At the Vanguard of Global Brain Research

Canadian Larry and Judy Tanenbaum Family Foundation supports TAU post-doc fellowships in neuroscienc.

When Dr. Tomer Langberg, a fresh Ph.D. graduate in neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley, searched for a post-doctoral position, Tel Aviv University was at the top of his list. However, coming here would not have been possible without the Tanenbaum Fellowship’s financial support.

“TAU’s Neuroscience School is amazing, and there is real progress being made here to understand the brain,” Langberg says. “However, fellowship stipends for post-docs in Israel are relatively low, so the Tanenbaum Fellowship has been essential in enabling me to continue my studies here. It makes this a more competitive place to work compared to universities in other countries.”

Langberg researches the role of neurons in creating memories. His work may have major implications for understanding memory-related neuropsychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Langberg first discovered TAU when he met a few former graduate students of Prof. Inna Slutsky while studying at UC Berkley. Slutsky, of the Sackler School of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience, is a world-renowned expert in the science behind Alzheimer’s and is the winner of the Metlife Foundation Award for Research in Alzheimer’s disease. Langberg now works in her lab. “She is a fantastic mentor,” says Langberg of Slustsky. “In the lab, we use state-of-the-art technology, and I’m learning from the best people to use it. I could not be happier to be here and to have been awarded this Fellowship,” he adds.

 

A “Perfect” Partnership

For the last few years, the Larry and Judy Tanenbaum Family Foundation has been instrumental in supporting post-doctoral fellows such as Langberg in the field of brain sciences.

 

“We believe in neuroscience research because that is the key to understanding and, one day, hopefully treating and curing Alzheimer’s disease, drug addiction, and depression,” say Larry and Judy Tanenbaum from Toronto, who are active supporters of neuroscience research both in Israel and worldwide.

“We hope our support will allow TAU to continue attracting and training the next generation of researchers aiming to unravel the various mechanisms of the human body’s most complex and mysterious organ.”

“By being at the vanguard of global brain research, TAU is a perfect fit for our efforts in promoting neuroscience research and standing with Israel,” the Tanenbaums added.

Crucial Support

TAU leaders say that post-doc support is crucial for the development of science in Israel. “In recent years, we see that more and more Israeli and international students are looking to complete their post-doc fellowships in Israel. Despite the growth in interest, however, there is a huge deficit of funding opportunities for post-docs here,” explains Prof. Yossi Yovel, Head of the Sagol School for Neuroscience. “The Tanenbaum Fellowships are therefore extremely important for us, filling this crucial gap and substantially contributing to the development of science at TAU and in Israel.”

In parallel to Langberg, a second Tanenbaum Fellow, Dr. Lee Harten, is completing post-doctoral research at the Wise Faculty of Life Sciences under Yovel’s supervision. She is a TAU Ph.D. alumna who studies the relationship between brain structure and decision-making through bats.

“Both of our post-doctoral fellows have recently finished their PhDs and this post-doc period funded by the Tanenbaum Foundation is extremely important for their future careers,” concludes Yovel. “Tomer and Lee are both excellent fellows, and I am sure their scientific contribution will be substantial.”

By Sveta Raskin

From the Patriarch to the Mossad: Learning About Israel on the Inside

Greek student Athanasios Katsikidis pursues his passion for reporting in Israel.

What do a former prime minister, a Greek Holocaust survivor and a retired spy chief have in common? Besides living in Israel, they have all been interviewed by one passionate TAU International student from Greece, Athanasios Katsikidis.

Katsikidis has been interested in history, national security, and crisis management since high school. Upon completing an undergraduate degree in social and political science in his native Greece, he looked around for the best graduate program to continue developing his interests.

“Tel Aviv University has the best practical security program. It is also based in Tel Aviv, which is a technological hub, developing some of the latest solutions for the security field.  Combined, these two factors give TAU’s Security and Diplomacy Program a clear competitive edge,” he said.

