For three years, Mark Brand, PhD, dreamed of leading a study abroad trip to Israel. Four months after his tragic death, that dream was realized by five students.
Brand, assistant professor of marketing studies, developed the idea for a trip during a visit to his daughter and son-in-law in Israel in 2009. That same year he learned of his cancer diagnosis. "He came back with the idea of a trip that would focus on Israel's high-tech industry, challenging how students look at Israel by studying something other than religion," said Brand's wife, Maxine.
The support of the Quad Cities Jewish community and the Heeren Family Scholarship Fund for Israel Studies offset a portion of student costs. Brand worked hard to iron out other details. "As sick as he was, he traveled to Israel in 2010 to put the initial pieces together," said Maxine. "Maybe it was knowing that he had a short time."
In early January, the students and two faculty members departed the Quad Cities for the two-week trip, which included stops in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and southern Israel. The group visited sites of cultural and religious significance, plus several colleges and universities. Interwoven was the study of business, marketing and economics.
Raised on an Iowa farm, senior Joe Bailey focused his research on high-tech agriculture. "Being in the desert, Israelis have realized incredible advancements in irrigation," he said. "I discovered farmers turning irrigation systems on and off with cell phones, as well as checking soil moisture and temperature that way. It was amazing."
Ian Ross '10, a graduate student in accounting, was impressed by a company that manufactured electric cars. "They created and offered an entire infrastructure of support, such as battery exchange and charging packages, akin to cell phone plans," he said.
Sophomore Kemper Rusteberg was fascinated by a visit to Kafrit, a global plastics manufacturing company. It is owned by a kibbutz, or communal settlement. "The kibbutz is the CEO, very interesting from a managing perspective," said Rusteberg.
Rusteberg said Brand's dream will help shape his future.
"Dr. Brand would say that you've got to be able to 'market' yourself," he said. "A trip like this really puts us in a place to do so, very positively. I believe SAU's Israel study abroad program was his crowning achievement."
For more information about the Heeren scholarship or to donate to the fund, contact Sally Crino in the St. Ambrose Advancement Office at 563/333-6080.
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