Early December, Georgia State University President Mark Becker visited Israel to gain insight on the practices of its universities and colleges and create a better relationship between them and Georgia State.
The trip was sponsored by a nonprofit educational institute of the American Jewish Committee known as Project Interchange, who have hosted other seminars in Israel in the past, all aimed to bring community leaders together to share ideas and create solutions to local problems. Becker was accompanied by five other university and college presidents from California State University Northridge, Hunter College, New College of Florida, San José State University and Wake Forest University. The visit was primarily exploratory, according to Becker, and was the first one that he had ever taken to Israel.
Throughout the visit, the university presidents gathered information regarding the more specific practices that Israeli universities and colleges use to excel, such as local techniques and curriculums. The American group of presidents were able to meet with the deans and presidents from Bar Ilan University, Ono Academic College, Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, the University of Haifa, and Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art where they shared ideas and procedures.
The university president shared his opinion on what he thought of the overall status of education in Israel. “Not all elements of society benefit from higher education,” Becker said, adding that he hopes that the gap between Israel and Palestine will close so that everyone in the region will be able to access that higher education. However, he said that the conversations with the other presidents were “forthcoming and open” and that he was “hopeful that progress will be made” in the future.
President Becker said he hopes to take what was learned regarding the various practices and procedures of these Israeli universities and colleges back to the deans of Georgia State. One of the areas of discussion that Becker wished to pursue is the establishment of study abroad programs between Georgia State’s colleges and those in Israel. Because the trip was preliminary, Becker stated that it would take some time before these programs were well established.
While in Israel, Becker also had the opportunity to meet with Palestinian officials as well during which time he discussed the relations between Israel and Palestine. “Diversity is a main topic of conversation,” Becker said.