 

 Katsikidis visiting Wadi Rum in Jordan

Although Katsikidis had never been to Israel, he applied to TAU’s International MA in Security and Diplomacy without hesitation.  “I was always curious about Israel, a country that combines cultures and traditions, a place where human historic and religious roots are inter-connected. However, I also had stereotypes about it, seeing Israel as a potentially hostile and violent place,” he confessed.   

Upon being accepted, Katsikidis received a scholarship from TAU International, which reduced his financial burden and allowed him to concentrate on his studies. “I was able to repay my student debts and feel more relaxed about supporting myself,” he said.

Thanks to support from the scholarship, Katsikidis was also able to further pursue his passion for writing about politics and intelligence.  “I am very interested in meeting key political and historical figures and interviewing them. This is a passion that started back in Greece and continued here in Israel,” he explained. Alongside his studies, Katsikidis is producing the interviews and writing opinion pieces for Greece’s oldest newspaper, Estia, and the English edition of Kathimerini, which is published with the international edition of The New York Times. 

Katsikidis has conducted a dozen interviews and organized meetings with leading Israeli politicians, security experts, and various other “movers and shakers.” Among them are Defense Minister and TAU alumnus Benny Gantz, Greek Patriarch Theophilos III, two former Mossad directors, one former Prime Minister and other well-known figures.

Scholarships are therefore very important – they allow students to develop their passions and talents, realize their potential, and achieve their dreams,“ Katsikidis reflected.

 Katsikidis with Greek Patriarch Theophilos III

The meetings and conversations, along with his studies and trips around the country, provided Katsikidis with an inside look into Israeli society and helped break the misconceptions he once had.  “It’s good for Israel that it is such an open place, where even high-ranking officials will agree to meet and speak with you. It helps the more conservative among us to understand it better,” he said.               

“My family and friends were afraid of rocket attacks and the violence. It’s always about the headlines. You internalize the bad news first. But I discovered Israel to be very different—it’s very friendly and family-oriented and shares many cultural values with Greece and its society. Even the spies are friendly here,” Katsikidis reflected, with a smile. “I will definitely be back.”

-By Sveta Raskin

Combating Stigmas, Helping Others Thrive

Scholarship helps psychology student pursue dream of treating mental health among Ethiopian Israelis.

Coming from the Israeli-Ethiopian community, TAU student Bat El Bogala is intimately familiar with the challenges surrounding mental health care among its population. 

“My ultimate goal is to raise mental health awareness and help people in the Israeli-Ethiopian community, where the subject is taboo,” says Bogala, who recently finished her first year of a bachelor’s degree, double-majoring in psychology and English literature.  

“I hope to apply my studies to become a clinical psychologist and combat the intergenerational stigma and feelings of shame which deter a lot of people from seeking mental health care,” she says. “It’s very important for me to help overcome this challenge so people don’t keep feeling like something is wrong with them for seeking help.” 

Bogala is pursuing the first step toward her aspirations with a scholarship funded by French philanthropists André and Thérèse Harari. The Thérèse and André Harari Foundation funds a program which provides full degree support for a total of 20 TAU students of Ethiopian descent each year. It was established in association with the French Judaism Foundation and French Friends of TAU. 

André Harari explains: “Our scholarship program aims to increase the low representation of Israeli-Ethiopian students within the general student body and to enable them to pursue paths of excellence for their future professional lives.”   

“Students can count on our Foundation’s scholarship year after year until the end of their studies at TAU, provided (only) that they succeed in their yearly exams,” he adds. “This means they receive support until their bachelor’s graduation and, if they decide to continue, through their master’s degree, and even their PhD. ” 

Added Incentive  

“The scholarship alleviated a lot of the pressure of having to work to finance my studies,” says Bogala, who had worked since age 16. “It enabled me to breathe easy and place all my focus on my studies without having to be preoccupied with affording tuition, rent and living expenses.” 

Bogala applied for the scholarship through ADMAS, the scholarships and support framework for Israeli-Ethiopians students at TAU, which is administered by the Dean of Students. 

“Without the scholarship, I don’t think I would be able to pursue my degree as effectively as I can now and live so close to the University campus, which makes a difference,” says Bogala, who is originally from Yavne, a city south of Tel Aviv. 

