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Professor and Students Conducted Research in Israel

Posted on Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dr. Sherri Pataki, Westminster College assistant professor of psychology, and three Westminster senior psychology majors conducted research at Western Galilee College in Akko, Israel over the summer.

"The best part of the trip for me was being able to spend time with people from the different religious communities in Israel and experience the diversity of the country first-hand," said Pataki, who is the students' capstone research adviser.  "The students and I had a wonderful experience and they were great travel companions."

Megan Glaser, Megan Hoffman, and Kelli Michanowicz conducted research related to gender roles and culture, working with Dr. Randa Abas from Western Galilee to collect data on the perception of gender roles in the Druze, Muslim, and Jewish communities in Israel.

Glaser's research, "Gender Roles: Comparing Americans and Israeli Jews, Arabs, and Druze over Time," tests the thesis that while America is more gender egalitarian than Israel, Israeli Jews are more egalitarian than Americans.

"When we first arrived in Israel, I was surprised to see how similar to America it is," Glaser said.  "Even though I had done plenty of research and knew that Israel is very modern and even more technologically advanced than we are, part of me still expected to see women with their faces covered-something we saw only in the older members of the Arab communities."

Glaser found everyone to be friendly, kind, and welcoming, with nearly all of them bilingual.  Her most memorable experience was the visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

One of her greatest impressions from the trip is of Dr. Abas, one of the first Druze women to earn a driver's license and a Ph.D.

Glaser is a daughter of Heath and Melody Glaser of Pulaski and a graduate of West Middlesex Area High School.

Hoffman's research, "Social Dominance Orientation and Gender Roles Predict Norms Related to Emotional Expression," hypothesizes that individuals with a high social dominance orientation who adhere to traditional gender roles will strongly believe in the appropriateness of only expressing anger to those lower in status and only expressing fear to those higher in status.

"I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I arrived in Tel Aviv," Hoffman said.  "I experienced different cultures and developed a greater passion for my senior research project about the gender roles of these cultures with drastically different values."

Hoffman also found the professors and students to be kind, helpful, and welcoming: "They appreciated us being there and showed immense pride in their country, insisting on the best places for us to experience."

Her most memorable experience was the Holocaust museum, where the artifacts and stories were so real and the history of Israel's creation by Holocaust survivors so inspiring.

Hoffman is a daughter of Robert and Terri Hoffman of South Park and a graduate of South Park High School.

Michanowicz's research, "Present and Future Perceptions of Gender Role Stereotypes of Women in Israel," compares the gender roles of Israeli men and women with those in the United States.

"Going to Israel provided the opportunity to experience a society full of tradition," Michanowicz said.  "When we visited Western Galilee College and an Arabic college, we found the students dressed similar to us, listening to the same music, and speaking fluent English.  We interviewed more students than we expected and received a lot of data regarding gender differences; for example, the girls at the Arabic college do not have the privilege of leaving their village and were astonished that we had traveled all the way from the United States."

Michanowicz found the experience of walking where Jesus walked to be very emotional: "I was able to connect my religious beliefs with reality."

Her favorite part of the trip was the Dead Sea, "the most beautiful place I have ever seen."  She found the peace and tranquility difficult to leave.

Michanowicz is a daughter of Andrew and Angel Michanowicz of Duncansville and a graduate of Hollidaysburg Area High School.

Financial support of the trip was provided by Westminster's Heinz Fund for Collaborative Research.

Contact Pataki at (724) 946-7361 or email for additional information.

Megan Hoffman (l) and Kelli Michanowicz on camel; Megan Glaser in front