Tag Archives: 95-5

Class Registration Tips

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19) and Robert Godkin (ChE ’18)

With spring semester approaching, The Pioneer asked upperclassmen for tips about class registration.

“Know your math professors, and pick your HSS professors wisely. As a MechE, there’s not much you have to pick in your first year, but it’s important to fulfill all of the basic requirements.”
– Andy Tong (ME ‘18)

“Don’t rush with your EE classes. Maybe hold back on Programming Languages, or skip it, and take Data Structures & Algorithms instead. Obviously, DLD comes first, but once you have taken that, you can really look at all your options.”  – Tom Koch (EE ‘18)

“Register with your section and make life easier for everyone.” – Dan Fagan (CE ‘16)

“In the succinct words of Cataldo: ‘Do it now.’ Registration is literally staring at your computer for 20 powerless minutes as the page refreshes to see if your future is doomed. At this point for us (juniors) there aren’t many classes that’ll fill too quickly anymore that we particularly want except for that humanities class about food with an infinite wait list.” – Jean-D Bonnet (CE ‘17)

“As a ChemE, try to take Professor Topper’s Physical Principles of Chemistry, but if you can’t it’s not the end of the world. Taking the more rigorous math classes will help you in your ChemE classes later.” – Daniel Galperin (ChE ‘18)

“It depends on how much time you may think you’ll have. If you’ve already taken DLD, get ahead on the required classes, so Computer Architecture for example. Try to figure out your EE track earlier on.”
– Denis Shishkov (EE ‘17)

“For MechEs, look ahead at the undergrad track. There’s many class options, and it’s important to understand vectors and forces to the highest level to help you later on. Working on your own project is really fun too even if it has nothing to do with school work. In general, the MechE curriculum focuses on designs, so it’s important to work on your project and presentation skills often.” – Arven Rulona, Troy Singletary (ME ‘16)

“Don’t jump the gun and take too many classes even after your first semester. If you’re interested in bio, take a bio elective—if not, don’t take a bio elective. There’s management electives, too, but remember to focus on your core classes first. There’s always time to take electives, but if you don’t build a solid foundation now, it might be too late later.” – Chris Panebianco (ChE ‘16)

“It’s honestly a doozy. There’s a pretty diverse selection [of classes], none that necessarily should be taken, but professor style and approach are really important in selection. Since a lot of classes, even those titled under a particular genre or art making, are essentially open studios, it’s pretty focused on what student want to see in class as far as critique style, class dynamic, class structure, etc. There’s also a lot of technique–based classes that focus on particular skills.” – Emily Adamo (Art ‘17)

“It’s worth it. The architecture school likes to pose itself as something indescribably intimidating and hard, which it is. But the teachers, professors, and mentors here are supportive and know what they’re doing, knowing the ideals of what ‘education’ should be. The things you learn here far out-weigh the mental and physical strain that come with our study. Pretty much, you’ll have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows here, but you’re not alone.” – Arnauld Sylvain (Arch ‘19)

Thinking on the Page: Cooper’s How-To for Effective Writing

by Ruchi Patel (ChE ’18) and Anushree Sreedhar (ChE ’18)

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Photo by Ruchi Patel (ChE ’18)

Although incredibly intelligent, Cooper Union students aren’t particularly known for their writing abilities. Inspired by their students, humanities professors Gwen Hyman and Martha Schulman came up with Thinking on the Page: A College Student’s Guide to Effective Writing, a “how-to” book published in March of this year. The 328-page guide intends to get the good ideas that “bad writers” have onto the page in a way that makes sense to them and to others. 

Schulman: Writing is for everyone, whether or not you plan to read a literary work again after college. You have to tell people what you are doing whether you are a chef or an engineer or applying for a grant. You have to figure out what you want to say and you have to get it on a page clear enough so that some one else can read and understand it. And then you have to do without being there to explain it to them. You cannot—in a million years—do that right on the first or second try. Asking that of yourself is setting yourself up for failure. This book is here to teach you to communicate in any scenario.

Hyman: The theory behind the book is that most people are taught to write as if they are English teachers because they are taught by English majors.

