Bringing the Humanities to Engineers

A pioneering TAU program is helping produce more well-rounded and creative engineers
12 September 2017

TAU has launched a new program for training engineers in the humanities. The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Program for Humanities in Engineering, the first of its kind in Israel, is promoting “out of the box thinking” among engineers that could lead to seminal inventions in the future.


A joint venture of the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering and the Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of the Humanities, the four-year honors program will admit between 20-25 students this academic year, based on test scores as along with a personal interview that gauges candidates’ potential for future leadership of Israel’s innovation sector.


Nurturing ideas

Traditionally, liberal arts have been pitted against the sciences. However, the complexities of today’s R&D arena require students not only to develop their practical research skills in the lab, but also learn to think critically. There is growing awareness that the humanities are important to the endeavors of scientists and engineers – who excel in a mathematical way of thinking, but must also exhibit creativity and innovation.


Dean of Humanities Prof. Leo Corry says, “The humanities offer concepts and disciplines that are necessary for a holistic understanding of the origins, contexts and future of the natural and exact sciences. Courses in philosophy, ethics, history and literature enable young science students to expand their cognitive boundaries and develop new perspectives.”


Dean of Engineering Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks, says “If you look at the huge successful companies out there, it’s not only the technology; it’s the idea behind them. Look at Facebook – it’s the idea; look at Uber or Airbnb, they required knowledge of human behavior and human experience. The technology enables the idea. Nowadays, the technology is so advanced, that the breakthrough comes from a different type of creative thinking and that’s why we need to give students the tools not only for quantitative thinking, but also for humanistic thinking,” says Rosenwaks.


TAU alumni have already demonstrated the value of studying both science and the humanities. For example, Ehud Shabtai, co-founder of Waze, holds a BSc in Computer Science and Philosophy; Avi Warshavsky, founder of MindCET, completed an MA in Philosophy; and Tal Shoham, founder of Eotero, holds an LLB and BA in Eastern Asian Studies, to name a few.


The Mandel Program combines studies of the humanities with diverse spheres of engineering in the electrical, mechanical, industrial and biomedical fields as well as in materials science. Each student is appointed a mentor from either the engineering faculty or from the private sector who serves as a guide throughout the entire program, aiding in course selection, research topics and career guidance.


Students complete 32 academic hours in the humanities over the course of their study and will chose from a wide range of courses relevant for their specific needs. Among the courses offered are: digital culture and virtual reality; psychoanalysis and psychology in the perspective of the humanities; the history and philosophy of science and cognitive and cultural creativity, among others.


The Jack, Joseph & Morton Mandel Foundation supports a wide range of social and leadership programs, among them the Mandel Leadership Institute, Israel, which trains social and educational leaders from all walks of Israeli society and leaders in Jewish education from communities outside Israel; the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University; the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev and the UJC Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence. 



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