Prof. Sam Noah Lehman-Wilzig



Prof. Sam Noah Lehman-Wilzig
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Dr. Chaim Noy
Communication
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Last update: 23-Aug-2010
Full Time Faculty, Communications
Homepage: www.profslw.com

Education in general, and higher education in particular, have always been a serious "ancillary" subject in my career. To the layman this may sound strange: what could be merely "ancillary" about education if that's what I do for a living? However, the Israeli university system rewards research accomplishments exclusively -- no promotion credit is given for superior teaching, serious M.A./PhD supervision or any related work outside the walls of academe. My teaching quality I leave for others to evaluate. My M.A./PhD supervision record speaks for itself, especially in light of the fact that many of my PhD students have found permanent positions in Israeli academia. I will focus here on the "extra-curricular" activity.

First, I have taught online courses from the start of the millennium, one of the first to do so in Bar-Ilan. Since 2002 I have been teaching a fully online course (appropriately titled: "Internet Revolution") which I developed and have constantly revised technically and substantively in light of developments in the field. As department chairman I pushed online education in my department and revolutionized our M.A. pre-requisite course schedule by turning them all (7 courses) into online courses offered in the summer prior to the start of M.A. studies (Israeli M.A. pre-requisite courses are almost always taken simultaneously with the degree courses -- palpably absurd from a purely pedagogical perspective).

Second, in the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s I served as Chairman of the Ministry of Education's Steering Committee to develop a program in Communications at the high school level for the mainstream religious school system, which is now being implemented.

Third, as department chairman I wrote a weekly blog in Hebrew on the department's site, entitled: "Education. Higher?" For those interested, the 78 posts can be found on my personal website (www.profslw.com), along with the full text of almost my scholarly articles.

Fourth, in 2004 I created and have since taught a course that to the best of my knowledge does not exist in any other Israeli university: "Publications, Lecturing and the Academic World". This is a required workshop in our department's PhD program -- colloquially called by our PhD students: "everything you didn't know (and didn't know to ask) about a career in academia". The course covers everything related to a professorial career: the post-doc experience, conference papers, publishing articles and books, creating and teaching courses (including how to write a syllabus and exam questions), the structure of universities, promotion procedures, the grant proposal enterprise, etc.

In 2008-09 I was the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Scholar at Brown University (Providence, RI), where I taught courses on Zionism as well as the Jewish Political Tradition. During that year I also gave over two dozen public lectures around the U.S. (universities, JCCs and synagogues) on various topics related to Israeli politics and society.

Academic Bio 1

Most people tend to "slide" serendipitously, without too much planning, into their career. Not in my case.

The fact that I chose to spend my professional life as an academic is due in great part to several professors who acted as role models, if not mentors in the formal sense. The first one, though, wasn't a professor at all: Mr. Yaacov Aaronson, my social science teacher in high school who illustrated that political and social history was not merely a matter of dates and events but rather a function of deep-rooted trends and intellectual forces. Without a doubt I chose to major in Political Science because of him (by striking coincidence, he ended up as head Librarian in my university in Israel!). In college (CCNY), my most influential teacher was Dr. George McKenna whose course in Political Philosophy opened my eyes and mind to the wider life of intellect beyond what had been for me until then the brilliant but narrow confines of Judaism.

At Harvard I was fortunate to study with several "stars" in the substantive sense of the word. Prof. Seymour Martin Lipset (for whom I worked as a TA in his Political Sociology course) showed that a VIP professor can also be a huge "mensch", interested in a student's personal life in addition to academic achievement. Prof. Louis Hartz's overwhelmingly panoramic lectures in American Liberal Thought (the only professor I have ever seen to receive standing ovations from his own class!) was an exemplar of what a stimulating lecture experience can be like -- no need for gimmicks, just excellent organization of a vast array of material and brilliant insights. Prof. Samuel Huntington, my PhD supervisor, showed me that "students come first" -- despite a very heavy schedule (he was a famous scholar already back in the mid-1970s), I would normally receive comments on my PhD chapters within 48 hours. Prof. Daniel Bell of "Post-Industrial Society" fame, however, probably had the greatest impact on my academic future. His wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary intellect has enabled me to withstand the "warnings" from well-meaning friends that in our academic world which puts a premium on "disciplinary depth", I shouldn't "spread myself out too much". In Isaiah Berlin's terminology, I am a research "fox" and not a "hedgehog". Moreover, in Prof. Bell's course "Social Forecasting" I came to learn that "researching the future" can well be a respectable academic undertaking -- the anchor for some of my more creative scholarly work, and certainly my current research to be described below.

Harvard's program reinforced this "foxy" trans-disciplinary approach. Each PhD student had to gain expertise in four different sub-disciplines, and pass a two-hour oral exam in the presence of four academic experts. I chose Public & Constitutional Law, Modern Political Philosophy, Middle East Politics, and Modern Jewish History. While each had a place in my subsequent career -- whether in the classroom, supervising PhD students or in journal articles -- two of my three major areas of research ultimately lay elsewhere: Israeli Extra-Parliamentary Behavior (the first 15 years of research); Mass Communications (the second 15 years). I leave for others to decide if I am the quintessential "jack of all trades, master of none".