She adds that the scholarship gives her extra incentive to succeed in her studies, “to show the Hararis that I truly appreciate the support and am using it to the best of my ability.” 

Gateway to Success 

Bogala is the youngest of eight siblings and a first-generation university student. She was born in Israel after her parents and all but one older sibling made aliyah to Israel from Ethiopia.  

“My parents made aliyah from Ethiopia, and it was always important to them that we succeed in our educations and continue to academia, which they see as the gateway to success and full integration into Israeli society,” she says. 

In high school, Bogala participated in a program for gifted students. She points to her empathetic and curious nature for contributing to her interest in psychology as a way to understand herself and others. 

“I was always the friend whom people came to for advice and to lend an ear for their problems,” she recalls.  

Although she didn’t have any English language background growing up, she excelled in the subject and developed a passion for literature. She says her English literature studies at TAU greatly help her digest academic material related to psychology, which is mainly written in English. 

Following her bachelor’s degree, Bogala plans to pursue a master’s degree and complete a four-year residency to become a licensed clinical psychologist.  

She encourages aspiring students to seek financial aid opportunities, without hesitation, through the Dean of Students Office.  

“I don’t take for granted the support my scholarship provides,” she underscores. “I hope to one day be in a position to help others thrive and achieve their dreams as the Hararis have helped me.” 

 

– By Julie Steigerwald 

From City of God to the Holy Land

Brazilian student will apply TAU expertise in social innovation to empower youth in her impoverished hometown.

As a girl, TAU scholarship student Ana Letícia Araújo would accompany her mother from their favela in Rio de Janeiro to her job as a housekeeper in an affluent neighborhood. Her mother’s employer was an esteemed university professor, and Araújo marveled at how the professora and her children spoke English and travelled abroad to pursue their education. 

The experience planted the seed of ambition in Araújo to study for an academic degree. The odds were against her. Her neighborhood, called City of God, is a crime-ridden shantytown made infamous by a movie of the same name; she grew up among criminals small and large, drug dealers and other unsavory characters. “For a person who grew up like me to see beyond this is very hard,” she says.  

Moreover, she couldn’t afford tutoring or extra-curricular activities to feed her dream. 

After finishing public school, she was accepted to a state university. Yet, she couldn’t afford to pay tuition and support herself simultaneously, so she decided to work and save money—to be able to one day pursue higher education. Inspired by her mother’s boss, she remained resolute to study abroad, so she taught herself English, costly college prep courses being out of reach. 

Fifteen years later, she is a student in TAU International’s BA in Liberal Arts program, majoring in psychology, entrepreneurship and philosophy. Her ultimate goal: to return to her hometown and help children like her lead better lives.  

Social Entrepreneurship 

When Araújo was applying to universities, she initially looked in the US and Europe. After seeing an advertisement for TAU, though, she decided that it was the place for her because of its world-class reputation and focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. More practically, TAU offered her a scholarship, the deciding factor in her decision to enroll. 

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be in Israel because I would not be able to afford the rent or tuition,” she says. Support from the Brazilian Friends of TAU Scholarship Fund and TAU  

 

International helps her “feel more relaxed to be studying, so I can focus on what matters.”  

Araújo says she is very happy to be at TAU, where she lives in the dorms. When it comes to academics, she values her instructors and the multidisciplinary curriculum. “I love the classes, especially those that help us develop critical thought and our own initiatives,” she adds.  

She has also adapted well to Tel Aviv: “I love the way things work here! The safety of the city is different for me.” 

Ana Letícia Araújo. (Photo: Moshe Bedarshi)

Ripple Effect 

As her first year at TAU comes to an end, Araújo remains focused on developing a social start-up she started planning in Brazil. Incorporating TAU’s multidisciplinary approach, she plans to teach orphans from her favela informal skills such as cooking, sports and music, to help them succeed in life. She says she brings added value as a native and intends to involve the residents as well. Combining this with the expertise in innovation and social entrepreneurship she is accruing at TAU, Araújo believes she can create something truly original—and effective. 

The opportunity will have a ripple effect on her community, she says. “I always believed that education can transform people and transform the world,” Araújo says.  

“To give a scholarship to someone is like to [plant] a tree that has roots and branches,” she continues.  

“The day I received my scholarship was a very important moment in my life. Maybe through me, other lives can be changed, too.” 

– By Melanie Takefman 

Nursing People through Hard Times

Tami Fund Scholarship gives TAU student Hodaya Levy Rublin the chance to follow her dream.

As a teenager, Hodaya Levy Rublin fell in love with the nursing profession when she volunteered at a children’s hospital. Watching the nurses work mesmerized her. She knew then that she wanted to be like them.

The Tami Fund Scholarship she received for studies at TAU’s Steyer School of Health Professions has been an indispensable element of her journey.

“I want to be the best nurse you’ve ever seen,” she says, adding that she aspires to specialize in pediatric emergency medicine.

Uphill Struggle

Levy Rublin’s path to enrolling at university was not easy. Growing up as the seventh of nine children in a single-parent family, she didn’t imagine a future that included higher education. She studied at an Orthodox religious school that did not teach a curriculum that could lead to academic studies. In high school, though, she transferred to a less religious school, so that she could matriculate. 

Upon completing her national service as a companion for elderly women, “who became like my grandmothers,” Levy Rublin took a waitressing job to save for university studies. Even though she worked double shifts for five years, she could never put aside enough after paying her basic expenses. 

When COVID-19 struck, she lost her job. With encouragement from her new husband, she enrolled in an undergraduate program at TAU, even though she didn’t have funds to pay tuition.
Then, once on TAU’s campus, Levy Rublin wasn’t sure that she belonged. 

 

 

The Dean of Students’ Financial Aid Office matched her with a scholarship from the Tami Fund, set up to assist students with socioeconomic need. 

Validation

“Receiving the scholarship helped me believe that I deserve to be here, that TAU is my place,” Levy Rublin said. “It gave me the opportunity to concentrate on my studies and be a good student, without worrying about paying the bills.
“I love people. In the emergency room, you meet people of all ages. I think I have the ability to communicate with different people. I want to be there [for them] in their hard times, to make them feel a little bit better and to give back to society.” In addition, she said she knows how to withstand pressure and believes she will excel in the ER’s intensive atmosphere.

“My profession and the opportunity given to me by the scholarship will allow me to succeed in life,” Levy Rublin said.

-By Melanie Takefman

The Business of Balagan: Global MBA Propels Student’s Career

A TAU scholarship helped Eitan Rozen secure an international degree—and job

After three years working at a global consultancy firm in his native Mexico, Eitan Rozen knew he wanted to pursue graduate studies abroad, but Israel wasn’t an obvious choice.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought him on a family visit to Israel. At the time, very few scholarships were available in Latin America, so he decided to visit the Sofaer Global MBA program at Tel Aviv University. He liked the fact that TAU is “recognized in the world” and its curriculum focuses on entrepreneurship, innovation and the startup ecosystem, subjects that complemented his undergraduate studies in Mexico. He was also partial to the Program’s intensive one-year curriculum.

A scholarship from the Program put his plan into action. “Studying at TAU and living in Israel would not have been possible without the generosity of people who donate scholarships,” Rozen says. ”I, for one, and many other students wouldn’t be here without this help.

“It’s 100% necessary and appreciated.”

Now, with a fresh MBA degree from TAU’s Coller School of Management under his belt, Rozen says he recommends the program wholeheartedly, from the academics to the networking opportunities. Although things are sometimes disorganized (“a balagan”), he loves the program’s personal touch and the fact that he can knock on the director’s door whenever he wants. “It’s the Israeli way.”

“We are an incredibly diverse group,” he adds, with 40 students from 22 different countries. 

When in Rome…

Rozen quickly adapted to the Tel Aviv mindset. He had asked his firm in Mexico if he could transfer to the Israeli office for the duration of his degree. They said no.

