The university will run a landmark study abroad program beginning in the spring of 2012: The program, in Israel, will for the first time be taught exclusively in Hebrew.
Students will attend Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in the city of Beer Sheva. Brandeis is partnering with Middlebury College and each will send students collectively.
The new program marks the second full-semester study abroad program introduced this year at Brandeis, following the announcement of the Brandeis in The Hague spring program. (This year Brandeis students can choose from among some 250 programs in 70 countries around the world. More than 45 percent of the junior class studies abroad during the academic year, with more students participating in overseas summer programs.)
The curriculum will be geared towards upper-level and advanced Hebrew language students as all coursework will be taught, read and written in Hebrew.
Students may qualify to enroll directly in courses at Ben-Gurion University alongside domestic students. Program members will live with Israeli students in residence halls, adhering to the Middlebury College Language Pledge—a promise to speak no language other than the one they are studying.
The university anticipates initial enrollment to be about 10 to 15 students per semester.
The Israel program is the second collaborative effort between Brandeis and Middlebury. The first, beginning in 2008, was the Brandeis University-Middlebury School of Hebrew, a joint summer program.
"Brandeis is pleased to continue our collaboration with Middlebury College," said Brandeis University's Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Director of Study Abroad J. Scott Van Der Meid, as quoted in a BrandeisNOW press release.
"This new program offers an outstanding combination. Brandeis University brings its historic connections to Israel, emphasis on experiential learning, and its innovative leadership in Hebrew language instruction. Middlebury College boasts a century of experience in language immersion programs."
Dan Terris, vice president for global affairs at Brandeis, called the new program "a natural extension of Brandeis' commitment to being a global liberal arts university. It creates a permanent presence in Israel for Brandeis in partnership with two quality institutions."
Beer Sheva is in the heart of the Negev desert in southern Israel. One of the world's oldest cities, it has been inhabited for some 6,000 years. Located in an area rich with Biblical and archeological history, the city is now a modern regional capital with a population of about 185,000, including a large number of Russian and Ethiopian Jews who arrived in the 1990s.
"Students who participate on this program will be engaged in a city with a diverse population; a true window to the Israeli society," said Professor Vardit Ringvald, director of the Hebrew Language Program at Brandeis. "It's a chance to live and learn with Israelis while immersing oneself in the Hebrew language."
Michael Geisler, Middlebury's vice president for language schools, schools abroad and graduate programs, called Ben-Gurion an ideal partner for such a program in Israel.
"Ben-Gurion University, which is seen by many as having one of the strongest and most diversified academic programs in Israel, is an excellent location," said Geisler. "Since the university is well integrated with the town of Beer Sheva, students will find it easier than in many other cities in Israel to gain access to the community. It also offers better opportunities for language immersion since there are fewer English speakers there than in some other Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv."