TAU president visits counterparts, students
TORONTO — Tel Aviv University president Joseph Klafter was in Toronto and Montreal late last month to entice more Canadian students to enrol in his school, as well as to attract more donors and seek partnerships with Canadian universities.
Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University, which raises awareness and funds for Israel’s largest university, arranged for Klafter to meet with Canadian university presidents, including University of Toronto president David Naylor, Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy, and McGill University president Heather Munroe-Blum, to explore partnership and exchange opportunities.
“We are going quite strongly in the direction of becoming more international and global,” Klafter said in an interview in the lobby of Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.
One of Klafter’s strategies is to develop more programs in English to attract more international students.
Among the 30,000 TAU students, there are between 80 and 100 Canadian students and about 1,000 non-Israeli students enrolled in TAU’s overseas studies program.
“Our plan is to double the number in a couple years. This academic year, we opened about a dozen master’s programs in English, ranging from Jewish studies to business, to conflict resolution to dealing with trauma, and the number is going to grow.”
He said in the next academic year, TAU plans to launch two undergraduate degrees in English, one in liberal arts and another in electrical engineering.
Klafter added that attracting foreign students can benefit both the university and the Jewish state.
“It helps the university economically… and from a Zionistic point of view, I think it shows [students that] Israel is not just a conflict country… I think we are producing goodwill ambassadors of Israel for the future,” he said.
“It’s quite moving to see Indian students, students from Africa, New Zealand knowing some words in Hebrew, talking with such enthusiasm about Israel, and if they were to have remained at home watching television, their perception of Israel would be very different.”
Since Klafter, a former chemistry professor, became president two years ago, he has worked tirelessly to promote the school’s interdisciplinary approach, which, he added, has been widely embraced by his faculty.
“In my own background, I was raised as a physicist and mathematician, and then I did my PhD in chemistry… so I really encourage interdisciplinary interactions between faculties and departments.”
Klafter spoke about TAU’s school for neurosciences, which is in its first year.
“Besides being a kind of centre for researchers to interact with each other, this is a school that educates students from the undergraduate level to the master’s and PhD level… with an emphasis on brain research.”
In line with the school’s interdisciplinary approach, seven of TAU’s nine faculties are participating in the school of neurosciences.
Klafter said he hoped his time in Toronto and Montreal would strengthen ties with the Canadian friends organizations, as well as with the academic community.
“I think we can have very fruitful collaborations between the universities in Canada and Tel Aviv University.”
While in Toronto, Klafter also met with Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews, and Training, Colleges and Universities minister Glen Murray to promote TAU’s multi-disciplinary programs.
Because TAU has one of the most respected film schools in the world, Klafter also set aside some time to meet with Piers Handling, the Toronto International Film Festival’s director and CEO.