He then went to the Israeli office, announced, and secured part-time work that lasted his entire degree. Now that he has graduated, they offered him a full-time job. He plans to stay indefinitely.

He says the Sofaer MBA “gave me the tools to grow personally and professionally and achieve better things in life.” Rozen continues, “I love everything….the environment, the vibe, the University, getting to know people, living and experiencing a great campus, the diversity, top professors. It’s a unique experience. Plus, you live in Tel Aviv.”

– By Melanie Takefman

 

From EMT to MIT: Shai Zilberzwige-Tal’s Fast-Track Journey in Life Sciences

Scholarship helps outstanding student follow her dreams.

When Shai Zilberzwige-Tal completed her army service, during which she was an emergency medical technician (EMT) stationed along the Gaza Strip, she knew she wanted to learn more about helping people combat disease.  

Now, eight years later, she’s getting ready to travel to Boston, with a PhD, two kids, and a husband in tow, to begin a post-doctoral position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in cell biology.

“This is a dream come true for me, and the scholarship support I received throughout my studies has been instrumental in making it happen,” she said.

Zilberzwige-Tal grew up in a small town in the south of Israel. After the army, she enrolled at TAU’s Wise Faculty of Life Sciences as an undergraduate student in biology. From the start of her academic journey, she showed her exceptional talent and drive: she was on the Dean’s list two years in a row, received an excellency award and graduated with honors. 

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Zilberzwige-Tal enrolled in the exclusive Fast Track Program at TAU’s Smolarz Graduate School. The program for outstanding students offers a direct path to a PhD in four years. For Zilberzwige-Tal, the road took five years, with two maternity leaves in the midst. The Argentinian Friends of TAU support this program, in which participating students receive full coverage of tuition and a living stipend.

 

“Scholarships are very important in promoting science and research in general. Students really rely on this help to get ahead,” said Zilberzwige-Tal. “Thanks to the support of scholarships, I was able to concentrate on my research and invest most of my time in my studies.” 

While studying towards her PhD at the microbiology lab in the Shmunis Center of Biomedicine & Cancer Research, Zilberzwige-Tal continued to prove that she was an exceptional student and a leader on numerous occasions. She was nominated as the Faculty’s Student Union representative for three years in a row, and she received an excellency award for her work as a teaching assistant. Recently, Zilberzwige-Tal was awarded an early career research grant from NANOSERIES for her contribution to developing a disease-modifying treatment for rare genetic metabolic disorders.

During her time at MIT, Zilberzwige-Tal plans to continue her research in gene-editing technologies. “These technologies hold great promise for the treatment of human disease,” she said.  She also hopes to reach out and initiate collaborations with world-leading scientists—collaborations that she will continue once she completes the fellowship and returns home to open her own lab in Israel, she says.

Forging a Brighter Future through Caring

Motivated by scholarship for Israeli-Ethiopian students, TAU nursing undergrad aims to advance society through healthcare, academia and philanthropy.

In both her professional and personal ambitions, Tel Aviv University nursing student Wudnesh Wolde Giorgis is driven by a passion for helping others and especially those in need.  

“I chose to study nursing so I can help people in times of difficulty; it’s a privilege for me,” she says, as she completes her undergraduate degree in nursing studies at the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions. “I grew up in a family that places a great emphasis on giving and caring for others. It’s part of who I am.”  

Giorgis, 26, is one of nine siblings and the first in her family to pursue higher education. She was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah to Israel with her family when she was five. They settled in the central city of Rishon Lezion, where Giorigs says she had a typical Israeli upbringing, going through the public education system before serving in the IDF. 

Personally Meaningful Support 

To help her achieve her academic goals, Giorgis received a scholarship backed by French philanthropists Andre and Thérèse Harari. The scholarship fund provides full degree support for 20 TAU students of Ethiopian descent each year. The Hararis’ family foundation established the scholarship program at TAU in the 2017-2018 academic year in association with the French Judaism Foundation and French Friends of TAU. 

“Their support isn’t just limited to the duration of time at the University; it’s personally meaningful and can change the whole life of the person who receives it,” Giorgis says. “They enabled me to focus on my studies in peace without worrying about the financial side of things.” 

