By Maxine Dovere /JointMedia News Service ~
NEW YORK—Under Dr. Peretz Lavie’s watch, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has invested in more than just science.
In an effort to increase the school’s number of Arab-Israeli students, Technion’s Landa Equal Opportunities Project provides services like health programs and academic preparation for Arab students in the Upper Galilee, dramatically decreasing their dropout rate. Arabs, who constitute 20 percent of Israel’s population, now also represent 20 percent of the student body on the Technion campus.
“When I read the proclamations calling the Technion an ‘apartheid university,’ I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,’” Lavie, the university’s president since October 2009, said in an interview with JointMedia News Service.
Lavie was in New York to discuss the city’s ongoing partnership with Technion and Cornell University. New York announced the partnership last December, with the goal of creating an unmatched engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, which lies between Manhattan and Queens along the East River. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the campus is expected to generate $23 billion in economic activity, enhance job creation in the city, and generate 600 companies expected to provide 30,000 jobs over the next three decades.
“Thanks to this outstanding partnership and groundbreaking proposal from Cornell and the Technion,” Bloomberg said last December. “New York City’s goal of becoming the global leader in technological innovation is now within sight.”
Officially called “Cornell New York Tech, Home of the Technion-Cornell Institute of Innovation,” the massive academic project is known informally as “The Island.” The first two major buildings on the campus are slated to be ready in 2017.
The institute will seek students with entrepreneurial spirit, ready to experiment and to drive the economy, according to Lavie. The cities of London and Amsterdam – as well as several other U.S. cities — have already asked Technion to act as a consultant for similar efforts.
Lavie said that Technion’s strategic goal is “to be among the ten leading technical universities in the world, joining such schools as MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford, and Georgia Tech in the United States, and the leading universities in Europe, Asia and India. “I truly believe globalization is very important for high academic education to attract the best faculty and students and stay at the top of your field,” he said.
Lavie looks at science as “a most effective bridge, perhaps a means of overcoming political differences.”
“Science is a language shared even by enemies, he said. “It can bridge the gaps and help in the political conflict.” He noted that, “Some of the most successful collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis is in the field of science.”
True to his vision of science as a bridge builder, Lavie looks at “The Island” development as a “long bridge connecting Haifa and Manhattan, opening a window to the entire world.” He envisions PhD students spending a year in Haifa during the course of their studies. Israeli companies, many of which have research facilities within 10 minutes of the Haifa campus, will have a connection to Manhattan to develop joint research projects, while burgeoning Israeli scientists will have a way to return to Israel.