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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Lawrence meets with university presidents in Israel

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: News

President Lawrence led a 12-day-long trip to Israel this past June in order to foster global communications and knowledge of Brandeis abroad. On June 23, Lawrence attended and spoke at the Israeli Presidential forum, a world-renowned conference that 3,500 people attend annually.

President Lawrence and Vice President of Global Affairs Dan Terris, part of a delegation that included Provost Steve A.N. Goldstein, Physics Professor Seth Fraden, Biology Professor Lizbeth Hedstrom and Associate Provost for Innovation Irene Abrams, also visited multiple high schools and universities.

“What I felt at every stage, at all the universities we went and several high schools I spoke at, was great interest in America generally but particularly in Brandeis as a university that albeit not religious and non-sectarian has got very strong roots in the Jewish community, which makes it a very interesting place for Israelis to think about studying and doing collaboration. So I found tremendous enthusiasm for that,” Lawrence said.

At the conference, Lawrence’s main message was his belief that the task of universities today is to prepare their students for a world that he thinks, “we literally cannot imagine.” He also spoke about his belief that critical thinking and communication skills are a necessity in the changing world and that these are skills liberal arts institutions instill in their students.

Lawrence spoke at a lecture entitled “The University of Tomorrow.” Other higher education colleagues such as former Harvard President Larry Summers, University of California President Mark Yudof, Hebrew University President Menachem Ben-Sasson and Beijing University Executive Vice President Wu Zhipan also spoke at the lecture.

Speakers discussed issues such as the responsibility of universities to greater society; facilitating and sponsoring more research in the applied sciences; the global abilities and responsibilities of modern universities; and the future of higher education.

“We are trying to train people for a world that we literally cannot imagine,” he said. “I don’t mean figuratively that we cannot imagine and I am not speaking hyperbolically. I mean a world that we literally cannot imagine.”

“What will the workplace look like 30 years from now, 40 years from now, when my students from Brandeis University will be in the workforce? In a literal sense it is impossible to imagine. Let me give you the flavor of it. The iPads and the laptops and the phones that we have today will seem to them like slide rules and manual typewriters seem to us. So we know that it will be unimaginable in that sense,” Lawrence added.

While this event was the main hallmark of the trip President Lawrence also focused on fostering life-long relationships with our alumni living in Israel. Alumni from classes 1957 to 2011 attended an event at the David Citadel Hotel and current students who were working on social justice and peace initiatives in Israel over the summer also attended.

In a June 12 Brandeis Now article regarding the trip Lawrence explained “This trip is a wonderful opportunity to build on our historical connections with Israel,” he said. “Its purpose is to enhance our engagement in a whole range of areas. We want to reach out to the science community, our alumni and friends, and to students who may be interested in what Brandeis can offer them. We have a lot of shared interests that we want to explore further.

“Brandeis faculty have many solid relationships with members of Israel’s scientific community whose work has helped make Israel a superstar in developing new technology and finding practical applications that improve people’s lives,” Lawrence said. “The time is right to explore taking these relationships to a new, higher level of explicit collaborations and partnerships.”

In the same Brandeis Now article Terris shared his view on the approaching trip, “Through the work of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis has become a leader internationally in academic study of Israel,” Terris said. “This trip is an opportunity to expand our connections in other fields, and to focus on making Brandeis a more visible option for those Israeli students who wish to study in the United States.

“We would like to strengthen all of our activities — research, study abroad, recruitment of students, relationships with alumni and friends,” he said. “This is a model for the kinds of synergies that we expect to nurture through global Brandeis in other parts of the world as well.”

President Lawrence and the university administration are currently planning similar international trips, such as a spring semester trip to India, to continue global development initiatives and partnerships.