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BGU Lecturer Among Most Influential Women in Israel

BGU Lecturer Among Most Influential Women in Israel

July 16, 2018

Leadership, Awards & Events, Negev Development & Community Programs

Dr. Sarah Abu-Kaf, a faculty member and lecturer in cross-cultural psychology in Ben-Gurion University’s Conflict Management and Resolution Program, and the first clinical psychologist in Bedouin society, has been selected as one of the 50 most influential women by Forbes Israel magazine, as part of their Power Women 2018 campaign.

Dr. Sarah Abu-Kaf

The announcement was made on July 12, 2018 at the Power Women 2018 event​ in Tel Aviv, where the special edition of the magazine was launched in the presence of Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and other women featured on the list.

The story of Dr. Abu-Kaf is an inspirational one. She completed a B.A., M.A and Ph.D. degree at BGU – all the while commuting from a village with no running water or electricity. She then continued her postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Currently, she leads initiatives at BGU to counter academic dropout among Arab and Bedouin students.

The idea that Bedouin students could need psychological support met reality once Dr. Abu-Kaf engaged with the college environment. “Coming to the University so young was difficult. The Jewish students were all older with such different life experience. The gaps between the groups became obvious to me.”

Her research covers a wide range of topics, including mental health issues in different cultural groups, adjustment to academic life by Arab and Bedouin students, and the coping methods of men and women from the Ethiopian community going through divorce.

Combining theory, research and experience, Dr. Abu-Kaf tries to understand mental health issues so that she can develop culturally appropriate intervention programs.

“I try to encourage people to think about differences without being judgmental. If you want help, you must understand other people’s motivations – why they take care of their mother a certain way; why they have many children; why the father takes direction of his children’s lives.”

Dr. Abu-Kaf has won a number of prestigious awards and scholarships, including the 2011 Fulbright scholarship and the “Maof” postdoctoral scholarship for outstanding Arab lecturers in 2013. The Marker listed Dr. Abu-Kaf as one of the 40 most promising young researchers. In 2014, the U.S. Embassy named her to the Women in Science Hall of Fame, and in 2016 Dr. Abu-Kaf was the winner of the Council for Higher Education Award in the young researcher category.

Read more about her in the 2018 Summer issue of Impact, AABGU’s biannual publication.