The University Presidents and Chancellors Seminar began with an orientation session which encouraged the participants to begin to think deeply about Israel and the variety of topics to be covered during their stay. The itinerary was comprised of Project Interchange core sessions that informed the participants about modern Israeli history, society, politics and culture. Special emphasis was paid to the Israeli educational system including several intimate meetings at Israeli universities. Access to the top leadership of Israel’s universities allowed the participants to make connections with their academic counterparts as well as open channels for faculty and/or student collaboration and technology transfers. The group also met throughout the week with Arab and Jewish Israelis as well as Palestinians.
Project Interchange coordinates this seminar together with the AJC Dorothy and Julius Koppelman Institute on United States Jewish-Israeli Relations. This seminar encompasses discussion with a cross-section of Israelis and examines the US- Israel relationship and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a special focus on the challenges of higher education within Israeli and Palestinian societies. A component of the visit is exploring student and faculty exchanges, research and tech transfer. Critical themes include understanding the breadth of Israel’s culture, society, and intellectual leadership. The delegation meets with Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians at a time when so much attention is paid to the conflicts and pursuit of peace in the Middle East on university and college campuses. Moreover, the delegation also tours historical and archaeological sites that hold much meaning for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Ten chancellors and presidents of major U.S. institutions of higher learning and their spouses traveled to Israel, focusing on educational and research collaboration opportunities. University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and University of California System President Mark Yudof co-hosted the delegation. In Israel, the delegation met with representatives or presidents of Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Participants also visited Al Quds University in Abu Dis to discuss issues of Palestinian education and governance. In addition, the group explored Israeli historical and archeological sites, and discussed issues of security, the peace process, and the role of the U.S. in the Middle East.
President James B. Milliken
[This seminar was] the most intellectually stimulating week of my life.
President Michael A. McRobbie
During our trip … we got a small taste of life in a country remarkable for its beauty, the resourcefulness of its people, and the immediacy of the need for a path to peace in a troubled world.
Robert A. Corrigan (San Francisco State University)
- Overseeing plans to put SFSU on the cutting edge of Israeli scholarship. Thanks to a new endowed chair in Israeli studies from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, President Corrigan will be able to elevate Jewish studies from a small program to its own academic department which will develop and deliver a curriculum that addresses the history, politics, culture and religions of Israel. As President Corrigan oversees this exciting growth, he is looking to Israeli institutions and contacts made during the seminar to augment this department and ensure the quality of its scholarship as well as increase the number of visiting Israeli academics.
- Corrigan has offered his university’s expertise in order to translate a biannual Israeli academic journal into English.
- Kent Bach, Professor of Philosophy at SFSU, is collaborating with Ariel Cohen of Ben-Gurion University, Edit Doron of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Nissim Francez of Technion on the editorial board of Semantics and Pragmatics, a scholarly journal of linguistics which published its first volume in the summer of 2008.
- On August 1, 2008, President Corrigan gave an interview to American Executive in which he detailed how he has committed himself to diffusing tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli student groups, and creating opportunities for substantive discourse on campus.
James F. Jones, Jr. (Trinity College)
- President Jones responded strongly to the quality of speakers on the seminar. He has begun to make arrangements to have some of the seminar speakers give lectures on his campus.
- After meeting with Israeli author David Grossman, President Jones has subsequently read all of his literary works and is working to include some of them on the university’s summer reading lists.
- On August 7, 2008, Trinity College hosted a joint conference with The Guttman Center of The Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem. The conference, entitled “Identifying Indicators for Secularism: Joint Conference,” featured speakers from Trinity College, The Guttman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute, Tel-Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, Hebrew University, Ben-Gurion University, Netanya College, The Open University, The Tmura Institute, and former members of the Knesset.
Neil Kerwin (American University)
- Debriefed the director and staff of AU’s Center for Israel Studies on his trip.
- President Kerwin has discussed efforts to complete fund-raising for a Chair in Israel Studies.
- Mr. Grossman, one of the seminar speakers, will be visiting at AU and the Center this coming year and President Kerwin is planning campus events and activities based on his talks.
- President Kerwin is especially interested in developing more programming at AU related to aging, a topice he was exposed to during the seminar.
- In his Fall 2008 Memo update to the entire American University community, President Kerwin stated that funds from the AnewAU campaign (major capital campaign) would go towards the Center for Israel Studies.
- President Kerwin spoke at a dinner for American University hosted by Gary Abramson, chair of the AU Board of Trustees, at his home in Washington, D.C. He spoke specifically of his experience with PI in Israel before introducing Yoram Peri, Israeli scholar in residence at the university. Peri is also the President of the New Israel Fund and a distinguished Israeli public intellectual whose career straddles academic and public affairs. Dr. Peri spoke on the current state of the conflict in the region.
Michael A. McRobbie (Indiana University)
- President McRobbie seeks to foster expanded collaborations between the law school at IU and the Faculty of Law at Hebrew University.
- On top of pursuing an increase in Israeli student exchanges, President McRobbie is also outlining plans for academic exchanges from a variety of departments.
