Eighteen Washington University in St. Louis undergraduate students will have the opportunity to spend their spring break in a unique way — a 10-day immersion in various aspects of the Israeli economy, from innovation to government to high-tech startups.
The students are taking a class at Olin Business School called “Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Israel.” Half of the group are Olin students; the others come from several of WUSTL’s other schools.
“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime chance for these young people to get an insider’s view of business and innovation in Israel,” says Steve Malter, PhD, assistant dean for student development and strategic initiatives at Olin and professor of the course.
“The class provides students with an opportunity to understand the interconnectedness between culture, politics and business and how all three produce a unique and successful business environment in Israel. The trip really allows them to experience that firsthand.”
Malter got the idea for the secular course four years ago when some students approached him about organizing a student trip to Israel. Students enrolled in the class have six weeks of study about Israel, including its culture, politics and economy. They also conduct research on Israeli industries before embarking on a nine-day trip, beginning Thursday, March 8.
"I am so excited that I have been blessed with this unique opportunity to explore Israel’s wonderful history and culture, as it is a place that I associate with my own heritage and religion,” says Claire Diamonstein, a sophomore in psychology in Arts & Sciences.
“This class has given me such insight into how Israel works as a country, and I am just so thrilled that I will be able to take what I have learned in the classroom and experience it firsthand in Israel,” she says.
While there, students will meet with representatives from Google, TEVA, eBay, the United States Embassy, the Israeli prime minister’s office, Trendlines, Given Imaging, Intel and Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Finance.
"After hearing about the various aspects of the Israeli economy — entrepreneurship, sources of innovation, government initiatives, the high-tech sector — I am looking forward to finally see all of these parts at work,” says Jennifer Cozen, a sophomore business student.
“I am excited to be learning about the Israeli economy from people who experience it everyday. It will be interesting to compare the perspectives of business in Israel of people in different sectors. I hope to gain a better view of how these industries work together to produce the economic success Israel has had thus far,” she says.
Students will document their experiences in an ongoing blog at olinbizinisrael.wordpress.com. New blogs as well as articles or book recommendations about business, innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel will be posted at least twice a week, as students learn about and experience the “Start-Up Nation” phenomenon.
“I am most excited about the caliber of industries and individuals we will have the opportunity to meet with,” says Paul Blachar, a junior in English in Arts & Sciences. “We have read about Israel's challenges and discussed its accomplishments in class for the past semester. To actually be able to speak with leaders in government, venture capital, alternative energy and novel medical technologies, to name a few of the industries we will visit, is a really unique opportunity.”
Blachar hopes to learn “more about how Israelis have been able to develop such innovative technologies in such a relatively short amount of time, in what seems like such unfavorable conditions and how those lessons can help me in my own career.”