BGU President Rivka Carmi Speaks on ‘Reimagining the Ivory Tower’

Professor Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Coral Gables (February 14, 2012) — Once operating in intellectual seclusion, institutions of higher learning are now places of accessibility, serving their communities with programs that help the underprivileged and power the economy, Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said on February 7 during a speech on the University of Miami campus.

”Today, many universities are enterprises that measure themselves in how successful they are in commercializing their achievements,” said Carmi, the first woman to serve as president of an Israeli university.

Carmi’s remarks, delivered at UM’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, were part of her lecture “Reimagining the Ivory Tower: The Responsibility of Academia to Society.”

During her lecture, Carmi, a noted physician-researcher whose work has focused on genetic diseases in the Negev’s Arab-Bedouin population, said “the idea of reaching out to the community is not taken for granted in academia” and cited initiatives at her university as an example.

BGU’s medical school, she said, has established health services in the Negev, caring for Jews and Arabs in the region. And through another program, high school students from low-income families are given laboratory equipment and receive instruction from BGU graduate students.

Community outreach is a role universities now relish, Carmi said. “No more ivory tower,” she said, describing academia as a change agent for society.

Carmi also called for new ranking systems that consider colleges’ and universities’ contributions to communities.

UM President Donna E. Shalala, who last year received an honorary degree at BGU; Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Haim Shaked, director of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center, were among those who attended the lecture.

Last year, UM and BGU signed an agreement to collaborate on research, academic, and student exchange programs.

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Rivka Carmi speaks at UM's Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies.

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