Tel Aviv University advances holistic program for boosting the Humanities

'The community of the Faculty of Humanities is committed to continuing its in-depth research and scholarship and works to instill humanistic values in various target audiences'.

 Prof. Rachel Gali Cinamon, Dean of TAU's Faculty of Humanities (photo credit: TAU)
Prof. Rachel Gali Cinamon, Dean of TAU's Faculty of Humanities
(photo credit: TAU)

Tel Aviv University has become the first Israeli university to promote a holistic program for cultivating and empowering research in the Humanities, increasing the number of students, both foreign and Israeli, in these disciplines and making humanistic knowledge accessible to the public. Based on the principles of lifelong learning, the holistic program will be adapted to students of different age groups at various stages of their careers.

Prof. Ariel Porat, President of Tel Aviv University: “TAU is both the largest and most multidisciplinary university in Israel. There is practically no discipline that is not addressed on our campus. At such a university, a focal place is reserved for the Humanities. The Humanities are experiencing a global crisis regarding a reduction in the number of bachelor’s degree students, but we are unwilling to accept this. Through a range of initiatives specified below, we intend to boost this important field, not only at TAU but also in Israel as a whole. The technological strength of TAU and the state of Israel are widely emphasized – but without the humanistic values that come from the Humanities, no healthy society can exist.”

Prof. Rachel Gali Cinamon, Dean of TAU’s Faculty of Humanities: “The community of the Faculty of Humanities is committed to continuing its in-depth research and scholarship and works to instill humanistic values in various target audiences, both in Israel and worldwide. Developing and fortifying a culture of responsibility at the Faculty and in communities that partner with us is a guiding principle in our work, coupled with increasing human diversity and establishing a respectful dialogue. On the basis of these principles, we develop many different research and educational initiatives, targeting a wide range of audiences both on and off campus.”

Prof. Ariel Porat, President of Tel Aviv University (Credit: TAU)Prof. Ariel Porat, President of Tel Aviv University (Credit: TAU)

The Holistic Program was introduced in last year’s second semester, when thousands of students from the Faculties of Engineering, Life Sciences, and Exact Sciences were required to take Humanities courses as a prerequisite for completing their degrees. The Mandel Humanities Core aims to equip the next generation of Israel’s science & technology leaders with a broad education, emphasizing humanistic values, critical thinking, creativity, ethics and social responsibility, teamwork, writing skills, discussion skills and more. 

Beginning with the second semester of the current academic year, students from the Humanities will be offered a new Data Science Cluster designed to acquaint them with the world of Big Data, specifically targeting students without previous knowledge in scientific disciplines. The Cluster includes fundamental concepts in mathematics, a basic programming course (Python), data science courses, including an introduction to different types of data, data analysis, and drawing conclusions from big data, and a final project that applies these tools to a humanistic discipline.

Following its goals to enhance a culture of care and inclusion, the faculty launched the Cohen Program for Israeli-Arab Inclusion in the Humanities, a unique program aimed at bringing greater numbers of Israeli Arabs into the academic fold, offering them the tools and skills to successfully complete their degrees, and further incorporating equality, social justice and diversity into the culture and curriculum of the Entin Faculty of Humanities.  This three-year pilot program is slated to launch in March 2023.  

Boosting research

TAU and the Faculty of Humanities are working to establish a Center for Advanced Studies Humanities 

in the Humanities. The center will boost research in this field and increase the Faculty’s attractiveness for excellent graduate students and young researchers.  This year the Faculty launched its first cohort of post-doctoral fellows, supported by the Dan David Foundation, that will focus on innovative and creative humanistic research and serve as a hub of discourse and discussion for the Faculty’s community of research students, working as a group to make the knowledge accessible to the public.  

The Faculty makes diverse professional knowledge generated at the Cohen program for Israeli-Arab inclusion in the humanities, through its highly successful program at the Gilman Building, offering a wide range of courses in different disciplines. Currently, TAU is developing a similar program in Arabic for Arabs with academic degrees in Israel.

Yet another project deals with extending the involvement of the Faculty’s departments in civil society activities and burning social issues. This year students from all over campus are attending a course on the climate crisis from a humanistic perspective. TAU has undertaken other projects in this area, including ending the use of disposable tableware, as well as discussions, workshops, and a writing competition on the subject of climate change. Attesting to the commitment of the Humanities community to urgent present-day challenges, these activities can draw outstanding students who wish to create a better society and become leaders promoting the general good. 

In addition, as part of its efforts to promote internationality, TAU recently launched a joint initiative with Columbia University – a first-of-its-kind undergraduate Liberal Arts program emphasizing interdisciplinarity and breadth of academic knowledge. Participating students will take core courses in the humanities alongside courses from the life sciences and social sciences and classes in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Strengthening ties with Israel’s education system

The TAU Faculty gives special attention to high school students, regarding them as the country’s future generation. The Faculty enhances its long-term ties with high schools around the teaching of history, the Hebrew Bible, Judaism and science. Special programs focusing on attention development, learning strategies and planning the future, developed by the Faculty’s researchers, are also implemented in high schools across Israel. For the past two years, the Faculty has conducted an annual open day for high school students, presenting areas of research through experiential lessons.