By Richard Greenberg
The University of Maryland plans to open yet another satellite school, but the commute could be daunting.
The new branch happens to be in Israel.
The latest addition to U.Md. overseas learning complement is the Smith School of Business, which is slated to launch an ambitious study-abroad operation at the University of Haifa
by this spring.
The University of Haifa is already the site of Maryland-in-Haifa
, a semester-long spring program that opened last year. It features a mandatory core course that promotes conflict resolution and examines cultural diversity.
Smith was one of eight American universities (or university departments) that recently were selected to form partnerships with Israeli schools in an effort to increase the number of American students who study in Israel — non-Jews as well as Jews.
Participating American schools will each receive a $50,000 seed grant allocated over three years — to help them develop and promote study programs in conjunction with their partner institutions.
The grants are being provided by Masa Israel, an Israel-based project that was established in 2004 to enable Jews ages 18-30 to participate in long-term programs in the Jewish state.
“We’re just super excited about this great program,” said Lisa Bernard, associate director of the U.Md. Center for Global Business Education. The initiative, she added, has already generated a “good amount” of interest.
Would-be applicant Eran Friedman, a junior at Smith and a frequent visitor to Israel (so frequent that he has dual citizenship), said he is interested in the program because it would give him a first-time opportunity to view Israel through a business lens and learn more about the country’s distinctive workplace culture.
That culture, said the 20-year-old from Potomac, combines tenacity, efficiency and inventiveness with “more laid-back work habits.” He added: “It’s a dichotomy, but they sometimes have more important things to worry about than work, like the security situation.”
Overseas study initiatives in Israel have generally lagged behind those in other developed nations for several reasons, including security concerns on the part of American students and universities, according to Masa representatives and others.
The new initiative, Bernard said, is in part an indication that “there’s a little more optimism” regarding the geopolitical situation in Israel.
Another reason Israel has not been an especially coveted destination for overseas students is that existing academic programs offered there have been limited in scope due to financial concerns.
“These institutions are cash-strapped; they’re kind of in survival mode,” said Avi Rubel, North American director of Masa Israel, a joint project of the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish Federations of North America.
With the help of the cash infusion from Masa Israel, students attending the Smith outpost in Haifa will have the opportunity to study business and high-tech marketing in Israel and participate in internships at Israeli companies. (They will also be required to take the Maryland-in-Haifa core course focusing on conflict resolution and cultural diversity.)
The Smith program, which will accommodate some 25 participants, is open to both U.Md. and non-U.Md. students, primarily those who are at least sophomores. Those who complete the program will earn 12 academic credits that are immediately transferable to U.Md. and other American universities.