher.   The engineering student body’s response to the Dean’s list consists of, roughly, the highest rated professors from the Engineering School.  Without further ado:

Prof. Michael Bambino
Prof. Brian Cusack
Prof. Gwen Hyman
Prof. Julian Keenan
Prof. Carl Sable
Prof. Robert Smyth
Prof. Alan Tenney
Prof. Robert Topper
Prof. Cosmas Tzavelis
Prof. Leonid Vulakh

According to ESC representative Andrew Crudge (ME ’13), this list is the result from ESC’s course evaluations.  These evaluations were sent out, using non-cooper emails, to all engineering students who registered a non-cooper email address with ESC.  According to Crudge, 263 undergraduate students took the ESC course evaluations.  This list compiled automatically by averaging the responses to questions that were directly relevant to each professor.

The Students’ List from last year was compiled in a different fashion: students were allowed to vote for one professor and the professor with the most votes made the list.  Since this year did not require each professor to receive a large amount of votes, the new list contains a few adjunct professors while the previous list did not.

When asked why adjuncts were included on this new list, Crudge said “Adjuncts have always been in the running. In previous years we sent out a poll and asked students to choose one professor, which led to results that were statistically biased against adjuncts, who generally taught fewer students. This year our method is based on average responses, so it theoretically is not affected by the number of students a professor teaches.”

Professors Robert Smyth and Cosmas Tzavelis are the only two professors to be listed on this year’s list as well as last year’s.  Additionally, this year sees the inclusion of Humanities professors (e.g. Hyman and Keenan).

For reference, the previous list may be found at http://pioneer.cooper.edu/cooper-pioneer-volume-91-miniissue-10-march-5-2012/.

ID Scanner-featured

New ID Scanners

Saimon Sharif (ChE ‘15)

On January 23rd, a campus notice was sent to faculty, staff, and students with the subject “A Message About Safety.” The email stated that faculty, staff, and students attempting to enter 41 Cooper Square (NAB) would be required to swipe in using their Cooper Union ID card. The same group must show their Cooper Union ID when entering The Foundation Building. Previously, the ID requirement was only occasionally enforced.

According to Dean Lemiesz, the change in ID policy is due to a higher frequency of incidents involving outside individuals, previously related to Cooper Union, gaining entrance to buildings. Since older Cooper Union ID had color-coded validation stickers, a swipe policy for the NAB was planned when the building was constructed, but other matters interfered with the installation of the card readers.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

Dean Wolf - featured

Dean Wolf: School Update

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

The Cooper Pioneer: At the end of last semester, ABET came to evaluate our engineering school.  How did that go?

Alan Wolf: We had an excellent visit. ABET reviewed 36 items and 33 of them required no change. The other 3 things are minor. ABET concluded their visit with a formal exit interview.  That meeting included myself, Assoc. Dean Delagrammatikas, President Bharucha, the four chairs of Cooper’s degree granting departments, and from ABET the four program evaluators (PEV’s) and the visiting team’s chair.  They talk about strengths and perceived weaknesses of our programs.  They rate concerns on a scale that includes: deficiencies, weaknesses, concerns, and observations.

The program evaluators, as you’d expect, are experts in the discipline they come here to review.  So a civil engineering PEV would be a professor or dean of civil engineering at another institution.  At the exit interview each PEV reads their draft report, which begins with a brief history of the department and then proceeds to a review of what the evaluator found in their preliminary study of Cooper (they study us before they even arrive on campus) and in the on campus visit, which ran from December 2 – 4.  A sample comment might be: “Faculty seemed to be very engaged with their students” or “Alumni seemed to feel that…”  The team chair also read her report, which was concerned with the engineering school overall.

So, nothing particularly serious came up in the exit interview. There are some minor concerns that we are either obligated to respond to, or can choose to respond to. I’m very pleased. This is a good time to thank the faculty, students and staff who helped us in many diverse ways to show off the School of Engineering to its best advantage.  Special thanks to Cooper students Andrew Crudge and Mike Palafox, who designed and built our new faculty web site, https://engfac.cooper.edu/  Our visitors were impressed by the faculty and student work that is now on display there.

