President John A. Fry represented Drexel University in Israel July 4-10 as part of a delegation of university presidents and chancellors seeking to discuss the challenges of higher education and better understand the cultural climate of the state.
The trip, which was organized by the American Jewish Committee, included presentations and discussions concerning Israeli politics, Israel’s strategic environment and higher education. University representatives met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well various members of Arab communities and representatives from the Palestinian National Authority.
“President Fry was invited to join the group through a contact with Drexel’s former chair of the board of trustees, George Ross,” Julie Mostov, vice provost for global initiatives at Drexel, said.
When she inquired further about the excursion, Mostov said she was advised that the trip is “very high-level, excellent [and] well organized,” and that Fry would benefit from attending.
In total, seven representatives from schools including the University of North Carolina and the University of California, Santa Barbara attended the trip through an AJC initiative entitled “Project Interchange: Connecting Leaders Worldwide with Israel.” The group’s goal, according to their website, is to “seek to secure a Jewish future in a more just world.”
“One of the interesting things about the trip is that they met with really high-level people,” Mostov said. “They met with members of various Arab and Palestinian communities to talk about issues surrounding coexistence and cooperation, issues around the wall and various other political and economic questions.”
In addition, the group visited several religious sites including the Old City of Jerusalem, and also saw the security fence at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Jewish Holocaust victims.
This trip marks the second time in two years that Drexel has been represented in Israel. In 2009 Interim President C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni led a delegation of 10 Drexel faculty members to meet the University’s partner schools and to develop research and student exchange strategy.
During his free time, Fry reconnected with members of these partner schools, specifically Hebrew University. There he met with a team from “The Drexel University-Hebrew University Institute for Drug Research HUB.”
“We arranged for him to meet with our partners and they all recommitted to the importance of further developing this partnership that we have,” Mostov explained.
The idea for the HUB began during the 2009 presidential delegation to Israel led by Pennoni, and has since spawned two research symposia. The first took place at Drexel Aug. 29-31, 2010, and the second is scheduled for January 2012 in Israel. According to Mostov, Fry will lead this second symposium.
“It’s all about translational research, bringing research from the laboratory to the marketplace,” Mostov said.
In January, Drexel officials will also decide whether to add Israel’s Shenkar College of Engineering and Design to the University’s list of partner schools, Mostov said.
“Shenkar might be a good partner for our Westphal College of Media Arts and Design,” she added. “They have a lot of interesting connections between textile design and engineering. That could be an interesting addition for us.”
Mostov spoke briefly with Fry after the trip and recalled what he said.
“He told me that it was a wonderful experience, he was incredibly impressed by the caliber of the meetings that he had and he gained great insight into issues of higher education and the importance that the university can play in advancing it,” she said.
Mostov expressed Fry’s excitement for developing Drexel’s partnerships in Israel further in the near future.