After a fruitful first year, professors from some of Arizona’s universities are headed back to Israel for the Jewish National Fund’s second winter academic fellowship program, where they will share information on a variety of topics such as water management, software engineering and psychology.

“This is a very unique program that I’m honored to be selected for,” said Ashley Randall, an associate professor of psychology from Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. “It provides these opportunities to listen to unique lectures and experience the current Israeli society and get an understanding of the politics.”

JNF’s Faculty Fellowship Program is highly competitive. More than 1,000 academics applied for the winter fellowship, 40 were interviewed and only 24 were selected to attend the all-expenses-paid academic trip to Israel that runs from Dec. 26, 2018, to Jan. 8, 2019. 

The Faculty Fellowship Program began 10 years ago, but until last year was only held during the summer. JNF works to pair each traveling faculty member with an Israeli counterpart. 

Randall said she applied for the fellowship precisely because of those pairings. Her primary focus of study is how stress can affect interpersonal relationships.

“There are really leading scholars in the disciplines of psychology and the sub-disciplines of social psychology and interpersonal relationships in Israel,” Randall said. “Largely, my area looks at systems and how relationships operate in the context of systems. So, here we have a unique opportunity to see how relationships flourish or deteriorate in the larger political climate.” 

Randall said program participants were asked to list six academics from Israel that they would like to meet. She will be meeting with faculty and postdoctoral students from Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa and Hebrew University. 

Randall, who is director of training in the counseling and counseling psychology program at her college, will be traveling with four other ASU professors from very different disciplines. The other ASU faculty members selected for the fellowship are Bradley Greger, associate professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering; Lekelia Jenkins, associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society; Kenan Song, assistant professor in the Polytechnic School; and Thomas Dempster, associate research professor in the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation.

ASU was represented in the inaugural winter program last year, but multiple Sun Devil professors in fields such as industrial engineering, biomedical engineering and software engineering have visited Israel

during the Summer Faculty Fellowship Program.

While the fellowship is open to professors from all disciplines, many who attend the summer and winter programs come from the hard sciences. Environmental scientists often participate in order to learn from Israel’s expertise in water recycling and water management. 

ASU Associate Professor of Engineering Adam Carberry realized the value of studying Israel’s water recycling technology and water management when he went on the first winter fellowship in 2017. 

“When we were in the Negev, specifically when we were visiting Ben-Gurion University, a realization struck me that this place felt very much like Arizona,” Carberry said. 

Israel’s water recycling practices also drew University of Arizona professor Jean McClain to the fellowship program in the summer of 2014. McClain is a research scientist for UA’s Water Resources Research Center.

McClain discovered that even though Israel and Arizona share a similar climate, the two have very different water recycling practices. McClain said that any water Arizona uses for irrigation has to be incredibly clean — near drinking-water quality.  

“In Israel, they’re less concerned with the cleanliness, because they find that the environment takes care of itself,” McClain said. “The sunlight kills the microbes and the soil will eat any organic contaminants. Even though they don’t use water that’s as stringently clean, they don’t have foodborne outbreaks that you might expect.” JN 

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