Why spend so much time on early academic influences? Aside from the specific contributions of the above individuals (and several others: Prof. Joyce Gelb at CCNY and Prof. Judith Shklar at Harvard), collectively they have taught me that academia is not simply a "profession" but actually a "calling". While scholars are expected to produce new knowledge through creative and original research, the "job description" in fact includes much more than that: inspiring teacher, personal mentor, intellectual inspiration, horizon expander. Whatever shortcomings I might have as a scholar, I have done my utmost to fulfill the broader calling as some elements of my CV attest: creating wide-ranging, diverse and somewhat unusual course topics; supervising numerous research students (thesis and dissertation); developing new academic programs & expanding existing ones; creating and utilizing new teaching methods. More on these a bit later on (see "Academic Bio 2").

Israeli Extra-Parliamentary Behavior: Perhaps as a result of having gone to college during one of the most socially and politically tumultuous periods in modern history (the Sixties), immediately upon arrival in Israel I was struck by the large amount of demonstrations and other forms of socio-political protest and decided to devote my energies not only to describing the phenomenon but also to analyzing and understanding the sources and factors underlying it -- and to what extent it was successful in inducing change. This took me in several directions simultaneously: police files, newspaper archives, the Bible and Jewish history, economic data, sociological phenomena, etc. As a result, on this subject area I produced about a dozen articles and a book (which I also translated to Hebrew, adding a new chapter on the Jewish historical roots of "oppositionism"). When I finished, coming to the conclusion that despite its frequency and high level of public participation the phenomenon overall was not very successful, I then asked what would a "stiff-necked people" do in light of the Establishment's inflexibility? The answer was the focus of my next book: the Israeli public would take matters into its own hands, building a massive and wide-ranging "alternative" system of public self-service. This book also identified the beginnings of real change and predicted that systemic reforms would continue into the future which is what has happened since the late 1980s with increasing force.

Mass Communications: In the early 1980s Bar-Ilan University set up a post-graduate, professional certificate program in mass communication studies. When it encountered problems in 1991 I was asked to run the program. The field was not totally foreign to me. First, as noted in my Personal Profile, my wife Tami studied and worked in communications and by osmosis (and occasional spousal help) I picked up a lot of knowledge on the professional side. Second, my Israeli protest research involved studying the Israeli press and I had even published an article which looked closely at the interconnection between protest and the media. Third, my "extra-curricular" futurism and technology interests had already led me early in my career to publish an article or two on what would later be called "New Media".

But these were insufficient to base a "second" scholarly career on. I thus taught myself the basics, classics, and canonical works of "Mass Comm" in order to properly research and write on the subject. I got my feet wet by publishing Israel's first Hebrew-language Textbook of media that included public relations and advertising, in addition to the print press, radio and TV. What made this doubly unusual is that it combined theoretical analysis of the media with an equally large section that applied the principles in several extended hypothetical case studies, with specific practical prescriptions. While not published by an academic press, this book has been used widely in various Israeli mass communication courses. Parenthetically, I should add that a couple of years later I also published a children's fiction book (about setting up and running a summer outdoor juice stand) that "taught" young readers about all the elements that go into establishing a business: strategy, pricing, advertising, marketing, business ethics, competition, worker compensation. It sold out and is unfortunately out of print.

From a scholarly standpoint, I have concentrated on two sub-fields that eventually coalesced: political communication (especially election campaigns); new media. The former is based on my prior expertise in political science; the latter on my work in future technology.

In 1994 my university decided to establish a B.A. degree granting program of study in Public Communications within my department. Given my position as head of the professional, certificate program I naturally stepped in to help getting it off the ground; in 1996 upon completing my chairmanship of the professional program (more than tripling the student body under my tenure) I devoted my energies to expanding the degree program to M.A. and a bit later to PhD studies. As the most senior lecturer in the program I also bore the brunt of thesis supervision, which explains (along with lots of hard work) why I have supervised to successful completion 50 Master's thesis students (and around 15 PhDs as well), almost all in Public Communications -- several of whom now teach and research the field in Israel. (I should note parenthetically that during part of this period I also served as the Chairman of the Israeli Political Science Association, 1997-1999.) My job became "official" in the early 2000s as department Vice Chairman in charge of Public Communications, and then in 2004-07 overall Department Chairman (Political Science & Communications). After completion of this last hyper-demanding job (during an era of massive budget cuts in Israeli academia in general), I am presently taking a break after 16 years of almost consecutive academic administration work -- passing the baton to Prof. Eytan Gilboa who is leading the process to finally set up our program as an independent department in its own right.

I am presently working on two book-length projects: 1) The existence and central role of virtuality in human existence: ancient world, modern times, contemporary present, and the future; 2) A developmental model of the full life cycle of new media: incubation, birth, growth, maturity, defensive posture vis-?-vis newer media, adaptation/convergence/ death. I hope to complete these in 2010 and 2011 respectively.