Too many academic institutions over the past nine hundred years needed reminding by the rectors gathering in Bologna in 1988 that universities were created for students. Established six years later, the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center was not going to make that mistake. Constructed on the basis of students-as-partners in their own education, there is no other academic institution in Israel where faculty and staff support have earned this university top marks in student satisfaction. Supporting and nurturing students is the first priority of all university employees – whether academic or administrative; there is no faculty club – faculty, staff and students dine together; and in particularly stark contrast to other organizations (not only academic) there isn’t even special parking for senior university personnel.
But make no mistake – behind this interdisciplinary democratic portico lies one of the country’s most serious academic establishments. With faculty members who hail from other Ivy League campuses and graduate students who are sought after by those same institutions – and by most of the world’s finest global corporations – IDC has been making its mark worldwide. Graduates continue towards doctorate and master’s degrees at Cambridge, Oxford and LSE, in the UK, and at Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, George Washington, Georgetown, MIT, NYU, Pennsylvania, Stanford, Berkley and more in the US. They can be found at the University of Toronto and Tufts, Emory, St. Louis and Sciences Po in Paris. They are employed by Amdocs, Checkpoint, Elbit, GE, IBM, ICA Telecom, Legend Business, Medcon, Microsoft and major banks worldwide. Important investment funds and startups seek them; government ministries and institutions covet them.
In short, over less than two decades, IDC Herzliya’s graduates have been forming a vast network of alumni throughout the world that is leaving other, much older and better established universities green with envy.
Multi-discipline is a function of multi-culturalism
With students from over 84 different countries, IDC is certainly Israel’s most international university. The institution even has special ‘bureaucracy busters’ to help students get through red tape mazes, wherever they still exist. But multi-culturalism is not merely having students from different places; it is also bringing together people who would otherwise never have met. IDC’s Israel at Heart Program, boasts one of the highest per capita number of Ethiopian students in the country; we have a higher percentage of former IDF officers and elite unit reservists than any other university in Israel; and, with a wide range of scholarships – from Massa, the Ministry of Absorption, the Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations, NGOs, FAFSA Loans, the IDC’s own scholarship foundation and governmental assistance – IDC’s relatively high tuition fees are never an obstacle to students from socio-economic sectors that might otherwise have to forego a top-quality university education.
When founder and current president, Uriel Reichman formulated IDC’s mission statement, he based it on the Zionist ideal of contributing to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. No mere idealistic dreamer, Reichman realized from the start that excellence cannot be created in a vacuum. The greatest motivation to succeed cannot be limited to inward-looking individualism, but must also be based in a consciousness of the world around – its needs and its rich offerings. On one hand, this means that IDC boasts dozens of volunteer social service programs, which continuously make inroads into the social environment. Run by students and faculties together, these programs serve to remind everyone of their accountability towards those who need our help, generosity and assistance. On the other hand, social involvement also serves to emphasize the concept of ‘freedom and responsibility’, teaching students to cherish freedoms, liberalism, democracy and the free enterprise spirit that will become a primary component in their future success.
A curriculum for success
Studies at IDC Herzliya focus on providing students with all the tools required to thrive in today’s swiftly changing business environment. Whether it’s an MBA, a degree in Organizational Behavior or any one of the varied study trends offered, the curriculum always combines a unique blend of academic material and practical experience. Adjacent to the heartland of Israel’s Sharon region hi-tech industrial zone, students can study and work with the very individuals who put the Miracle Start-Up Nation on the global map. Entrepreneurs and researchers offer courses and work-study programs; and the school encourages students to initiate, innovate, invent and create. As a result, they enter the workforce with both a very valuable degree and the experience necessary to hit the ground running.
An open-door policy enables students and faculty to work together; support for reservists returning from army duty is unreserved; counseling and assistance ensures that students can devote their entire attention to the task at hand; and campus life includes a wealth of extracurricular activities, sports and an atmosphere not unlike that found at the best private universities in the United States and around the world.
A gateway to home
Debate clubs, AEPI fraternity, the Ambassador’s Club, entrepreneurial clubs, film clubs, campus radio and parties, on one hand, the Mincha club, Shabbatonim, Hillel, Friday night dinners and the weekly Shi’ur, on the other…
If melting pots were meant to provide the flavor and nutrition of the world at large, IDC certainly fulfils the promise. Certainly, the opportunity to study, network and befriend for life like-minded individuals from all corners of the earth provides a healthy basis for future success; conversely, IDC is also providing an excellent education to students who wish to spend some time in a country as unique and exemplary as is the State of Israel.
While here, they receive an excellent education and enjoy the communal life, the cultural activities, the trips and the campus life that IDC offers. But they also have the opportunity to weigh the assets and liabilities of living here – a decision that can best be taken over a period of time and in full communion with the land and its people. Indeed, after graduation, a full 70 percent of our students make Israel their home. A considerable number later join the IDF, taking the degrees and experience they acquired at IDC Herzliya and putting them to good use while serving their new country. The others – perhaps assisted by IDC’s unique David Project advocacy training plan – become superb ambassadors when they return to their communities abroad.
All of them – Israelis new and old, and foreign students alike – will remember their juncture at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center as a cherished experience that helped them succeed living their potential to the fullest.
(The author is Vice President for External Relations & Head of the Raphael Recanati International School)