After completing her military service, she set her sights on pursuing a university education. Giorgis worked various jobs since high school and has worked nights as a security officer throughout her studies The scholarship, she says, enables her to take fewer work shifts than she would have to in order to cover her living expenses apart from tuition.  

“My parents are my biggest cheerleaders. I’m so grateful for their support and cherish everything they’ve done for me throughout the years,” she says. “Still, they have a lot to look out for at home and there aren’t many extra finances.” 

Andre Harari explains that upon the establishment of their family foundation in 2017, “we rapidly identified the obstacles many Israeli-Ethiopian students face in pursuing higher education, and were quite astonished by the difficulties they encountered, due in particular to the low financial income of their families. 

“We felt a sense of urgency to promote their access and social integration in higher education while also offering them financial support,” he says. “Our scholarship program aims to increase their low representation within the general student body and to enable them to pursue paths of excellence for their future professional life.” 

Foundations for Success 

Giorgis explains that while she has received several scholarships, this one stands out due to the donors’ personal involvement.  

“The Hararis are amazing, and their support extends far beyond the financial aspects,” she exclaims. “They visit us on campus each year. They really want their scholarship recipients to succeed. I appreciate how much they care.” 

Beyond her scholarship, Giorgis received an additional stipend from the Hararis during the height of COVID-19 to assist with living costs while campus shuttered and courses went completely online.  

“Their support makes a lasting impact from the recipient’s early days in academia to their professional establishment,” she says. “It enables recipients to build a solid educational background and professional success so they can fulfill their biggest dreams and support themselves and their family, and even help those around them.” 

Andre Harari adds: “We are so happy and proud to have accompanied Wudnesh throughout the four years of her bachelor’s in nursing. We have always enjoyed hearing about her academic progress and future aspirations.” 

Future Aims: PhD to Philanthropy  

Following her graduation and certification, Giorgis hopes to work in a demanding specialty such as intensive care or maternity nursing.  

“By far, the most incredible experience during my studies was witnessing a birth in the maternity ward during clinical training at the hospital,” she recalls.  

In addition to clinical practice, she also hopes to eventually pursue advanced degrees up to a PhD. 

“It’s something I’ve really set my sights on because I believe it’s up to us in nursing to advance the field with further research and understanding,” she says. “People like the Hararis help make it possible.” 

The impact of the Hararis’ contributions and personal engagement with the students they support has inspired Giorgis to help society in other ways as well: “I hope to be on the giving side of philanthropy one day.” 

– By Julie Steigerwald 

An Unexpected Fit: From Yeshiva to TAU Law School

Trailblazers program & scholarship helped Daniel Ben Zeev find his place at TAU.

Daniel Ben Zeev is one of many second-year students at Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann Faculty of Law, but the path that led him there is a less-travelled one. Ben Zeev grew up in in an ultra-Orthodox family in the city of Bnei Brak, home to several of Israel’s largest and strictest religious communities. He received a traditional religious education, attending all-boy elementary and middle schools, followed by eight years in a system of yeshivas, where he was trained in religious studies with no education in secular subjects. 

 When he married at the age of 22, Ben Zeev had no specific plans for a future career. His wife Yael, however, was already a student at TAU’s Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine. “About a year into our marriage, I decided that I, too, wanted an education that would enable me to have a job and give back to society,” he said.  

Ben Zeev was interested in studying law, a field popular among many religious students because of its similarities to Talmudic studies. TAU was a natural choice for him because he could share the commute with Yael, but he didn’t know where to start.  “The entire system of secular education was foreign to me,” he explained, smiling shyly.   

Ben Zeev called TAU to inquire about admissions, and that’s when he was referred to Trailblazers: the Program for Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox into Tel Aviv University. Traiblazers accompanies the students “from application to graduation”, providing academic and social support, including tutoring, career and psychological counselling, social events and more.   

“With the help of the Program and its dedicated director Galia Givoly, I was able to successfully navigate the enrolment process and prepare for law studies at TAU,” Ben Zeev said.   

