Israel's Bar-Ilan University is starting off the academic year for higher education marking a new milestone with nearly half of all its faculty deans being women.
The university has 11 faculty deans total, but three women have just been appointed to head faculties, bringing the total number of women deans to five.
So who are the five female faculty deans helping shape higher education at one of Israel's most prestigious universities?
Prof. Michal Alberstein: Dean of the Faculty of Law
Alberstein is one of the three new appointments, specializing in conflict resolution, jurisprudence and legal formalism, among others. Her long and decorated career has seen her author three books and dozens of academic articles, as well as helping educate research students worldwide.
"Joining the current female deans strengthens the refreshing wave of innovative leadership at Bar-Ilan," Alberstein said in a statement.
She added, "My ambition is to establish a center for social justice at the Faculty that combines clinical activity with in-depth research that contributes to optimal relationships through dialogue and the ability to cope with complexities."
"My ambition is to establish a center for social justice at the Faculty that combines clinical activity with in-depth research that contributes to optimal relationships through dialogue and the ability to cope with complexities."Prof. Michal Alberstein
Prof. Daniela Dueck: Dean of the Faculty of Humanities
Dueck has a background in history and classical studies at the university. In her career, she has specialized in teaching the history, culture and geography of the ancient world, specifically ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Her newest book also explores some of this, discussing how geographical information was shared among populations without reading.
"I believe that one of our primary tasks as a university is to nurture a generation of pioneers in all branches of science and technology who will be multifaceted and broad-minded individuals with high analytical abilities, while, at the same time, cultivating future research specialists in the eternal disciplines that make up the Humanities," Dueck said.
"This combination, in my view, is the key to a better society, better science, better and more successful start-ups and better human beings."
Prof. Zehavit Gross: Dean of the Faculty of Education
The third and final of the newly appointed deans, Gross has made a name for herself in studying the socialization process of adolescents. She has worked on training programs and on the development of informal education systems and has even worked with UNESCO.
Her specialty is in religious and inter-religious education research, education for peace and tolerance and in Holocaust education.
Her work and writings have been circulated all over the world and her name has been attached to several international research projects.
Prof. Nira Mashal: Dean of Students
One of the two incumbent female deans, Mashal was appointed to the position in 2020 and is responsible for ensuring the well-being of the Bar-Ilan student body. This includes handling complaints, helping make the campus more accessible and helping students with disabilities, as well as working for affirmative action and providing equal opportunities for students from Israel's periphery.
Her research background focuses on studying the brain, particularly language processing and comprehension, especially on those who are neurodivergent, such as autistic people.
Prof. Ronit Sarid: Dean of the School of Graduate Studies
The second incumbent female dean, Sarid has also served in her position since 2020.
In her post as dean of the School of Graduate Studies, she is responsible for all advanced-degree studies and students at Bar-Ilan University.
Her academic background, however, is in virology, and she has made a career on the molecular research of viruses, such as human herpesviruses.
In addition, Sarid has also worked to develop a nanometric particles-based treatment and preventative method against viral infections. This career has seen her be recognized as a leading virologist, having authored numerous articles and book chapters as well as being decorated by several awards.
The prominent role of women at Israel's Bar-Ilan University
In addition to a record number of simultaneous female deans, Bar-Ilan also celebrated that half (50%) of the elected members of the university's highest-ranking academic governing body, the University Senate, consists entirely of female faculty members.
According to university rector Prof. Amnon Albeck, "The wonderful deans we have chosen and the impressive percentage of women in the Senate are the result of a continual increase in the number of female senior faculty members. I hope that these appointments will encourage more women to join academia to conduct research and make an impact together with us."