Over the course of 10 years (and counting) 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 such services as health programs and academic preparation for Arab students in the Upper Galilee, dramatically decreasing their dropout rate. While Arabs amount to 10 percent of Israel’s population, they constitute 20 percent of the students 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, said in an interview recently.
Lavie was here to discuss the city’s ongoing partnership with Technion and Cornell University. In December, New York announced the partnership, with the goal of creating an unmatched engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, which sits in the East River between Manhattan and Queens.
New York City Mayor Michael R. 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,” he said in 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 affectionately known simply as “the Island.” The institute will be looking for students with entrepreneurial spirit, ready to experiment, and to drive the economy, according to Lavie. London, Amsterdam, and several U.S. cities already have asked the Technion to act as a consultant for similar efforts.
In the interview, Lavie said that Technion’s strategic goal is “to be among the 10 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.”
Asked about the parameters of the Cornell-Technion partnership, Lavie stressed that a “precondition for participation” was that Israel could not take funds from its own budget for investment in New York. The Technion will not invest its own money in Roosevelt Island, but will take part in joint fundraising. Individual donors – some who have made contributions to both universities – will be approached. Combining foundation grants, economic development money, and private contributions, Lavie said he is “sure we will be able to complete funding by 2017,” when the first two major buildings on the campus are slated to be ready.
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 doctoral candidates spending a year in Haifa during the course of their studies. Israeli companies, many of which have research facilities within 10 minutes of the Technion’s 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.
Prof. Menachim Ben-Sasson – president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – told Lavie:
“I hate to say it, but your achievement is not a Technion achievement, but a national achievement, recognition of the top quality in Israeli education.”
JointMedia News Service