I recently had the opportunity to join a group of talented faculty, administrators, alumni and key stakeholders of the University of Tennessee traveling to Israel. At a time when diversity and cultural complexities on our UT campuses create an ever-changing dialogue, we sought to build our institutional capacity through experience.
It is essential that U.S. higher education institutions connect and engage in the world to bring the good work of our faculty to the public, to build scientific collaborations that strengthen the impact of our knowledge and to harness opportunities for our students and graduates to grow and learn from a broad canvas of culture and societies. To these ends, our group of 24 lifelong learners visited six top-rated Israeli universities and multiple scientific organizations.
This program was planned with the generous help and support from the Jewish Federations of Middle Tennessee and Nashville, Chattanooga and the Jewish Alliance of Knoxville.
What the delegation gained and brought back to our campuses is much more than a robust Israeli network. This opportunity provided us the chance to renew our commitment to enhancing our campus culture, deepening our educational experiences for our students and embodying a relevant and innovative post-secondary education system needed for the next generation of leaders.
During our week of visits, we explored a variety of connections in the STEM and humanities disciplines. We learned about the cultivation of an entrepreneurial spirit and how to support this mindset on our campuses. We observed how public education and private sector businesses engage with one another to share ideas and solve problems leading both to prosper.
We also learned that educating future leaders is challenging in many of the same ways no matter the university, the country or the continent. As higher education institutions, we have been entrusted with serious tasks—remaining relevant and providing an academic experience steeped in multidisciplinary problem-solving. After all, today’s grand challenges know no geographical boundaries. When we succeed, our graduates have the foundation to solve these grand challenges.
The delegation came back with a list of more than 50 actionable items that include student and faculty exchanges, research collaborations, program partnerships, seminars, workshops and collaborative funding opportunities that will greatly benefit our campuses and communities. You will hear more about these in the coming months.
The time spent in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was not all spent listening to potential collaborators. Our meetings allowed us to share about all of the remarkable work that the UT System is engaged in.
I am thankful for this opportunity to be more engaged with our Jewish community. We are appreciative of the commitment and the passion our Jewish Federation partners brought to our program and the opportunity to grow our collaboration here in our state. This program solidified for me and the rest of the delegation that UT must prioritize its commitment to being a globally-engaged higher education system – it impacts our students and will drive the future of our state.
Interim President – The University of Tennessee System
Tags: Diversity, Humanities, Israel, Research, STEM