A few days ago we received a written version of their reports.  I haven’t had a chance to review them yet.  We now have 30 days to respond.  Some departments, such as civil engineering, will not respond because nothing, not even a minor concern, was found in that department. Other departments may disagree with minor concerns, and they may wish to express those to ABET, or they may decide to change departmental practices to conform to ABET standards.

I should mention that the reports themselves are confidential.  Also, that it is nearly impossible for academic programs these days to get a “perfect” result, a clean bill of health, regardless of whether we deal with ABET (engineering accreditation) or Middle States (accreditation for the entire institution).

TCP: Do you think that the protests that occurred in early December will have any effect on our ABET results?

AW:  No.  I was at an AITU [Association of Independent Technological Universities] conference in San Diego recently.  One of the speakers at the conference was the head of an engineering accreditation organization, but a different organization (not ABET). It was a very interesting talk.  For example, I learned that accreditation began after World War II, when the G.I. bill allowed retuning soldiers to receive financial aid for college (among many other benefits).  The government was concerned that soldiers might be taken advantage of by educational institutions of poor quality.  Anyway, someone from another institution asked the speaker: “Do accrediting organizations care about a college’s financial weakness or internal debates?”  Her answer was very similar to remarks made by the ABET team chair in our recent visit – such matters are not of direct concern.  If, however, things like financial problems point to underlying institutional problems that affect the school’s educational mission, then they will receive an appropriate amount of scrutiny.  In any event, recent events at Cooper were not mentioned in our ABET exit interview.

The purpose of ABET is to make sure that you do what you’ve promised to do in your educational programs.  They want to check that there are procedures in place to fix things that are broken.  That includes insuring that we “close the loop.”  What that means, formally, is that we use the results of ‘assessment’ to improve our institution, programs, and courses.  For example, at the level of an individual course, you, the instructor, have an idea of how you’re going to teach a course.  You teach it.  You assess to see if your objectives were met.  If they were, great.  If not, the assessment (however that is done – there are a number of ways) is feedback to you that may suggest how to teach the course more effectively the next time you teach it.  They don’t have the ‘manpower’ and time to see what actually happens in each classroom, but ABET does verify that the feedback loops are in place.

TCP:  Last December, it’s my understanding that the engineering faculty prepared a document that was presented to Jamshed which was presented to the Board of Trustees.

AW:  We prepared five reports, they’ve been posted on the web and otherwise widely distributed.  We prepared an undergraduate tuition report, a graduation tuition report (that’s a misnomer, it includes any program that generates revenue and is not an undergraduate program).  We also had three committees that weren’t about revenue generation – for example a committee on the engineering school’s culture.  The reports were given to the board with supplementary materials like Excel spreadsheets containing very elaborate models of revenue generation.  Our five reports totaled nearly 100 pages. I was told by some trustees shortly after the December 5th meeting that they were very impressed with our hard work, our creativity, and with the sophistication of our models. I’m very proud of the faculty for mobilizing on reinvention the way that they did.  The trustees are now studying our reports.  We expect to hear back from them in March.

TCP: In March?

AW: We had originally expected to hear something in December.  Then came the holidays, etc. Now they have to study our reports and our models.  That takes time.

I’m still not clear what will happen in March exactly.  Will they tell us our fate?  Perhaps.  Will they want to talk to us in March before deciding our fate?  Ask more probing questions?  Will we be contacted before March with those questions? I don’t have answers to these questions.

TCP:  Do you have any information about who our permanent dean will be?

AW: On February 5th, we’re getting an update from the search firm that has been seeking out candidates.  On that date, I think we’re going to be generating a short list from the full list of plausible candidates.  We will rank them based on lots of criteria, such as their leadership style, their experience in financial and budgetary matters, their track record for building partnerships with the private sector, their commitment to undergraduate education, their passion for directly interacting with students, high energy and work ethic, and several other factors.  The firm has been helpful.  Two years ago the Dean Search Committee did a search without the assistance of a search firm, and we didn’t find anyone who really excited the faculty.  The search firm hasn’t just placed ads for the position, they went out to actively recruit candidates.

As you may notice, I have a new clock on my desk.  It’s a countdown clock showing how many days I have left in my position as Acting Dean.  Right now, 118 days, 15 hours…  I’m eager to have a new Dean in place. It’s interesting work, and I enjoy working with the President’s leadership team, but this job, when done properly, requires an enormous amount of time and effort.  And a great deal of time spent in meetings.  I’m at 300-400 work-related emails a day, and can barely keep up.  So much time handling relatively minor matters that it is hard to find time for the bigger, more exciting tasks – like designing a program to be held this summer whose working title is “Cooper Invention Factory.”  More on that soon!  So I will be the first person to champion any new plausible candidate (laughs).