Schulman: When students come and say that ‘I can’t do this,’ we just don’t believe that. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t amazing at something, and not everyone is equally amazing in everything, but if you have a brain that works that well at one thing, then that has to be harnessed and channelled into other things. There is no mystery or magic dust. We would give you the magic dust if we had it. There’s only work and knowing how to do that work in a productive way. You guys are passionate and you work hard. No one at Cooper is a slacker.

The authors acknowledge that humanities is not why students come to Cooper. But engineers, artists, and architects meet in the writing center and in HSS. Being able to interact with all three schools gives Hyman and Schulman a better perspective on how students think. The duo spent four years forming a theory of how to teach writing to aesthetic, visual learners, the kinds of learners one finds at Cooper. 

Hyman: From being at Cooper for so long, we learned that you guys work together. Engineers work in groups and artists and architects do critiques, all the time! Writers tend to think ‘Oh, I am just going to go into my room and work.’ But watching you guys work gave some value to how to bring that to your work.

Schulman: Writing comes naturally to me and I thought that smartness was the kind of smartness that I had. I taught at Columbia before here and those people were smart in a variety of ways, but they were super well-rounded, which actually made them really boring. Then I came to Cooper, and these students were so smart in ways that I wasn’t. I would ask an architect why she wanted to look at that passage and she would look at me like I’m crazy and say ‘Because it is so spatial.’ I’m thinking ‘It was? It is? Oh, yes it is!’

“Our title has two meanings. One, you get your thinking on the page, and two, the act of writing lets you see what you are thinking”

The duo then continued to talk about the setup of their book and how it is used to outline writings.

Shulman: How do we unpack that knowledge? There are charts, drawings, and dialogic journals to help visualize what otherwise might seem like “Oh, this is a dumb idea” or “This is all in my head and I actually can’t visualize it and get it on the page.” That is why the book is called Thinking on the Page. Writing is thinking and we think that until you see it, you can’t really use it or firm it up, or play with it, or do all the things you do in writing.

Hyman: It is no different than engineering problem sets. You can never do that work in your head. You pick up an idea or you follow a train of thinking and you see where it goes. But people are reluctant to take risks and ask questions as they would in other fields so a lot of our work is how do we get you to ask questions.

Schulman: That’s why there is a whole chapter called “Asking Questions: Generating Ideas,” because one of the big things we are interested in is the thinking process. With engineers, you need a huge trial of numbers as you figure out the calculus homework. You can’t just beam it onto the page. Sometimes you have to go back to middle and track it. But if you don’t have a record, you can’t do that. That is why we make a big distinction between the product and the process.

Grammar can sometimes get in the way of writing, and the book addresses this uniquely. 

Schulman: Sometimes when you don’t know what you are trying to say, the syntax gets all weird and convoluted because you are actually in a process where you are trying to fix it. The act of unscrambling will often rearrange the pieces to make sense and some sentences might even go away. First, we talk about it as a thinking issue and then we talk about  the grammar errors that suggest that you haven’t totally thought through the relationships.

Hyman: It is also a process-product issue. A lot of people try to fix the grammar as they are writing and doing that creates a problem for you because you can’t think and you can’t produce ideas and you can’t test things out because you are so worried about the grammar.

Schulman: You are also wasting time! The one thing about working in a pair is that there is always some working critique. We must have fine-tune edited 100 pages that never got near this book. Don’t do what we did! You don’t need to think about grammar unless you are lost in your own sentence, and that’s a thinking issue more than a grammar issue. When you know what pieces are actually going to be in your final product, you can clean up the grammar and the relationship between idea A and idea B.

Hyman: Writing is hard. And if it is not hard, then you are doing it wrong.

Schulman: Our title actually has two meanings. One is that you get your thinking on the page. But two: the act of writing lets you see what you are thinking and lets you then generate more thought. So it is a process that keeps moving, and if you stop writing and you don’t know how to continue, then you are stuck. In theory with this book, if you are willing to use it, you should never actually stay stuck. You should say “Okay, I’m stuck right now but I’m going to go back into the text and ask these questions and do a mind map. I’m going to have a technique.” Sometimes all it takes to get unstuck is to do something. It’s to move. Those three hours between 2-5 A.M. when you are staring at your computer—that is unproductive time! That is what this is meant to end.

