Norwich University Students Win First Place in National Contest with Tool to Combat Violent Extremism

NORWICH UNIVERSITY OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS

Feb. 1, 2017

Norwich University students have won the national competition P2P (Peer to Peer): Challenging Extremism, with their tool, EMIT, which stands for Extremist Mimicry Interception Tool.

The Norwich EMIT team competed today, Wednesday, Feb. 1, in Washington, D.C. Three other finalist teams presented their work. Judges comprised a panel of government officials, a Facebook representative and leaders within the counter-violence extremism realm. Winners, who take home $5,000 to continue their work countering violent extremism, were announced at the end of the day. The four finalists were chosen from 44 teams competing nationwide.

Norwich EMIT is made up of five students: Emran Babak, of Kabul, Afghanistan, a first year student majoring in international studies and international security; Akshay Awasthi, of New Delhi, India, a senior in computer security and information assurance; Yushan Xireli, of Ürümqi, China, a junior in international studies; Naomi Rinaldo, of Middlefield, Conn., a sophomore, political science major; and Jacob Freeman, of Wake Forest, N.C., a senior in studies in war and peace. Their faculty advisor (pictured above, left) is Prof. William “Travis” Morris, the director of the Peace and War Center.

The team was chosen through Norwich University’s Peace and War Center to take on the challenge of building a tool to counter violent extremism. P2P: Challenging Extremism is a global competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security along with support from Facebook and facilitated by EdVenture Partners. The students’ work was done outside their normal classwork.

The Norwich team created a tool, EMIT, which can be used as a template to target any violent extremist group. They constructed a campaign online that mimics the style and tactics of the target group’s recruiting efforts to attract 18-35 year olds to a site where former members tell their stories of getting out of violence. They call their strategy, “flipping the script,” on potential converts.

Students considered their site a success when, in the first month it was live, it attracted (and survived) a record 4,800 attempted attacks against it.

Vermont’s weekly newspaper, Seven Days, covered the team and their work in its Jan. 25 article called, “Norwich Students Work to Intercept Would-Be Terrorists.”

Judges for the final contest were:

  • Trent Frazier, Executive Director, Office of Academic Engagement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Tricia Wellman, Executive Director, National Counterterrorism Center
  • Adam Tarsi, Chief of Staff, Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office
  • Elizabeth McWhorter, Professional Staff Member, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, U.S. Senate
  • Monica Bickert, Head of Product Policy, Facebook
  • Marcus Peffers, CEO of M&C Saatchi World Services

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).www.norwich.edu 

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Norwich University will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Transformation” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu.    

Media Contact:
Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications
Office Tel: (802) 485-2886
dlarkin@norwich.edu

Norwich Students Attend NATO Counterterrorism Training in Europe

Logo of Norwich University Peace and War Center
Norwich University Office of Communications

February 12, 2016

Four Norwich undergraduates flew to Macedonia today to attend a week-long NATO-sponsored advanced training course on counterterrorism in southeastern Europe.

The symposium is co-lead by Norwich University’s Peace and War Center and the Macedonia Military Academy General Mihailo Apostolski in Skopje.

The participating NU students were also named Spring 2016 Norwich University Peace and War Fellows. They are James Verderico ‘16, Olivia DeSpirito ‘16, Sam DeLong ‘16 and Kendall Manning ’17.

They will assist during the training course and document their experience on the Norwich University Facebook page.

“Their time abroad should prove to be a powerful experience,” said Travis Morris, PhD, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

Morris directs Norwich University’s new Peace and War Center (PAWC). He developed the grant awarded by NATO to PAWC to help craft the counterterrorism advanced training course.

“The training course … bring[s] together leading terrorism scholars and experts to strategize the best methods for countering the terrorists threat to the southeastern region and its neighboring NATO members,” Morris notes.

Southeast Europe comprises the NATO member countries Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, and Bulgaria, as well as the Partnership for Peace countries Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

Morris is a former U.S. Army and police officer, who has lived and traveled in the Middle East extensively. His scholarship focuses in part, on radicalization and counterterrorism.

Norwich senior James Verderico is a Computer Security and Information Assurance major and member of the NU Corps of Cadets (NUCC) from Boston, Mass.

His classmate Sam DeLong is a NUCC Lieutenant Colonel and Criminal Justice major from Barnstable, Mass., who plans to attend law school after graduation.

Norwich junior Kendall Manning is a Construction Management major and a Staff Sergeant in the NU Corps of Cadets from Jacksonville, Fla.

Senior Olivia DeSpirito is a biology major with a focus on biological forensics and a Captain in the NU Corps of Cadets from East Greenwich, R.I.

The NATO advanced training course will provide in-depth analysis on how to prevent radicalization and offer best practices for building resilient southeastern Europe societies. The program also seeks to boost understanding and cooperation among NATO and Partner countries in the region.

The training is a joint effort by Norwich University and United States and the Military Academy General Mihailo Apostolski in Skopje, Macedonia.

About Norwich University’s Peace and War Center

The Norwich University’s Peace and War Center (PAWC) advances scholarship and deliberation on warfare and its mitigation, processes, and conditions of peace. The center’s work emphasizes research and discussion on the precipitating factors and preconditions of war and peace. In order to understand the cycles of war and peace, it is critical to examine the role of culture and language, analyze the ideological roots of turmoil and stability, and the evolving role of technology. The Center is designed to be a multi and interdisciplinary mix of international scholars and practitioners.

About the Military Academy General Mihailo Apostolski–Skopje

The Military Academy General Mihailo Apostolski–Skopje is an associate member of the University Goce Delcev-Stip. It functions as a high educational and research institution in defense, military and military-technical sciences, crisis management, protection, and rescue. It also serves as a defense educational hub for the region; cadets from Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro, and Kosovo study alongside Macedonian Cadets. The Military Academy has seven accredited programs for graduate studies, three programs for postgraduate studies, and a PhD program. The Military Academy curriculum is designed to enable students and cadets to acquire skills, knowledge, and capacities necessary to professionally respond to modern security challenges.