The Porter School of Environmental Studies
Academic Excellence in the Service of the Environment
The Porter School of Environmental Studies was founded in 2000 by Dame Shirley Porter and then TAU Chancellor Sir Leslie Porter of Israel and the UK.
Dame Shirley Porter is closely involved in the Porter School's activities and is responsive to its evolving needs. The Cohen-Porter family, across four generations, ranks among the most dedicated of Tel Aviv University's benefactors, and has supported numerous projects and units across campus.
Pictured: Dame Shirley Porter
While serving as a teaching fellow in China, Sarah Hilzinger watched as her students dropped out of school to find groundwater for their families’ crops. Realizing the potential of water technologies to revolutionize farming in rural communities and even play a role in keeping children in school, she decided to pursue a Fulbright research fellowship at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and gain the practical and theoretical knowledge needed to advance environmentally sustainable development.
Sarah (pictured below left) chose to study at TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies because it would allow her to work with leading researchers from various fields: “I can take classes in environmental sciences and management but also collaborate with the School of Government and Policy, which is in the realm of my specific research,” Sarah explains. She also wanted to live in Israel due to its leading role in advancing food security and water technologies. Her current research focuses on the flow of innovative ideas and technology throughout the global water market and, more specifically, the growing relationship between Israel and China in this sector.
Sarah is one of hundreds of students attracted to the Porter School of Environmental Studies each year because of its unique interdisciplinary approach. By uniting researchers from a wide range of fields under one "green" umbrella, the Porter School offers exciting opportunities to study diverse subjects, such as renewable energy, climate change, pollution and river rehabilitation, environmental justice, sustainable urban planning and environmental economics.
Students and researchers can also take advantage of the multidisciplinary units founded by the Porter School, including the Akirov Institute for Business and the Environment, which brings together management, economics and law scholars to raise awareness about the impact of industry on the environment.
Spreading the Environmental Word
The Porter School has long placed an emphasis on working with environmental NGOs, businesses and the government to disseminate environmental knowledge and contribute to public and professional debate. For example, while pursuing his master’s degree in water and environmental policy at the Porter School, Daniel Ben-Yehuda interned at the Friends of the Earth Middle East, helping to manage water consumption between Israel and its neighbors. Through internship placements such as Daniel’s, students gain valuable hands-on experience that complements their academic studies and furthers their professional careers. Students also have the opportunity take part in the Environmental Policy Clinic, where they can work directly with important policy makers.
Seeking to extend its global reach and facilitate a rich cross-fertilization of ideas among researchers from Israel and abroad, the Porter School recently established an International MA in Environmental Studies, taught in English, to enable students from around the world to gain an advanced degree from a uniquely Israeli and Middle Eastern perspective. The Porter School also runs the Porter Fellows Program, which attracts young and accomplished post-doctoral fellows to carry out research and teach at TAU, bringing advanced and innovative environmental thinking to the University.
Addressing Cross-Border Environmental Challenges
For the past two years, the Porter School of Environmental Studies has collaborated with the Van Leer Institute to organize an 'Israeli and Palestinian Students Forum' for Environmental Progress and Regional Sustainability." This Forum has brought together Israeli and Palestinian environmental studies students to analyze and discuss cross-border environmental issues in the region.
The vision of the project is to foster and promote environmental cooperation in the Middle East through dialogue and networking. Participants attend important study tours and seminars in Jordan where topics range from the environmental aspects of Arab-Israeli relations within Israel to water issues in Jericho and Jordan.
Given the high demand and interest in the program among students, the Porter School aims to create additional Israeli-Palestinian forums. An academic course on trans-boundary environmental issues will be introduced in the near future as well as a number of joint research projects. The goal is for students working on both sides of the divide to look into environmental hazards and suggest joint ways of coping with them.
A Green Home for the Porter School
In 2011, construction began on the Porter School's EcoBuilding, the first “green building” at Tel Aviv University and also one of the first of its kind in Israel. Employing a range of environmental technologies, including photovoltaic panels for energy production and wastewater recycling, the building’s design stands to receive the LEED Platinum accreditation of the US Green Building Council, the leading standard for green building worldwide. In the future, the EcoBuilding will serve as a research platform for advanced green building technologies and building systems.
For more information about the Porter School of Environmental Studies, please visit www.environment.tau.ac.il