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May 5, 2017  RSS feed

Text: T T T

USF, Israeli institute forge research pact to seek new solutions


Dorm building at Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel Dorm building at Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel The University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability has officially joined ranks with Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel.

Both schools are also joined in the idea that environmental science trumps personal ideologies.

USF and Arava have worked together for the past two years, by sharing information on environmental ideas and projects.

But now they have formalized that cooperation by signing an agreement, which makes USF one of 30 U.S. academic institutions to partner with Arava. The campus is located on Kibbutz Ketura near the border with Jordan and about 30 miles north of the resort town of Eilat.

“The purpose of the agreement is to facilitate academic and research cooperation between the two institutions for mutual benefit,” said George Philippidis, USF Patel College director of Sustainable Energy. “Possible areas of collaboration include joint education and research activities, joint research proposals, exchange of visiting scholars, student internships, and visits by faculty and students.”

Reaching out to Arava Institute, which is accredited by Ben Gurion University of the Negev, was one of the first tasks when Rhiannon Roberts became Patel College’s internship coordinator in 2015.

She first learned about the institution by reading Allen Wiseman’s New York Times bestseller Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth, a book about global sustainability.

“On a whim, I reached out to Arava,” said Roberts. “One of our students had already interned there and had a great experience. It was a dream come true in the making, from reading about it to reaching out.”

Realizing environmental issues affect every country and culture is what brings these students and teachers together, said Arava University Relations Manager Ari Massefski.

“Global initiatives require global help,” he said, explaining why the school puts an emphasis on diversity. “One-third of the student body is Jewish, one-third is Arab and the rest are from all around the world. They live together on campus while they work on issues that affect the world stage.”

One of the biggest challenges the two schools face is getting American students to choose to visit the Middle East for scholarly enrichment. Roberts, who has visited 55 countries herself, said there can be a sense of fear when talking about the Middle East to students who aren’t familiar with the culture.

“Particularly now, our students are able to do global internships,” she said. “They would go to Australia or England, but to get a student to go to a completely different culture can be difficult.”

She hopes those barricades will lessen with the new agreement with Arava Institute and encourages students to think “outside the box.”

“It will change you as a person for the rest of your life,” Roberts said she tells students. “England is nice, but it won’t change your life. Don’t be afraid.”

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