Thinking on the Page

Image from Amazon

How did they make the book easy to understand to engineers, architects, and artists? We all see things differently…right?

Hyman: Even though people learn in different ways, there are more connections across the school that you perhaps don’t perceive while in school. In a way, you all are visual learners. You see the world differently than we do. This forced us to think through the project of the book and make it useful for everyone.

Schulman: Sometimes people get snippy about the other schools, but when you are all invested in the topic, there is suddenly like a huge knockdown fight about what the tower of hexagons in the History of Bable physically looks like. And there is an argument going on between these three different types of people who can all visualize it and know more about a hexagon than I do. And it’s the coolest. And we have that in a way that other schools don’t have. Even if it is at first reluctantly, you all come together. It’s kind of exciting for us.

Hyman: More or less, Cooper students have been our guinea pigs for all this time. So we know what works because we have tried it in the Writing Center and in our classrooms. The same thing does not work with one person as it does with another. We found that in our working style, Martha and I approach things differently. I outline. If I don’t have an outline I’m lost. So we have outline options and “so you hate outlines” option.

Schulman: We feel very fortunate that we have this opportunity. Cooper is unique in the world. The funny thing is we come from this place and we think this book actually works for many, many people who are never going to go to Cooper or want to go to Cooper. If it turns out that you are in nursing school, or a biology major, business major, or music major, or anyone else that may have been told in school that they are not good writers (or who are decent writers only because they color within the lines but don’t necessarily feel connected to it) you will find processes that would work for you. So when you find what writer you are, we tell you how to assess your work so that you can move on to the next stage.

Hyman: We really believe in this stuff and it is very close to our hearts. Writing is power. It is really a big deal for us to share then and instill it and get it out in the world. We would love for more people to learn this stuff and get access to it.

Security Guard Darnell, Alumni Terrace - Photo by Winter Leng ChE '18

Faces of Cooper: Darnell Hayze

By Brenda So (EE ’18)

The Cooper Pioneer: Where are you from?

Darnell Hayze: I am born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I have been here for 31 years. I love New York and I treat it as my city and my home.

How long have you been at Cooper?

I started working at Cooper two weeks ago. I like the
position I got here, working at the alumni terrace (8th floor of the NAB). When it’s open, I make sure everything is alright and people can come in and enjoy. The terrace also has a surprisingly nice view. I like it a lot.

When I got here, my boss assigned me to the alumni terrace, so I am trying it out, see how I like it first. People who know me will know that I am always
curious, so I always greet people, say hi, and talk to them. Being friendly is also what makes me qualified for the position.

Where did you work before you came to Cooper?

I have always been a security guard. Before I came here, I worked at major corporate events and nightclubs. I
actually worked at the Yankee Stadium this past summer. I worked at the clubhouse with the superstars, top-notch baseball players  such as Alex Rodriguez. My most memorable event was the New Year’s Event at the Empire Hotel Rooftop. A lot of people showed up, and the glitter ball went up; it was a beautiful night.

I actually have two jobs right now, Cooper and CVS. I work 12 hours here at Cooper, and I work at graveyard shifts in CVS. Graveyard shift means 11pm to 6am in the morning. It’s not that stressful in CVS; there are not a lot of people in comparison to the morning and afternoon shifts.

You mentioned that in your work, you meet a lot of people. Have you ever met people that are hard to deal with?

All the time. Especially in nightclubs, you got a lot of those people. Like when someone is drunk, the situation can get really messy.

People talk and they don’t really comprehend what they are saying, so I escort those people to their cars, give them some water and make sure they are safe. When people start a conflict in a nightclub, the cause is usually really petty. And I try to defuse the situation as quickly as possible.

One thing I learnt is to keep my composure. Back in the day, if someone starts fighting in the club, the bouncer would just throw them out. But now, you can’t do that.

Nowadays you try talking, try to defuse the situation. When I first started, I didn’t know how to handle things.  I couldn’t control certain situations, but now I have learnt how to deal with them. If you cannot control the situation, like when the person has a weapon, you need the police to get
involved.

