More than 100 students, alumni and professors gathered Jan. 28 to hear John Fry, the president of Drexel University, speak about the school’s many partnerships with Israeli institutions.
While individual professors have long been working with Israeli counterparts on their own, the university has only had official partnerships since 2009, when Fry’s predecessor, Celestino “Chuck” Pennoni, led a delegation to Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since Fry took up the post in 2010, the two institutions have continued their relationship.
According to Fry, Drexel now has upwards of a dozen collaborations with three universities in the Jewish state: Hebrew University, The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology and Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
The student group Dragons for Israel organized the “Bridging the Gap: Drexel’s Presence in Israel” program. Before Fry’s address, representatives from Drexel’s study abroad and international co-op office informed students about opportunities to study and intern in Israel. The event also featured networking and presentations from three professors who have been actively working with Israeli scholars.
Dr. Joan Block, an associate professor of nursing, organized two research summits this past fall with Drexel and Ben-Gurion University scholars to investigate maternal health and infant mortality rates. Dr. Michael Yudell, an associate professor in Drexel’s school of public health, discussed his research into the history of autism, and, specifically, how its diagnosis and treatment have evolved differently in Israel. And Benjamin Lev, the head of the decisions sciences department of Drexel’s Lebow School of Business, who grew up in Israel, spoke about his dedication to furthering future relationships with his homeland.
Asher Breverman, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and the president of Dragons for Israel, explained that these three professors were chosen based on “a combination of their past experience, current experience, as well as overall efforts working with Drexel and Drexel students.”
As part of its global initiative, Drexel works with institutions around the world, including those in nations such as Turkey, China and Brazil. However, the university’s involvement with Israel came about differently.
“Sometimes you get there sort of informally,” explained Fry, who has a history of working to build Jewish life on campuses in past posts at the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin and Marshall College. “When I came to Drexel, something I heard a lot about was Israel. I think the 2009 trip had a lot to do with it. A lot of my colleagues, particularly in bio-med, had a lot of partnerships, academic and, of course, personal relationships. We followed our faculty.”
Addressing the American Studies Association’s recent call for a boycott of Israeli universities, Fry confirmed that Drexel will take no part in it.
In keeping with his previously stated position, Fry again denounced the boycott, saying: “The bedrock of everything we do globally, all the relationships that I’ve just described, is the exchange of ideas followed by academic freedom. It is unacceptable for us to curtail that freedom and that exchange with boycotts, period. Building a peaceful world that values contextual rights is something that universities can do by working together, not by separating ourselves from one another.”
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