Intellectual Acrobats

TAU’s new international BA in Liberal Arts is equipping young minds with the flexibility demanded in a rapidly-changing world 

From left: BA in Liberal Arts students Taj Newman, Margarita Belova and Alexandre Arturia, on TAU’s campus

In an age of smart phones, hybrid cars and personalized medicine, some argue that a degree in the humanities is no longer a worthwhile investment. Yet judging by the depth and creativity of the inaugural class of students in Tel Aviv University’s new international BA in Liberal Arts, interest in the field is still high — as is its relevancy in today’s world.


Part of the Multidisciplinary Program in the Humanities at the Sally and Lester Entin Faculty of Humanities, the three-year degree is TAU’s first all-English undergraduate program. It is a milestone in the expansion of TAU’s international school into Israel’s most comprehensive framework for overseas students.


The Creative Edge

Dr. Milette Shamir, the Academic Director of the program and former chair of TAU’s Department of English and American Studies, explains that “there is a movement now — very evident in the United States, and also making an impact here in Israel — of employers and large companies beginning to value the education that the humanities provide.” Dr. Shamir stresses that the degree “provides students with qualities like creativity, intellectual flexibility and the ability to think outside the box.” These attributes are critical in a constantly changing, highly competitive workforce, Dr. Shamir emphasizes: “Most babies born today are going to be working in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. The job market is so dynamic that many people now see a liberal arts education as the best kind of training.”


From Greek philosophy and psychopathology to Israel studies and poetry analysis, the BA facilitates both concentrated and diversified study across the humanities. The program offers six academic concentrations, from which students must choose a major and a minor. For example, a student could choose Middle Eastern studies as their major, together with a minor in Digital Culture and Communications and Arabic language study, leading to a senior position in their home country’s foreign ministry.  Another could combine a concentration in Psychology, Psychoanalysis, and Culture with a minor in Philosophy. By enabling multiple combinations of study, the BA in Liberal Arts accommodates a wide array of student interests.    


Alexandre the Transnationalist

Alexandre Arturia, 26, describes himself as a binational French-German, with a Hungarian-born father and mother from North Africa.  “As varied as my background, so too this program,” Alexandre says. “As a violinist, I find the BA in Liberal Arts a perfect addition — the humanities remain the very basis of human education.” Eyeing a future in the diplomatic service, Alexandre praises the program’s multidisciplinary offerings and professionally-orientated approach.



Taj the Humanist

For Taj Newman, 20, from the US state of Oregon, the program offers “the most holistic type of training.” Taj’s main academic interests are philosophy and Judaism and their intersection, which she aims to explore in-depth as part of the BA. Taj describes herself as “a product of globalization,” saying “there’s something beautiful about the essence, the taste and the smell of Tel Aviv— there’s a fully different way of being here.”



Margarita the Multitalented

Born in Russia, raised in the Ukraine, and a resident of Israel for the past three years, Margarita Belova, 20, is relishing the program, citing its broad range of subjects and fascinating interaction of cultures. Attesting to the breadth of her interests, Margarita also considered waiting another year until TAU’s second international undergraduate degree opens, a BSc in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, mentioning that “I see a great possibility of combining engineering and arts in one career or, at least, using the skills of one to help me pursue a career in the other.”


Eline the History-loving Novelist

Eline Rosenhart, 18, from the Netherlands, published a novel at age 16, set during the American Civil War. After studying Hebrew and volunteering teaching English in northern Israel last year, Eline returned to the Netherlands and surveyed her academic options, realizing that her home country doesn’t offer anything as comprehensive as TAU’s BA in Liberal Arts. “Israel is a special country where the past and the future meet. There’s so much ancient history, and yet it’s a very young state.”    




Alexandre, Taj, Margarita and Eline are just some of the thirsty minds now immersed in TAU’s international BA in Liberal Arts. By training intellectual acrobats — able to bend and adapt to the demands of a multidisciplinary, globalized world — the degree is proving that an education in the humanities is still valued by students, and vital to their future success. 


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