What advice would you give to Cooper students?

I went to school myself. I understand what it means to work hard and what it means to go to school. When I went to school, I had
to balance a job and studying, and it was not easy. I got my Associate degree from Apex Technical School to study cars, to study engineering, and I was bouncing at nightclubs at the time, so it’s not easy. I am thinking of going back to school, too.

In terms of advice, if you know what you want, go get it. Don’t stop, do what you need to do and I hope you guys succeed in whatever you want to do. So work hard, and know that it’s
going to pay off!

What are your goals in life?

A goal that I am trying to achieve is to enter a body building competition. I work out a lot. And if I win the competition, I could get a contract as a
professional body builder. I would be earning $20,000 a week. So I work out, I eat right. A lot of people think that guards don’t have a life, but this is our own life. You’d be surprise what people do
behind closed doors—maybe someone is a small time actor, but you’d never know!

Darnell keeps the Alumni Terrace open everyday from 12-6pm. Come say hi! 

Exchange Students Tell Us What We Already Know… Plus More

By Monica Chen (ME ’18)

Study Abroad Students Shrikant Chavare and Manu Manso - photo by Winter Leng ChE '18

Photo by Winter Leng (ChE ’18)

Every semester, Cooper welcomes foreign exchange students to experience the culture of our unique community while living in the heart of the East Village. This year, students from Spain, India, Germany, and more traveled to New York to continue their studies in engineering and art. This interview features two students, Manuel Manso Morato (CE ‘17) and Shrikant Chavare (ChE ‘16). 

TCP: What did you expect your Cooper experience to be like before you arrived?

Shrikant: One of my major concerns before coming was that the other students who came before me were in a group of 4 so even if they had any problems or were feeling lonely, they could figure it out amongst themselves. This was a concern because I was the only one coming from India. So far, I haven’t faced any problems and overall, the experience is better than I had expected

Manu: I thought the people here were going to be more into studying and not as much into having a social life. Cooper Union chooses the most clever individuals from all over America, so I wasn’t expecting them to be as cool as they are.

What motivated you to study abroad?

M:  I’ve always loved the English language so I knew I definitely wanted to go to an English-speaking country. When I was 15, I did an exchange program in New Zealand with the American Field Service (AFS). It’s an organization that promotes intercultural exchange, and I came to learn that the world is way bigger than what I know. I was hosted by a really nice family in New Zealand, where I learned English and attended high school for 5 months. I was able to travel around both islands and to me, New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world, and I loved the experience. Since then, I’ve always wanted to live on my own abroad, and now that dream is accomplished.

S: I am interested in two options after I graduate: getting my Masters or getting a job abroad. I’ve also had experience working abroad for certain summers, but I wanted to know if I could sustain myself for the long term alone.

What made you choose Cooper when you were deciding on where to study abroad?

M: My university has a lot of agreements with other universities, but I did a bit of research on all the colleges I could apply to and Cooper Union was the biggest name on the list. Also, as a Spaniard, living in New York City was a unique opportunity; I could probably only have the chance of living in the middle of the East Village once in my life so I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. As soon as I got accepted, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to Cooper.”

How does Cooper compare to your colleges back home?

M: Burgos, my college in Spain, has 9,000 students and the engineering section is the largest one, so it’s very different though we do have very small classes right now because of the crisis in Spain. Also, our buildings and laboratories are larger, but obviously you can’t ask for that if you’re living here in the city. In Spain, I live in a very small town of 200,000, much smaller than Manhattan!

S: At IIT Bombay, there are at least 60 people in each chemical engineering class and for the common engineering classes, the number of students in each class sometimes goes up to 120 or 150. After coming here, there are a maximum of 25 people in a class so every student gets more attention.

Also, the exams here are less competitive than the ones at my university. After the first month of lectures, professors are required to give at least 2 or 3 exams every 2 weeks. In every class, there are several short exams, 1 midterm exam, and 1 final exam as compared to 1 midterm and 1 final exam in the classes here.

Best part of your Cooper experience so far?

