Dr Sarah Abu-Kaf

It was Dr Sarah Abu-Kaf’s experience of growing up in a Bedouin community that would shape her career path. As a young woman, she

had little hope of receiving a higher education. “The university was a short drive from my house, but it might as well have been light years away,” she recalls. “Higher education was perceived as impossible in my society.” But her husband, who had studied at BGU, encouraged her, and in 1994 she was accepted to the psychology and economics programs. “I think there were just five Bedouin women students at the time,” she says. Dr Abu-Kaf soon began to

see her diversity as an asset, allowing her to study her community as an insider and from an academic perspective. She completed her BA, MA and PhD at BGU and pursued postdoctoral training at Harvard University. She now researches a wide range of topics, from the adjustment to academic life by Arab students to the coping methods of Israeli spouses going through a divorce. The first clinical psychologist in a Bedouin society, she was named one of the 50 most influential women of 2018 by Forbes Israel. “BGU began reaching out to

the Bedouin world,” she says. “I was proud to play a role in this process, helping to craft culturally appropriate ways to help bridge the gaps.” Today, there are over 500 Bedouin students at BGU, more than 80 percent of whom are women.

Championing entrepreneurship

From Israel’s first student-run venture capital fund to its first Innovation District, Ben-Gurion University is the growth engine of a thriving ecosystem

One of the main roles of universities is to prepare students for the day they graduate, providing them with the skills they will need to remain flexible and adaptable in various situations. BGU sees entrepreneurship as essential to these fast-paced and challenging times, when many of us are required to adjust to changes, re-invent our talents and rapidly implement the ever-changing technology around us. Through the Yazamut 360 entrepreneurship

center, the university boasts Israel’s first student- run venture capital fund, Cactus Capital: founded by the BGU administration, it backs students and recent graduates on their path to tech and social entrepreneurship, while cultivating the next generation of student investors. As part of this project, students undergo training on how to become venture capitalists before seeking investments on campus. Outstanding student entrepreneurs then receive the resources they need to grow their endeavors from BGU as well as an early-stage investment of up to $20,000. Meanwhile, the Advanced Technologies Park

— a joint venture between the university and the local municipality — maximises the open flow of

10 Israeli Academia | 2021

ideas between academia and industry. Situated across the main campus, the project allows university students, researchers and alumni to work with some of the most exciting multinational companies, start-ups and accelerators.

Israel’s first Innovation District When Be’er-Sheva was selected to plan Israel’s first Innovation District, it was no surprise that BGU — with its impressive background in innovation and ties to the local community — was chosen to be one of the new area’s central components. The plan is for the new District to become a bustling center for commerce, community building, creative development and technological advancement. BGU was also chosen due to its international

leadership in desertification research and the development of strategies to provide food, water and energy in the world’s resource-scarce areas. Benny Dreyfuss, director general of the Ministry of Construction and Housing, says: “The next stage following the launch will focus on initial economic investments in fields such as digital health, desertification and cyber-security.”

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36