A Media Mogul Creates STEM Education's Richest Foreign Exchange Program

Just when we think the STEM locomotive might be slowing down, it speeds up again.

The news this time is that STEM education just got another substantial, high-profile investment from philanthropy, this one from media and real estate tycoon Mort Zuckerman.

His $100 million STEM Leadership Program, announced in New York City, is designed to support graduate level and post-doc scientists in the U.S., and extend their training at four leading science and technology institutions in Israel.

The scholarship initiative, which Zuckerman's foundation has committed to support for 20 years, is also designed to foster greater collaboration between scientists and businesspeople in the two countries, the result of what are hoped to be lasting relationships.

Starting this year, the program will give American students the chance to work with researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University; and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The program is open to all qualified American students.

Israel's STEM community is disproportionately productive in terms of both academic and business innovation. The Zuckerman announcement says the scholarship program will give American students experience in Israel's research and start-up culture.  

Meanwhile, researchers in Israel benefit from the program's substantial funding.

“At a time when collaboration is essential to advanced scientific research, this program gives the next generations of leading American and Israeli academics the ability to work together on cutting-edge research in ways that stand to benefit their fields for years to come,” Zuckerman said in a press release. “The result will help transform not just the work of the scholars involved, but the way the United States and Israel approach collaboration and cooperation across the sciences.”

For more information on the scholarship, including how to apply, check out the program’s website.

Zuckerman, who was born in Canada but is now a U.S. citizen, owns the Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, as well as real estate investment trust Boston Properties. He's worth an estimated $2.4 billion, but his influence is reflected in the people quoted in the press release announcing the scholarship program: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

This is not Zuckerman's only big philanthropic move—we've discussed, for example, his $200 million give to Columbia University, to endow the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. He has also supported Israel and Jewish causes.

Of course, if you're looking for STEM grants for programs in this country, you'll have to find other programs. We still need more investment for U.S. students at the K-12 and undergraduate levels, per the experts who worry that the U.S. will lose its edge in tech. The best way to build that capacity is by making it easier for every American kid to get solid STEM educationthrough broad-based increases in STEM education in our public schools.