 Traiblazers also helped Ben Zeev obtain a scholarship. “Both my wife and I receive scholarships from TAU,” explained Ben Zeev. “Our degrees require a lot of time investment and leave few options for holding down a job. I currently work three times a week, but without a scholarship I’d need to work double that amount, which would be a disaster for my studies. My wife, in her 6th year of dental school, does not have time to work at all,” he said. “Without the support of our scholarships, we wouldn’t be able to complete our studies.”  

 As this article went to print, Daniel and Yael Ben Zeev were expecting their first child. At this exciting time in their lives, they are thankful to the Trailblazers program and scholarships at TAU for enabling their success in academia. “I want to become a lawyer and give back to society, which will be possible with the help of these wonderful programs,” Ben Zeev concluded.  

 

By Sveta Raskin

 

A Rising Star in STEM and Social Engagement

TAU student and Schulich Leader Kochava Pavlov overcame adversity to succeed in academia and beyond.

TAU undergrad Kochava Pavlov always loved learning, but for many years she didn’t believe that she would be part of the academic world because she wouldn’t be able to afford it or wouldn’t qualify.  

Pavlov, 25, grew up in Jerusalem in challenging family circumstances. At age 10, social services placed her in Israel’s boarding school system which houses youth who need a safe place to live. At 14, a friend’s family adopted her, providing her with vital support through her high school years. 

“I used to doubt that I would even graduate high school let alone enter university,” she says.  

Nonetheless, she excelled in high school—particularly in scientific disciplines—and went on to volunteer and work in roles teaching youth and children with special needs. With her standout academics and record of social leadership, she was one of 10 TAU students selected for the 2020-21 Schulich Leader Scholarships program. Now, finishing her second year at TAU studying math with a concentration in computer science, she has her sights set on making a difference for Israeli society.  

“Winning the Scholarship showed me how much others believe in me and want me to succeed,” says Pavlov. “It reaffirmed my belief in what I can accomplish and is helping me pursue my dream of getting a university degree.” 

The Schulich Leader Scholarships program accepts 55 students in total from five participating Israeli universities each year. It was established in 2012 by prominent Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Seymour Schulich. The competitive program enables outstanding students – in Israel and Canada – to dedicate themselves to their demanding studies and aims to nurture the next global scientific leaders. The scholarships are granted based on merit, social leadership, and financial need. 

The program supports the entire course of studies for an undergraduate degree in scientific and technological fields. Nearly 90 scholarships have been granted to TAU students since the program’s launch. 

Paying it Forward 

In spite of her challenging upbringing, Pavlov explains that several of her teachers were key to keeping her motivated early in her academic journey. At age 11, she began fencing, in which she excelled. In high school she faced a dilemma of whether to focus on qualifying for Israel’s National Team or schoolwork. Ultimately, she stuck with academics as she believed it would provide her with more opportunities. 

“My teachers’ belief in me helped me to not fall [victim to my circumstances] during my childhood,” she says.  

Pavlov credits the support throughout the years from the boarding school staff to social workers, her adopted family, and the Schulich Scholarship for helping her reach her current successes.  

After high school, Pavlov joined Israel’s Sherut Leumi (“National Service”), a voluntary alternative to military duty, where she discovered her passion for working with children with special needs.  

After finishing her year of national service at age 19, she tutored a child on the autism spectrum for two years. Then, after a few months volunteering and traveling in Africa, she returned to Israel and was accepted to TAU.  

“Ultimately, my dream is to combine my abilities and academic knowledge of math and computer science with my love for helping kids, perhaps by working at an NGO or a school,” she says. “I hope to pay forward the support I’ve received and help others who come from hard backgrounds or struggle with uncertainty.” 

She adds that part of her ambition is to empower others who come from unconventional backgrounds to realize their potential to succeed.  

“When you come from a hard family life, something causes you to think you might not succeed in the way that people from other backgrounds do,” she says. “I want to show others that it is possible to follow their dreams.” 

 

– By Julie Steigerwald

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