To advance experiential learning in art and design


The Professional Internship Program supports student learning and development experiences in professional environments outside the academic setting. It intentionally complements The Cooper Union's rigorous academic programs by providing co-curricular learning opportunities that help inform students' transition from study to professional practice, by encouraging both the acquisition of knowledge and its practical application.

Learning experiences through internships are designed to teach critical thinking, effective reasoning, and the formation of new ideas within a work context. They are intended to foster self-understanding, professional identity development, and personal initiative. Internships encourage the creation of professional relationships and create opportunities for collaboration. They also develop practical competencies, such as effective communication, technical proficiency, progression toward goals, and contextual professional behavior. Further, they are intended to help students identify career choices and clarify career goals, with the aim of assisting students to secure future employment and other professional and educational opportunities.

As a formal experiential learning arrangement initiated and administered by the Center for Career Development, the Professional Internship Program helps level the economic playing field by providing an hourly stipend to participants, enabling students to benefit from career opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable to them. Earning a stipend from the Career Center while working and learning in internships in New York City also creates a compelling motivation for students to access and engage with the Career Center, which provides valuable support for students’ career success and seeks to advance personal, professional, and educational growth.

The Program’s application process is purposely modeled on conventional application processes for other opportunities, such as employment, graduate school, residencies, and/or grants, thus helping students develop essential skills for organizing their professional lives. In order to participate, each student must complete an application, provide two letters of recommendation from faculty, and present the internship opportunity to the Career Center staff for review and approval. Acquiring faculty letters of recommendation begins a recommender relationship for other opportunities and serve to communicate students' professional interests and career explorations to faculty, further developing their academic and professional relationship. To encourage reflective thinking, both internship site supervisors and interns evaluate the experience.

Students are encouraged to pursue a wide range of learning opportunities through internships. These include assisting professional artists and photographers in their studio practices, working at not-for-profit arts organizations and art galleries, acquiring skills in design and advertising firms, and assisting in film and video productions. The wide range of learning opportunities in New York City can enrich the sense of personal, social, and civic responsibility and encourage the appreciation of cultural differences.

Established in 1981, the Professional Internship Program highlights The Cooper Union as an early proponent of the acquisition of implicit knowledge through experiential learning and an innovative supporter of the artistic community. The Program builds goodwill in the public realm and functions as a positive form of institutional outreach and a learning-based bridge for external relations.


The Professional Internship Program values include:

  • Commitment to experiential learning
  • Encouragement of career exploration
  • Dedication to intellectual curiosity and independent thought
  • Support and participation in the art and design community
  • 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.