- Due to his experiences during the seminar, President McRobbie will be arranging for guest lecturers from the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University to speak at his university.
J.B. Milliken (University of Nebraska)
- Milliken has met with the President of Ben-Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi, to discuss study abroad opportunities in Israel for University of Nebraska students in order to increase their global understanding. President Milliken is overseeing efforts to raise the funding necessary to provide for these academic exchanges.
- Additionally, President Milliken plans to increase the quality of faculty exchanges. He is extremely interested in collaborating on Prof. Carmi’s work on “desertification” and the role of Ben-Gurion in the development of the Negev.
Mary Sue Coleman (University of Michigan)
- President Coleman seeks to expand the exchange opportunities already available at her university.
- President Coleman asked the University’s vice-president for research, Stephen R. Forrest, to take a trip to Israel. Dr. Forrest plans to meet with the leading Israeli research universities about potential technology transfer activities. President Coleman was impressed with the caliber of work she witnessed in Israel and believes that such ventures would be extremely beneficial to all parties involved.
- Additionally, the director of the Life Sciences Institute, Professor Alan Saltiel, will be a visiting professor at Ben-Gurion University. During his time in Israel, Dr. Saltiel will take part in scientific collaborations at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.
- The university has several research partnerships with several Israeli universities and President Coleman has developed plans to raise private funds to support more such associations in the future.
Michael V. Drake (University of California, Irvine)
- Beginning in the fall of 2008, two to three engineering researchers received funding through a department endowment, allowing them to travel between established Israeli partner universities to collaborate with graduate students and other researchers. Two Israeli universities already have signed on to the exchange program with The Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UCI: Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University. Additional Israeli schools are expected to join.
Mark Yudof (University of California System)
- On July 14th, 2008, President Yudof gave a speech to the Hadassah National Convention in Los Angeles, where he addressed directly the challenges facing the California system and called for support to ensure the safety of Jewish students. After speaking about the effect of the Project Interchange seminar, President Yudof stated publicly that university leaders have the moral duty to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism.
- Most importantly, as a result of this seminar, President Yudof is publicly committed to making a concerted effort to alter the UC’s policy on student exchanges to Israel. Such exchanges were suspended by the system in April 2002 during the second Intifada. As such, UC students often have to resort to dropping out from their UC schools and enrolling directly in Israeli universities in order to study there. This often leads to difficulty in getting credits to apply to their transcripts and degree programs as well as the risk of losing their financial aid. President Yudof seeks to overturn the 2002 decision of the University of California Education Abroad Program, which withholds university funding from programs in countries on the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory list. Prior to this decision, the UC system was the largest “feeder” of U.S. students to Israeli universities.
- Carol Katzman, Editor of the Jewish Press, “NU president returns from first trip to Israel: ‘the most intellectually stimulating week of my life,’” July 2008.
- President Mark G. Yudof, Address to the 94th Annual Hadassah National Convention, Los Angeles, Monday, July 14, 2008
- Ehud Zion Waldoks, “Visiting US university presidents ‘amazed’ at high level of Israeli research,” Jerusalem Post, Jul 7, 2008
- Tom Tegund, “New Cal president keeps kosher, loves Israel,” JTA World Report, July 2, 2008
- Charles Gregg-Geist, “Higher education subject of Coleman’s focus in visit to Israel,” The Michigan Daily, July 14, 2008
- Rebecca Spence, “Troubled California Campuses Get New Chief,” Jewish Daily Forward, July 2, 2008
- “IU President McRobbie to join delegation to Israel,” Indiana University Press Release, April 29, 2008
- “Trinity Pres Selected for Educational Seminar in Israel,” Connecticut Jewish Ledger, July 4, 2008
- Rachel Neiman, “An Interchange of Ideas,” Israel21c, July 30, 2008
- “Trinity President James F. Jones, Jr. to travel to Israel,” Trinity College Press Release
- Stacey Palevsky, “After U.C. president’s trip, study abroad might return to Israel,” Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, July 18, 2008
- Michael A. and Laurie Burns McRobbie, Article for Indiana University Alumni Magazine, Fall 2008
- David Gersham, “Mary Sue Coleman extends University of Michigan’s global role,” Ann-Arbor News, August 28, 2008
- Amanda Gaines, “San Francisco State University: Awareness Through Education,” American Executive, August 1, 2008
- President Neil Kerwin, Memorandum: Fall Semester Update to the Campus Community, September 4, 2008
July 1-9, 2007 Press
- Report: Mortar shells hit Negev before U.S. univ. heads visit
- Op-ed Chancellor Richard Herman, University of IL – Urbana Champaign
- Higher Education and Economic Development Presentation by Dr. Trani
- Jpost, University Presidents from US visit Israel
- Leebron reflects on trip to Israel
- Leebron in Israel to meet with educational leaders and researchers
- Tel Aviv University Treats American University Presidents to Academic Fireworks on Fourth of July
- Two Israels
- The Americans are Coming!
- The Daily Texan, Chancellor Yudof urges discussion-ties with Israel
- US chancellors slam boycott