“Four years ago, two students came to my office and said they really wanted to do a business-related trip to Israel,” he tells ISRAEL21c at the Jerusalem hotel where he and 18 students stayed for part of the recent spring-break trip. “I was in Israel in 1990 but, like most people, I knew little outside the cultural, the religious, the conflict. When I started doing research I was surprised to find how Israel was thriving.”
Malter began fashioning a full-semester course that begins with six weeks of learning about Israel’s economy, its industries, its politics and culture. The 2009 book Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer is the primary text for the class.
“ISRAEL21c is a recommended resource,” says Malter. “I get [the newsletter] every week and find it incredibly helpful in staying current so I can introduce the latest advances in Israel directly into the classroom.”
Malter is assistant dean for student development and strategic initiatives, and he is also a member of the Israel Business and Technology Committee in St. Louis. “ISRAEL21c gives us good relevant information and helps us see what types of speakers and events we want to bring to the St. Louis community,” he says. “It has a really good balance of business and high-tech news – it’s very comprehensive.”
Jennifer Glick, a sophomore from the Chicago area, said she heard Malter talk about the course when she was visiting the campus in her senior year of high school. “I thought it sounded amazing and I knew I wanted to take it if I went to Wash U, and it actually was one of the reasons I decided to come to Wash U,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
“I had visited other schools that had study-abroad programs but I’ve always loved Israel and looking at it from business perspective was something I really wanted to do.”
Antony Santiago from Houston says that before the class he thought of Israel as “just a nation that warred with those around it. So when I came here it really changed my mind, because I saw how it’s really innovative and creative.”
He especially enjoyed the group’s visit to Intel-Israel in Haifa (“They have ‘clean rooms’ where no dust can reach the silicon they operate on”) and Better Place, the electric car network.
“At home I’ll be able to tell my parents and friends on campus that Israel is a bountiful nation with very interesting and active people,” says Santiago.
All the students blogged daily (www.olinbizinisrael.wordpress.com) during the journey. And when they return, each will do a final project analyzing a particular Israeli industry, looking at its challenges and opportunities and comparing it to a similar US industry.
Wash U has a semester exchange program with IDC-Herzliya (www.idc.ac.il), where 12 American and 12 Israeli students pair up to plan a startup company.
“We hope to put together some additional collaborations with IDC,” says Malter.