A delegation of provosts from leading US universities arrived in Israel on Sunday as part of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange, in an effort to explore academic partnerships and collaboration opportunities with Israeli universities.

The week-long trip will include visits to higher education institutions, including Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where the delegation will learn about innovative research initiatives and ground-breaking ventures, as well as academia-to-industry technology transfer. The participants will also meet with Israeli government officials and experts and will travel to Ramallah for high level discussions with Palestinian leaders.

Chaired by Marilyn R. Schuster, provost and dean of faculty at Smith College, the delegation is comprised of deans and provosts from Catholic University, Sarah Lawrence, Bard College, Smith College, Rice University, Brown University, Dominican University of California, University of South Florida and University of Louisville.

The delegation includes experts in the fields of women and gender, research and treatment for cancer and other diseases, K-12 general education, cognitive science, linguistics, cultural studies and globalization, and communications.

The university provosts will also hold bilateral academic meetings in fields relevant to each university, among them: science, environmental sustainability, biotech, diversity and women’s leadership.

Their visit comes in the wake of a decision last month by the 5,000 member American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Since the announcement, over 90 universities have released statements rejecting the boycott and the delegation’s visit serves to further strengthen ties between Israeli universities and their US counterparts.

Project Interchange, a non-profit educational institute of the AJC, develops and conducts week long seminars in Israel for current and emerging opinion makers and policy leaders from the US and abroad. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Project Interchange has brought over 6,000 influential figures to Israel from more than 84 countries.

Last week, a student delegation comprised of leaders in campus media sent by the project, many of them editorsin- chief of their university’s newspapers, received a surprise visit from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who dropped by a briefing on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations being conducted by State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki.

In response to a question by one of the student participants about the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Kerry said, “I remain hopeful and a believer in the possibility.”

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