Learning with Heart and Soul
Every Tuesday, 60 students in TAU's Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary Program for Outstanding Students gather together to deliver lectures on their unique research projects. The weekly ritual provides a fun and stimulating platform to learn about diverse fields of study. At the start of each session, students raise a compelling question, such as: How are Rosa Parks and Ellie Wiesel related? What does Hebrew have to offer the aboriginal languages of outback Australia?
Fifteen out of 8,000 incoming freshmen are accepted into the prestigious program every year after a rigorous selection process. The four-year direct MA program not only allows but strongly encourages students to take courses from across the university's nine faculties.
Prof. Na’ama Friedmann, head of the Lautman Program, describes the program’s ideology: “Established in 1987, the program was truly ahead of its time. The idea of giving students free reign to fashion their own degree program was unheard of, especially in Israel with its rigid departmental curricula.”
Under the guidance of Prof. Friedmann and dedicated mentors, students devise a customized, inter-departmental study curriculum to suit their research interests. “One student is investigating ‘moral courage,’ which entails taking courses from philosophy, sociology, psychology, anthropology and biology, and another is interested in the influence of meditation on those with disabilities – a research area that involves psychology, Buddhism, education, neurobiology and medicine. In short, these subjects require interdisciplinary research; otherwise they cannot be studied comprehensively,” says Friedmann.
Approximately half of the Program's 350 graduates have gone on to become tenured academics, while the other half have pursued careers in high-tech, biotech, literature and the arts.
Learning in the Age of Google
Marva Shalev-Marom, one of the program's most recent graduates, is intrigued by everything from African culture and psychology to the Mishnah and Zen Buddhism. It was her diverse passions that convinced her to apply for the Lautman Program. Despite being accepted into an American Ivy League college, Marva chose TAU because she liked its comprehensiveness: “You enter the door and have no idea where you will end up. I felt that the Lautman Program granted me freedom."
"Some people doubt the relevance of academic studies in this day and age," continues Marva. "You have ‘Professor Google’ to answer all of your questions. However, education is not simply about information. Knowledge has a vitality that information alone does not; it moves you to take action. All of the Lautman students are going in completely different directions. Most are extremely socially active and do not fit into the stereotype of academics disconnected from reality."
Tikkun Olam in Action
During her army service, Marva taught music to at-risk Ethiopian youth in the southern towns of Gedera and Sderot and organized community concerts and story nights.
Later, together with TAU’s Dr. Ran Cohen – a mentor in the Lautman Program who was recently awarded the Tchernichovsky Prize for his exemplary translation of a sacred Ethiopian text – Marva established a special academic outreach program, sponsored by the Lautman Fund, to bring Ethiopian-Israeli high school students to the TAU campus. "We want to help high school students living in the periphery realize that the academic world is not as far away as they may think," explains Marva.
As for the future, Marva aims to pursue a PhD at Columbia University, specializing in Indian Buddhism. She will not go, however, until she has finished her music outreach project: “I believe in music as a tool of social justice and, for me, Tikkun Olam is a lifetime mission."
The recently departed Dov Lautman dedicated the Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary Program for Outstanding Students as well as the Adi Lautman Special Program for Outstanding Students in honor of his late son, Adi. TAU Governor and former Chairman of the Executive Council, Dov Lautman has been prominent in Israeli public life, serving as founder, chairman and later CEO of Delta Galil Industries; President of the Manufacturers Association; Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations; and as Prime Minister Rabin’s Special Emissary for Economic Development. He was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement in 2007, and he is also a TAU Honorary Doctor. In recognition of his staunch commitment to youth education and outreach, the Dov Lautman Unit for Science Oriented Youth at TAU was named in his honor.