A delegation of faculty members from 10 leading US universities are in Israel this week to explore the country’s hi-tech and business scene with a view toward developing internship programs here for their students.
Masa Israel Journey, a partnership between the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government, organized the visit together with the Foreign Ministry, to help US students build their careers with hands-on experience of Israeli academia and industry.
“The fact that these executive directors have chosen to arrive to Israel in order to get to know it and explore ways their students can benefit from an internship in Israel, is amazing,” said Adi Barel, director of international business development at Masa.
“On these campuses, either you face an anti-Israeli discourse or you don’t hear about Israel at all.”
By sending senior faculty members on the delegation, she said participating universities are sending a message.
“When these internship programs shape up, senior individuals from the public and the private sectors will arrive at the universities for professional matters. It brings out an all new side about Israel, which is more professional. This is a wonderful platform for Israel to be talked about in a very legitimate and non-political way,” she remarked.
A Masa-organized delegation here to explore internship opportunities for US university students posts for a picure on Sunday with Jerusalem's Old City as a backdrop. (photo credit: Courtesy)
While in Israel for the weeklong visit that began Friday, the delegation, which consists mostly of directors of career services and development, is meeting with CEOs and start-up founders and visiting universities and companies such as the Hebrew University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Teva, WeWork and Deloitte. Because it is the first time in Israel for most of the 12 visitors, they also are visiting local landmarks such as Masada and the Dead Sea.
By introducing members of the delegation to industry leaders, Adi Hila, director of business development at Masa, said the initiative seeks to create the best opportunities for both students and schools while striving to “assist them to become even more successful in their fields and make a positive mark on their life path, making Israel part of their success story.”
Masa hopes the program will not only lay the foundation for future collaborations, but also send new ambassadors for Israel back to US campuses.
The organization seems to have succeeded with Alane De Luca, director of global employer relations at Northeastern University. As the group enjoyed dinner at the Cnaan restaurant in Tel Aviv on Monday night, De Luca gushed about her experience, telling The Jerusalem Post she is keen to send her children to visit the country.
“I love the intersection of cultures,” she said. Northeastern University already sends students for internships in Israel, and De Luca hopes to develop the partnership with Masa further.
Lars Gilbertson, director of undergraduate studies at Tulane University, said the emphasis on Israel as the Start-up Nation resonates with New Orleans citizens, who had to rebuild their city after Hurricane Katrina.
“There’s been an explosion of entrepreneurship after the hurricane and, now that I’m here... I can see firsthand and start to understand how Israel has been forced to innovate,” he remarked, noting Israel’s fast pace, technological savvy and outward focus on global markets.
“It’s really exciting to see, and I feel my students would greatly benefit from coming here and developing their own global perspective,” he added.
“I’m exploring the potential for students who develop technology to gain deep insight into what it takes to start a start-up,” he continued. “I’d love to see them come here to take courses and do an internship and then go home and apply the lessons they learned. I think it would give them a tremendous advantage to have flavorings of the Israeli business model and I think it would be a decisive competitive edge.”
Andrea Dine, executive director of the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University, called collaborating with Israel a “natural outgrowth” of the university’s history because it was founded by the Jewish community in 1948, still has deep ties with the Jewish community and still has a significant Jewish population on campus. Given that a number of the university’s students visit Israel regularly, she said there is a natural affinity for the Masa program.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post