We have a timeline for the selection process.  After we generate a short list of candidates there will be rounds of interviews, off campus and on campus.  There will be meetings with faculty, students, and administrators, and perhaps presentations to these groups.  We recognize that finding someone terrific is a challenge given Cooper’s current financial situation and internal debates.  By the time we are closer to the end of the timeline, we will be past the March trustee meeting – so I expect that we will have some sense of the institution’s fate.  There are people who revel in addressing challenges like this.  I hope we find someone like that – a fixer.

As for our financial challenges, Vice President Westcott is working very hard on a financial package that will keep us afloat until 2018 at which we get a few years of relief from the Chrysler rent bump.  If anyone can do it, it’s TC.

TCP:  As head of the physics department, have you begun looking for a full time faculty professor to replace Professor Uglesich?

AW:  No new searches for faculty members right now.  We have a few departments in engineering that are losing visiting faculty or faculty through retirement, but until we know the fate of the school(s) it doesn’t make sense to look for new full time faculty.  I hope to revisit this after the March meeting.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

CUCC Printer - featured

New Printing Limits in the CUCC

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

The Cooper Union Computer Center serves as a place every Cooper student can use to print out what they need. Fortunately, after the decrease of operators working per hour in the computer center, the amount of printing problems has not increased. However, around each printer, students have noticed the piles of paper that were printed but not picked up. Not only is it wasteful, Computer Center Student Manager Alexander Erb, says that because many of the papers left were printed double-sided, the CUCC could only throw these documents away.

The CUCC has now instituted a printing page limit. The biggest issue was the amount of printed pages left at the CUCC last semester. It was noticed that “more students seemed to have found their books online in the past couple of years and end up printing multiple copies and only taking one of them.” Alexander Erb also believes that “one thing people don’t seem to realize is [that there] is a small fee for each page printed that Cooper takes care of. And now that people are printing out textbooks, they’re leaving Cooper to pay for their books.”

Although there are only signs at each printer, the new limit is enforced by the means of a new system where printing several copies of the same document or a document over twenty pages is not allowed. If this new limit system works, the CUCC will not have to consider other options where students would have to pay an extra fee for printing or have a printing page limit as other colleges do.

Alexander Erb has advice for Cooper students: “print double sided when you can, try to print in black and white whenever possible, don’t print textbooks all at once [it is] easier if you just printed portions you need every few weeks, and only print out sections needed for your class.” If you already have pressed the print button at a computer, don’t press it again unless you are positive the printer did not receive the printing request!

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

Feb Ceb

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

If you walked into the great hall last Friday night, you probably would have been shocked to find about fifteen tables lined up in the hallway, decorated with baby blue table cloth, plastic cups with bead necklaces, tissue paper, Styrofoam stars, and snowflakes with glitter glue. If you walked in early enough, you would have seen about twenty girls, from the basketball and volleyball team, setting up the hall for Feb Ceb. Feb Ceb, short for February Celebration, took place on Saturday night from 8pm to about midnight. It is essentially a spring party for Cooper and non-Cooper guests to have a good time with dinner and dancing. Music was provided by DJ and current Cooper student, George Holevas (ChE ’14). The reason the celebration is in February is to remember Peter Cooper’s birthday and his mission. This year the theme is winter wonderland, explaining the snowflakes that can be found everywhere while last year the dance was Valentine’s Day themed.

Tickets were sold at the door for fifteen dollars each but if you bought them beforehand, they were being sold two for twenty five. Dean Baker who helps plan this event, along with Natalia Zawisny (CE ’14), Ghazal Erfani (ChE ’14), Alice Yang (ChE ’13), and Stephanie Borches (CE ’14), stays at Feb Ceb for a good portion, if not all, of the night to assure everyone is enjoying themselves and that everything goes well. Usually about eighty to hundred people attend, filling up all of the tables being set up and the stage in the great hall, which is where the dancing occurs. It is a wonderful way to meet new people and just have fun before the workload from the semester starts to pile.