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Mouna Maroun named University of Haifa rector, in historic appointment

Maroun, a world-renowned expert in neuroscience, is the first Arab to take on the influential role of rector at an Israeli university.

Professor Mouna Maroun, the incoming rector of University of Haifa, poses with incoming president, professor Gur Alorey. Credit: Courtesy of University of Haifa.
Professor Mouna Maroun, the incoming rector of University of Haifa, poses with incoming president, professor Gur Alorey. Credit: Courtesy of University of Haifa.

University of Haifa announced that its senate elected professor Mouna Maroun, a world-renowned researcher in neuroscience and post-trauma, as the university’s new rector. She is the first Arab to take on the influential role of rector at a higher education institution in Israel.

Maroun already claims many “firsts” to her credit—a first-generation university graduate, the first woman from her hometown of Isfiya to earn a Ph.D., and the first Arab woman in Israel to hold a senior faculty position in the natural sciences.

Throughout her storied career, she has been a trailblazer who is dedicated to the integration and advancement of women in STEM-related fields. Moreover, as chair of the National Steering Committee for Accessing the Arab Population to Higher Education, she has been a champion of promoting a more inclusive society for Arabs, particularly when it comes to academia. In that vein, she is a member of the Al-Maram Association, which aims to make Arab students more aware of the opportunities available in pursuing STEM. 

“I’m grateful that University of Haifa entrusted me with this position,” said Maroun, who is slated to take on the role in October. “University of Haifa, first and foremost, is a home away from home for me. It welcomed me into its ranks more than 30 years ago as an undergraduate student, then a faculty member in the neurobiology department, and now rector. I’m committed to continuing to invest all my academic resources to promote the university’s excellent research and do everything in my power to ensure the university continues to be a beacon of excellence in the heart of Israel’s north. Together, we promote a common vision of a shared society where members of all religions and denominations can co-exist in peace.”

Maroun will succeed the current rector, professor Gur Alroey, who will become the university’s new president in October. 

“I’m delighted by the university senate’s choice of professor Maroun, and I look forward to working together with her,” Alroey said. “Her appointment symbolizes the special spirit of University of Haifa. Professor Maroun was chosen because she’s an outstanding researcher, a stellar vice president of research who promoted academic excellence, and it’s no wonder faculty members believe she’s the right person to continue ensuring the university works toward advancing its goals. At our university, the right person for the job can be a man or a woman, Jew or Arab. This is the essence of our commitment to a shared society.” 

University of Haifa president Ron Robin added, “This is an important day for University of Haifa and Israeli society in general. I’m sure the new leadership will bring the university to new heights.”

Naomi Reinharz, chief executive officer of American Society of the University of Haifa (ASUH), said, “We are delighted to welcome professor Maroun as the new rector of the university. Professor Maroun has demonstrated repeatedly through her words and actions that she is dedicated not only to enhancing the profile of the university and ensuring its status as a top-tier research institution, but also in making sure that every student who enters its doors—regardless of his or her background—has an opportunity to succeed.”

Maroun holds a Ph.D. in psychobiology from the University of Haifa and completed a postdoctoral degree in Paris XI Orsay, France. Her other prominent positions at the university included chair of the neurobiology department and member of the National Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education (CHE). 

Her pioneering research focuses on how the brain regulates emotions under normal and pathological conditions. In her lab, she addresses the interaction between the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex in fear regulation. She also studies the effects of environmental challenge—such as trauma or a steady diet of fatty food—on emotions, social behavior and memory. Her research on childhood trauma, which involves studying animal models, has led to new insights on the need to exclusively design treatments for children and adolescents.

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