Mar Elias Campus becomes first Arab-accredited university in Israel
By Abby Adragna
Mar Elias Campus, a University of Indianapolis international partner located in Northern Israel, has received accreditation approval from the Senior Committee of the Council of Higher Education in Israel.
The CHE in Israel has approved full accreditation for the disciplines of communication and marketing, computer science and environmental science and chemistry to be taught on the Mar Elias Campus in Ibillin, Galilee. This news came just days before the graduation of the first group of Mar Elias students on Oct. 29.
UIndy has been offering undergraduate degrees at Mar Elias Campus since 2003 in the areas of computer science, communication and environmental science and chemistry. The CHE’s accreditation approval means that Mar Elias Campus will no longer be a UIndy branch campus but an independent university. The event marks a first for Israel as Mar Elias is the only Arab-accredited university in the country.
Mar Elias Campus is open to students of all backgrounds and faiths and currently educates Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze students. According to the Mar Elias Campus Web site, the campus has a goal of “Unity within Diversity” and serves as a model of Middle Eastern reconciliation.
“It [the Mar Elias Campus] is a beacon of hope for the Arab-Israeli community,” said Dr. Haitham Alkhateeb, associate professor of mathematics and computer science at UIndy and key advisor for Mar Elias students. “Each of the graduates will carry this beacon of knowledge and peace around the country . . . It is the first time in Israel that the Arab community succeeded to demonstrate and make a difference in promoting higher education.”
According to Mary Moore, vice president for research, planning and international partnerships at UIndy, students who have been admitted to Mar Elias Campus earn their degrees from UIndy. However, she said the campus has not admitted new students for the past two years. With the accreditation, Mar Elias Campus will be able to admit new students in the fall of 2008 who will work toward a Mar Elias Campus degree. According to the Mar Elias Campus Web site, the school hopes to develop academic programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, business and peace studies.
The graduation ceremony held at Mar Elias Campus on Oct. 29 recognized 52 graduates who completed their UIndy degree requirements. The ceremony also recognized 62 students close to completing their UIndy degree and 14 students in their third year of study. Currently, there are still about 90 students working on the UIndy degree at Mar Elias Campus, Moore said.
According to Moore, who spoke at the Mar Elias Campus graduation ceremony, the graduation was recognized by many important people. Speakers included members of the government of Israel, the American Embassy and the European Union, as well as Archbishop Elias Chacour, who is the founder of Mar Elias and one of the highest-ranking religious leaders in the country.
One distinct aspect of the UIndy degrees earned by Mar Elias students is that they are recognized in the United States and Israel.
“[To] have earned a degree that is recognized in both the United States and Israel provides each student with international experience,” Alkhateeb said. “It provides each student with the opportunity to improve their English language because the language of instruction at Mar Elias Campus is mainly English . . . [And] it gives them a better opportunity to be admitted into a graduate school.”
According to Moore, although Mar Elias Campus is now becoming a fully-accredited, independent university, the campus will likely still remain connected to UIndy in various ways.
“Will they be completely independent? I think that the nature of the partnership will shift but that we will stay partners,” Moore said. “There are educational opportunities for our university and opportunities for the Mar Elias students through that partnership.”
One way UIndy hopes to help Mar Elias is by providing scholarships for Mar Elias students to visit UIndy and participate in the regular semester, Moore said. UIndy recently helped promote the Montana Logging & Ballet Company concert that took place on Nov. 18 in Indianapolis, and proceeds from the concert benefited Mar Elias Campus students.
“The success of a partnership shouldn’t just be measured by how long it lasts,” Moore said. “It’s like a relationship; some relationships are shorter but meaningful and intense.”