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Lauren Cooper

Teaching Associate Professor & Associate Program Director, Mechanical Engineering WCU-CU Boulder Partnership Program


Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder, Mechanical Engineering, 2014
M.S., University of Colorado Boulder, Building Systems Engineering, 2008
B.S., Colorado School of Mines, Engineering - Mechanical Specialty, 2006


Lauren received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a research emphasis in Engineering Education, specifically to investigate the connection between student motivation and project-based learning. Lauren is the Associate Director of the Western-CU Boulder partnership program and an Associate Teaching Professor at CU Boulder. Lauren launched Mountaineers Without Borders and is the Senior Capstone Design Program Director.

How did you discover Western?

I was so fortunate to be brought on to the Western-CU Boulder Engineering Partnership Program team in January 2022, which is how I discovered Western.
Despite living in Colorado for two decades, I had never been to Gunnison or Western before my current position. I wish I had discovered this gem of a place earlier and feel like I am “making up for lost time” now by exploring and loving the entire Gunnison Valley and our cozy campus.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

Some of my highlights include completing my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a research focus on student motivation in project-based learning. The insights I gleaned from these years of research continue to shape my daily approach to teaching. Also during my master’s degree and Ph.D. I had the opportunity to teach engineering in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms in Lafayette, CO. This helped me discover my passion for teaching. Throughout the years I have participated in engineering projects in developing countries and communities, which has helped me improve my cultural competency and ability to problem solve in unique situations. Most recently, a highlight of my career has been stepping up to serve as the Associate Director of the Partnership Program here. Holding a formal leadership role is a new experience for me, and I am ready for the challenges, successes, and learning ahead. I see Western and the Partnership Program as my forever job – I am so happy to be here.

What most excites you about your field?

Perhaps this isn’t the most “typical” response from an engineer, but what excites me most about my field is meeting new people. I love the nitty gritty analytical aspects of engineering – I’m so at home and happy with a spreadsheet, or a data analysis textbook, or a challenging snippet of computer code that I have to troubleshoot. However, engineering is truly a “people profession.” I have been so fortunate to work with amazing students and colleagues across four institutions – Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado Boulder, Cal Poly, and now Western. Along with meeting new people comes the opportunity to work together and create something new! Recently I collaborated with an amazing group of students from within and beyond the Partnership Program to launch a new WCU student club, Mountaineers Without Borders. We are working on local and international design projects – and all students are welcome! I am also excited to have launched a new engineering summer program for middle-school aged students in the Gunnison Valley.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

What is not to love about the Gunnison Valley? It’s a slice of heaven that I am grateful to experience every day (even the snowy, cold ones). My favorite thing is spending time in Crested Butte either skiing, boarding, mountain biking, or enjoying simple hikes with my two young kids and husband.

Courses Taught

  • Intro to Engineering Design
  • Philosophy of Design
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Design for Strength and Stiffness
  • Component Design/Machine Design
  • Circuits and Electronics
  • Data Analysis and Experimental Methods
  • Senior Capstone Design


  1. Cooper, L., and J. Mott (2021). Implementing Social Justice Projects in Thermal System and Mechanical Design Courses. Proceedings of the 2021 American Society for Engineering Education Virtual Annual Conference.
  2. De Souza, N., Ochotonera, M., Self, B., and L. Cooper (2021). Sudden Shift to Online Learning: COVID-19’s Impact on Engineering Student Experiences. Proceedings of the 2021 American Society for Engineering Education Virtual Annual Conference.
  3. Cooper, L., A. Johnston, E. Hubbard, and B. Self (2020). Development of Empathy in a Rehabilitation Engineering Course. Proceedings of the 2020 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.
  4. Johnson-Glauch, N., L. Cooper, and T. Harding (2020). Goal Setting as a Means of Improved Mental Health Outcomes for Materials and Mechanical Engineering Students. Proceedings of the 2020 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.
  5. Schuster, P., L. Cooper, E. Elghandour, E. Rossman, and S. Harding. (2020). Senior Capstone Team Formation Based on Project Interest: Team Selection by Students Compared to Team Selection by Instructors. Proceedings of the 2020 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.
  6. Schuster, P., B. Self, E. Elghandour, and L. Cooper (2020). A Hybrid Approach to Team-forming for Capstone Design Projects. Proceedings of the 2020 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.
  7. Cooper, L. (2017). Lauren Cooper: Human-Centered Design for Emotional Accessibility.[Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iooL4ij5Cc
  8. Cooper, L. (2014). Designing the Design Experience: Identifying Factors of Student Motivation in Project-based Learning and Project-Based Service-learning. Mechanical Engineering Graduate Theses & Dissertations. Retrieved from: http://scholar.colorado.edu/mcen_gradetds/86
  9. Cooper, L., D. Kotys-Schwartz, and D. Reamon. (2012). Using Random Forests to Identify Factors of Student Motivation in a Project-Based Learning Course. Proceedings of the ASME 2012 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition.
  10. Cooper, L., M. Zarske, D. Kotys-Schwartz, and D. Reamon. (2012). One Day’s Pay: Educating K-16 Engineers to Design Affordable Innovations. Proceedings of the 2012 National Science Foundation Engineering Education Awardees Conference.
  11. Rockenbaugh (Cooper), L., D. Kotys-Schwartz, and D. Reamon. (2011). Project-Based Service-Learning and Student Motivation. Proceedings of the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.
  12. Rockenbaugh (Cooper), L., M. Zarske, D. Kotys-Schwartz, and D. Reamon. (2011). Engineering for American Communities: Engaging Engineering Students in Multidisciplinary Altruistic Engineering Design Projects. Proceedings of the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference.

External Professional Affiliations

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
    Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO
    Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
    Adjunct Instructor, Integrated Teaching and Learning Program
  • International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (iCAST), Lakewood, CO
    National Wind Technology Center, Golden, CO

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