New Tel Aviv programs look to fill gap in study abroad options

Joseph Diebold, Web Editor

Northwestern administrators hope two new programs in Tel Aviv, Israel, will attract a more diverse group of students than the usual study abroad sites.

The Office of International Program Development on Tuesday announced the new programs, titled “Public Health in Israel” and “The Modern State of Israel: Politics, Economics & Ethnicity.” They will be offered through Tel Aviv University beginning in spring 2014. 

The announcement follows the creation of an exchange program through TAU in October. The first group of NU students will travel to Israel’s second-largest city in the fall.

IPD director Devora Grynspan said when the office is developing new programs, a two-year process, it uses a “multivariable approach” that considers student needs, areas with importance to the United States and how NU can attract populations of students underrepresented in study abroad. In the past, the office has focused on adding engineering programs and recently pivoted to areas of study such as music and Radio-TV-Film, two departments that had administrators accompany Grynspan on a trip to Israel.

“Israel has a fabulous film industry, and most of it is associated with Tel Aviv University, so we looked into that,” Grynspan said. “How do we get students in those fields to also participate in international programs? Can we design something that serves their interests and their needs?”

She said there is some trial and error with new programs, pointing to a Brazilian site that was created several years ago and shuttered due to lack of student interest. Grynspan called the partnership a natural one given existing programs between NU and TAU in the law and graduate schools.

Karey Fuhs, assistant director of IPD Study Abroad, said the office hopes the new programs will attract more diverse students.

“What excites us about the two new programs that were approved is that they are opportunities for students who come from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds to be able to have the chance study in Israel,” Fuhs said. “We are looking for the program to attract a diverse group of students from different majors and minors and different schools as well as students who are non-Jewish.”

The programs will be led by Middle East studies Prof. Elie Rekhess, an Israeli native who received his master’s degree and doctorate from Tel Aviv University and has taught in its Middle Eastern history department. Rekhess will co-teach a research seminar with a public health professor from Tel Aviv.

The new programs have been in development for several years, but IPD had to wait until a University policy change in November allowed study abroad students to travel to countries subjected to the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning. Grynspan said safety is another benefit of having Rekhess on the program.

“We worry about safety, so we thought having a professor from Northwestern there would allow us to sleep better at night,” Grynspan said.