The MA in Organizational Behavior and Development at the Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) at IDC Herzliya attracts many students from around the world every year. Often these students are of various ages and speak various languages, coming to Israel to complete the two-year degree without their families.
The challenges of Covid-19 have been felt worldwide, including by students who choose to study for their master’s degree. Dr. Dana Pereg, the head of the MA in Organizational Behavior and Development (OBD), has recognized the unique challenges posed to her students. She emphasizes the importance of engagement and belongingness to the OBD program and recognizes the needs to strengthen these feelings for new students, especially in light of the remote learning challenges and social distancing.
Dr. Pereg, together with Dr. Yael Ben-David, a faculty member at IDC and the head of the mentorship program, created a unique program in response to recognizing the challenges facing her students. “Students felt that they needed a space for sharing, reflecting on academic challenges and how we adjust to remote learning. It was important to us that students could initiate connections and feel they had a place to turn when feeling isolated.”
Dr. Ben David revised the program’s DNA and found a solution to create a sense of engagement and feeling a part of something greater. First-year students are mentored biweekly by students in their final year of the program or recent alumni. The goal was to create an informal safe space for first-year students to have guidance regarding their dilemmas. “The program is very intense, so we feel it is important to reorient and feel the spirit of the program, as well as allowing our alumni to be empowered and have a chance for growth, both professional and personal. These alumni hold the spirit of the program and pass the baton on to the next generation of students.”
The spirit of OBD is believing in processes where students find their own path with mentors as their mirror. This is part of what the OBD program stands for, as it aims to help the student to find their own answers and make their own decisions. After a successful first semester of the mentorship program, the mentors have been approached by some of the students to continue it into the next semester.
The uniqueness of this program is that it benefits both the mentors and the mentees. Mentors are given the opportunity to continue learning, experiencing and acquiring tools in coaching and mentoring, under the guidance of Dr. Ben-David. This gives practical experience to alumni and students finishing the degree to put into action the tools acquired throughout the degree and gain a real-life experience in consulting. The biweekly meetings are aimed at creating a safe space for consultations around professional dilemmas and academic challenges being faced by the first-year students. These students can get counseling and assistance on various topics such as work-life balance, and formulating better orientation for remote learning. Mentors receive training throughout the semester, where they acquire tools and are provided with professional guidance.
Mentor Leanne Agmon from the UK graduated OBD in 2020. She began working for SAP in its HR department and is now working as a project manager. Agmon says that the chance to be a mentor gave her the opportunity to give back to the program that has given her so much and she was honored to be chosen: “The mentor program is a chance for students to receive guidance from a mentor who has been in their shoes. We can give guidance about how to make the most of the program, especially during Covid. We can provide support and connection that has been taken away by remote learning. At a time when there is so much isolation and alienation in the world, the IDC OBD program is doing a great job of making sure that students and alumni still feel connected during this time and supported. This is truly a unique program which cares for its alumni once we leave the cocoon of IDC.”
Agmon explains that studying to become an organizational consultant is greatly helped by the practical tools she is gaining by mentoring others. “At a time when the world is in crisis, I am always looking for a way to give back to the community at IDC that gave me so much.”
Ron Benhamou is a first-year OBD student from USA and is currently working in Young Judaea as the manager of the internship department. Benhamou says that the mentorship program allowed her to take advantage of even more things that the OBD program had to offer. Although hesitant at first due to the time constraints, Benhamou says she is thrilled she joined the program: “My mentor is fantastic. She knows better than us what to expect because she’s been in our shoes. She listens and gives advice but also helps us to formulate our own answers. Watching how our mentors help us shows us what it is like when we are in these dilemmas with clients and gives us a practical view of what we may do in the future as consultants. There are huge challenges studying under Covid so it has been very comforting having a listening ear and support during social isolation.”
Mentor Adam Ben-Hanania from the USA graduated the OBD program in 2020 and is now working for TOP Consulting while applying for a PhD program. Ben-Hanania says that he wishes this program had been around when he was a student, and he is willing to donate more of his time once the program ends: “As an alum of the program, it gives me unique hands-on experience in the coaching mentoring realm which I am very appreciative of. I get lots of support from Dr. Ben-David and I feel I am honored to give back to the program. The whole program is sort of personal exploration and it’s nice to have a peer non-faculty member be there for you who has also experienced the program.”