Fall 2011

Universities Vied for Karen Lavi

Karen Lavi

Karen was accepted for the Master's program in Psychology at Tel Aviv University. Bar Ilan suggested a direct path to a doctorate and threw in a scholarship to boot. And, that was even before she had completed her undergraduate degree at the Open University.

While Karen Lavi was doing her military service, she looked for "something intellectually challenging" and decided to try a few courses at the Open University. As a soldier, the Open University was the only academic option for her. The first course -- 'Introduction to Psychology' was exciting. "I received low marks in the course," Karen relates, "when I say low, I mean 90, because I was used to getting higher marks." I took another two courses 'Developmental Psychology' and 'Personality: Theory and Research' -- and then I 'got it', so to speak. I understood that this was what I really wanted to learn."

When she finished her military service, Karen already knew that she wanted to do research in psychology. She started to work in the computer field in order to pay for her studies, and while doing that the question of where she should study kept popping up. Actually, the decision was easy. She chose the Open University partly because the University made it possible for her to continue working and earning a living, but also because when she started comparing what she learned at the Open University vs. what her friends were learning at other universities, she saw that the Open University was on a high level.

Anxious to conduct research in physiology, Karen turned to a number of other universities in Israel, but without much success. Then one day she heard that a special laboratory course in advanced psychology for outstanding students had opened at the Open University. This was exactly the field she was interested in specializing. She was ecstatic. She easily met the requirements, after all twice she was magna cum laude (average above 95), but she was still a bit hesitant. She had only one more semester before completing her undergraduate degree, and this course spanned a year, which would mean postponing completing her undergraduate degree by a half-a-year and delaying her next degree. A conversation with Dr. Ravid Doron, who designed the course, helped to clarify matters. Karen signed up.

Karen recalls, "towards the end of the course I began to think about the next step, and checked where I might be able to continue my research. I had three options: a master's in psychology at Tel Aviv University, or a master's in psychology research at Bar Ilan University, but I had missed registration by half a year. There was also a direct track to a doctorate at Bar Ilan University, but I never thought I had a chance."

"I sent my curriculum vitae to all three programs along with the research study I did with Dr. Ravid Doron. Tel Aviv University accepted me, in spite of my late application, and when I met with the head of the department she said to me "We love Open University students. With your marks, you will have no problem here and there is no reason that you can't be accepted in spite of applying late."

"I was accepted. I called Bar Ilan immediately and told them that I was removing my candidacy, after all I never thought I had a chance to be accepted. There were a lot of other candidates, and only five openings for the direct track to a doctorate. If I was already accepted at Tel Aviv University -- what did I need this additional pressure for? Then they persuaded me to reconsider. I decided to leave in my application. Two days later, they informed me that I was accepted, which in the end, created a more serious dilemma for me. I called Dr. Doron to consult with him, and together we decided that my best option was at Bar Ilan University."

"A 90 at the Open University is like 100 anywhere else"

"When people hear that I studied at the Open University, they respond in one of two ways: if they are not familiar with the institution, they raise an eyebrow and ask "Why?" But if they are familiar with the institution, they say, "What...but it's so hard." Among academics there is enormous respect for the Open University. During one of my recent interviews, one of the interviewers said to me 'a 90 at the Open University is like a 100 in a 'regular university.'

Karen did not only gain knowledge at the Open University. During the two months when she was deliberating where to study, and how to continue her studies, she received an enormous amount of help and support from the Open University. "Not just Dr. Ravid Doron, who was like a personal advisor and 'wailing wall', but also supportive and encouraging. When I needed a letter of recommendation, Professor Ruth Bate-Merom, who was on sabbatical in the United States, sent me one immediately. The Open University is technically a university of distance learning, but in fact, they make an enormous effort to be very close to the students."

Another feather in her cap

Karen Lavi's 'rewards' have not ceased here. Karen was recently named Israel's winner of the Famelab competition. Started in 2005 in the United Kingdom, Famelab has quickly become a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers. This is the second time that an the Open University graduate represents Israel in the Famelab competition; three years ago, it was Shani Weindorgan also, like Karen, from the Open University's Department of Education and Psychology.

Congratulations, Karen!