S: The best part may also be the worst part because Cooper being a small school, you know everyone studying here. It’s not like you feel alienated and even if you meet someone new, you end up seeing them quite often within a couple of weeks and end up becoming friends. You basically know everyone when you go to a small school so if you have some problems, you know to ask for help.

M: The people and the location. The people were really open to me when I arrived. There haven’t been many foreign exchange students so that was a big shock for my classmates. As for NYC, there’s nothing bad I can say about it. I’m living in a wonderful location and I wish I could stay here longer for another semester.

Worst part of your experience?

M: Probably the price of the city. In the city, all the prices are all very expensive, including the rent. That’s probably the worst part — having to think about how to spend money when you’re here. I feel like Americans earn more money; in America you’re able to earn double what you could earn in Spain, but the living expenses are also higher in New York.

S: My university has 16 dorms, a football field, cricket field, a hockey field, and a huge residential area and a lake. There is around 800 acres of campus so even if you’re not in school, you can go outside and hang around. Here, if you want to play sports, you need to walk for 15 minutes to get anywhere.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done in the States?

M: When I arrived here, I spent 15 days in Fort Lauderdale, Florida chilling on the beach. Since I’ve started school, I’ve visited all of NYC and Niagara Falls with some of my classmates. This weekend, I went to Indianapolis, which was a 12-hour journey by bus, where I stayed for half a day then drove up north to Michigan, where I stayed in a cabin for 3 days without electricity. I plan on visiting Tom’s River in New Jersey during Thanksgiving. After classes end, I plan on visiting Washington D.C., Boston, and then Florida again before going back to Spain.

Alumni Trustees Meet the Candidates - Photo by Winter Leng ChE '18

Alumni Trustee Elections: Why Should Students Care?

by Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

The consent decree, an agreement brokered by the New York State Attorney General that settles last year’s lawsuit, requires that alumni must have greater representation on the Board of Trustees. To that end, the Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA) is holding a “Special Election 2015” with 23 alumni candidates on the ballot and a great deal of attention from the wider community. That sounds great for alumni — but why should students care?

Like most things, there’s a short answer and a long answer.

The short answer:

The inaction and indiscretions of the old Board of Trustees played a significant role in making tuition at Cooper a reality. The make up of the Board is finally being turned over right now and we need to be sure that Trustees elected now will not only have better practices, but also enact the changes necessary to return Cooper Union to free. Ultimately, students are going to be most affected by the next Board of Trustees and so students should be informed and get involved with the election of the new Trustees.

The long answer:

The Board that has been at the helm for the last 10 years — the same Board the Attorney General describes as having promoted misleading financial information to the public and having failed to show effective internal control, governance and transparent communication — is being changed from within. Among the strongest clauses in the consent decree is the requirement that “all Trustees who served on the Board of Trustees on October 6, 2006 shall have their terms expire on December on December 7, 2016” and none of them can be reappointed ever. In simple terms, old Trustees are on their way out.

Change is happening right now. Most recently, on November 11, Board Chairman Richard Lincer announced that Cooper Union’s bylaws have been amended. In accordance with the consent decree, the new bylaws require the immediate election of two additional Alumni Trustees. This is CUAA’s Special Election 2015. One newly elected Trustee will begin his/her 4-year term in December 2015 and one will begin in June 2016, but both will be elected during this Special Election. This 4-year window is where Cooper Union is best poised to return to free.

What Lincer didn’t explicitly mention in the announcement is that Monica Abdallah (ChE ’17) was formally appointed the title of Student Trustee on November 11, joining Jessica Marshall (EE ’17) as a full Trustee with voting powers and fiduciary duties. Both Abdallah and Marshall directly represent students, but they must also communicate and engage with other Trustees. Special attention must be paid to how newly elected Trustees will get along with the student Trustees. For this reason, students can and should be aware of the Alumni Trustee Special Elections.

“Special attention must be paid to how newly elected Trustees will get along with the student Trustees.
For this reason, students should be
aware of the Alumni Trustee Special Elections.”

Session 2
Candidates on stage at CUAA’s event on November 9.

