Leading US University Presidents to Explore Innovation & Academic Collaboration with Israel


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To bolster their global relationships and bilateral academic exchange and cooperation, a US delegation of university presidents and chancellors will explore opportunities for academic and research collaboration, learn about state-of-the art research initiatives, and study the unique academia-industry ties that have turned Israel into the “Start Up Nation.” The delegation will be in Israel July 1-9, for the University Presidents Seminar sponsored by Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC.

“Israel is a leader in technical innovation,” said North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson. “Sharing information on the strong ties between higher education and industry will provide meaningful examples for NC State’s continued efforts to support a strong economy in North Carolina.”

Resonating with her colleague, California State University San Marcos President Dr. Karen Haynes said, “Cal State San Marcos is a young, 22-year-old, public university-one of very few actually built for the 21st century, with hallmarks of creativity and innovation.  I look forward to learning more about how Israel has fostered national innovation and how that is developed and nurtured in its universities as lessons learned to bring home to my institution.”

For the first time, a president of a historically black college will be participating. Spelman College President Beverly Tatum, who heads America’s oldest historically black college for women, was instrumental in Atlanta’s Rabin-King initiative, which promotes Yitzhak Rabin’s and Martin Luther King’s ideals of equality, integration, peace, collaboration and the value of education.

The delegation will be meeting with senior Israeli government and academic officials and leaders of civil society across the social and political spectrum, and will be traveling to areas in Yehuda and Shomron to meet with PA (Palestinian Authority) leaders. They will network with their counterparts at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute, among others.

Seminar delegation chair, University of California Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi noted, “As chancellor of a top American public research university with a strong international presence and aspirations to build on our existing global relationships, it is important that I have a deep understanding of Israel and its neighbors. From what I have been told by peers who have already participated in Project Interchange, the program is an excellent way to learn a great deal about Israel and its place in the ever-changing Middle East. I look forward to our upcoming visit and seminar with tremendous anticipation.”

“This impressive delegation of university leaders opens the door to enhanced academic ties between Israel and a wide cross-section of US campuses,” said Project Interchange Executive Director Sam Witkin. “The interest Israeli world-class research and educational facilities have generated attests to the country’s role as a global player in education and innovation.”

Chancellor Harvey Perlman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stated, “The Middle East plays a critical role in the world, and one cannot fully appreciate the issues it generates without being there. I am looking forward to visiting with our Israeli colleagues in higher education and others so that I can better understand their perspective, and also explore enhancing or facilitating the University of Nebraska’s relationships in Israel. UNL has a major initiative in the use of water in agriculture, and the Israelis, because of their circumstances, have been exceptionally creative in this field.”

Chancellor Dorothy Leland, University of California, Merced, noted, “I look forward to joining other higher education leaders to visit such a richly diverse country. Experiencing aspects of Israel firsthand will complement my knowledge of the region attained through my previous travels abroad. This visit will also open opportunities for academic and research collaborations in a country with a remarkable density of start-up technology companies.”

“I believe Project Interchange will allow me to gain a much better understanding of Israeli culture, especially from my position as president of the largest Catholic university in Texas,” said Dr. Louis Agnese, President, University of the Incarnate Word. “Specifically, I expect to gain a greater awareness of the complex issues facing Israel, particularly as they pertain to higher education. I would also like to explore reciprocal educational opportunities, which are known as sister school agreements.  We have a strong desire to establish sister school opportunities between the University of the Incarnate Word and like-minded universities in Israel.  I’m a firm believer these types of opportunities allow students from diverse backgrounds to engage in positive dialogue that can help close the cultural gaps that often separate them.”

The Project Interchange intensive seminar will offer the group broad exposure to the complex issues facing Israel and the region, with briefings by Israeli and Palestinian thought leaders and experts. Venture capitalist Jon Medved will share insights into what makes Israel the Startup Nation. The delegation will also visit Sderot to get a first-hand look at life under rocket fire.

Recent Project Interchange delegations have included US energy experts, French and German political leaders, Chinese and Indian-American academic leaders, Latina students, college newspaper editors, counter-terrorism experts from Europe and the United States, and journalists from across the world, with upcoming seminars planned for Indian parliamentarians and American civil rights leaders.

The University Presidents and Chancellors delegation includes:

•       Seminar Chair: Linda P.B. Katehi, Chancellor, University of California, Davis

•       Louis Agnese, Jr., President, University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX

•       Lawrence Biondi, President, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO

•       Karen Haynes, President, California State University San Marcos

•       Elliot Hirshman, President, San Diego State University

•       Dorothy Leland, Chancellor, University of California, Merced

•       Harvey Perlman, Chancellor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

•       Beverly Tatum, Spelman College, Atlanta, GA

•       Randy Woodson, Chancellor, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)