On November 9, the CUAA hosted a Q&A session with 19 candidates for Alumni Trustee. Wes Rozen (Arch ‘05), instructor at the School of Architecture, moderated the discussion by asking the candidates specific questions. He asked the candidates about how their particular backgrounds support their candidacy and posed pointed questions about how they would deal with certain issues if they were elected.

The candidates were not shown the questions beforehand, so they were put on the spot. As such, their responses revealed their true opinions and stances. But with only 60 seconds to respond, some candidates weren’t able to dig deep enough to reach the heart of the questions asked.

Candidates answer questions at the CUAA Meet the Candidates event on November 9. From left to right: Adrian Jovanovic (BSE ‘89), Victoria Sobel (Art ‘13), Richard Velasquez (ME ‘94), and Rob Marano (EE ‘93). Photos provided by CUAA
Candidates answer questions at the CUAA Meet the Candidates event on November 9. Clockwise from top-left: Adrian Jovanovic (BSE ‘89), Victoria Sobel (Art ‘13), Rob Marano (EE ’93), and Richard Velazquez (ME ‘94). Photos provided by CUAA.

(The opinions in the latter half of this article are the author’s alone, and do not reflect the opinion of The Pioneer as a whole).

What’s particularly worrying is that some candidates perpetuated certain ideas that are troublingly similar to opinions held by former administrators and old Trustees. That’s not to say these ideas shouldn’t be discussed or that the candidates who brought them up are ill-suited for the job necessarily. In fact, it’s all the more reason to identify what these opinions are and gain an understanding of why they may (or may not) be ‘problematic,’ for lack of a better word. Listed below are three examples, paraphrased from the candidates themselves, followed by the beginning of a considered argument:

(1) “Treat donors as investors” leading to “what can donors/investors get out of Cooper?” Cooper Union’s primary focus should always be within the community, not on those outside it. Seeking funds from the public, particularly corporations, should never take precedence over students or academic programs. Corporate investments into co-op programs or research seem like the ultimate “win-win-win” situation — but only superficially. On the surface students gain valuable experience, the school is enriched with much-needed funds, and corporations benefit by attracting talent. In reality though, these investments don’t directly support the ideals of free education and do little to actually raise academic standards.  Instead, the benefits to the corporate donor greatly outweigh everything else. (There could, however, be opportunities for professional societies and clubs to foster such corporate ties.

(2) Cooper Union in the “education marketplace.” The marketplace is saturated with bigger, better-endowed schools that can afford amenities and facilities on large campuses. Cooper cannot and should not be among those sprawling schools, so chasing the same goals doesn’t make sense. If anything, Cooper “competes” by embodying meritocratic ideals and demonstrating a paradigm of free education.

(3) “Master Plans.” The context in which this phrase was brought up was to have a definitive plan in place for returning to free. Indeed, the aim is in the right place and making plans to achieve those goals is typically a good idea. However, “Master Plans” are unilaterally defined by a small group of people at the top — not what Cooper Union needs right now. The consent decree calls for the creation of inclusive committees, like the Free Education Committee and the Presidential Search Committee, where the entire community is directly involved in the reformed governance throughout the process. In a word, recent governance reforms mean that we finally have a chance to elect Trustees who will engage the whole community. A top-down, “Master Plan” approach undermines all of this.

The failures of former President Bharucha’s administration showed that policies guided by the ideas above are not only unrealistic but also harmful if they are enacted. These contentious opinions have been compiled here so that students can identify them clearly and hopefully respond in an informed way.

On the flip side, there are candidates who stand for ideas more conducive to Cooper’s two most immediate missions: healing the community and returning to free. Among these candidates are those who say, “We have to get our house in order before we go about seeking multi-million dollar donations.” To that end, these candidates understand that the real problems are actually structural and cultural. Moreover, they will affirm that Cooper’s financial situation is a symptom of those issues.

As elected Trustees, Jessica and Monica are duty-bound to voicing the opinions and needs of students. The candidates who set their sights on the most immediate path to healing the community and directly reinstating free education will engage best with Jessica and Monica once they are elected. And together, as Student and Alumni Trustees, they will collectively have both the mandate (the support of their constituencies) and the agency (the power to vote on the BoT) to fix Cooper Union.