PSU's terrorism center part of $1.48 million research collaborative

October 16, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Researchers from Penn State’s International Center for the Study of Terrorism (ICST) are launching two new studies of violent extremism among Somali refugee groups in North America.

ICST Director John Horgan, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State, in partnership with Heidi Ellis and others from the Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard University, will examine the factors that promote or prevent violent extremism among Somali refugees. The two research grants, sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Minerva Research Initiative and the National Institute of Justice, will total $1.48 million.

“The radicalization of refugee groups is already a national security concern. As these groups continue to resettle in communities around the world, helping to protect those communities by identifying the factors that prevent violent extremism will become increasingly important,” Horgan said. “Our collaborators have long-standing relationships with Somali refugees across the United States and Canada, which will give us unique access to communities that are often wary of outsiders.”

The Department of Defense-sponsored Minerva Research Initiative project, “Identifying and countering early risk factors for violent extremism among Somali refugee communities resettled in North America,” will construct a framework to inform the prevention of violent extremism by building a longitudinal study of Somali-American young adults.

The second project, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, “Understanding pathways to and away from violent radicalization among resettled Somali refugees,” seeks to understand why some Somali refugees embrace greater openness to violent extremism, while others with shared life histories move toward gangs, crime or resilient outcomes such as non-violent activism.

“Understanding the relationship between radicalization and involvement in terrorism remains a key challenge for national security,” Horgan explained. “Recognizing that the solution lies in these very communities is the first step towards a shared approach to countering violent extremism.”

Dedicated to the scientific study of terrorism and political violence, the International Center for the Study of Terrorism, based in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State, engages in research, teaching and training activities that are international in scope and multidisciplinary in nature. The center is committed to promoting and engaging in data-driven empirical research performed to the highest academic standards.

For more information, or media inquiries, contact Kate Slavens, ICST research project manager, at or 814-863-9550. To learn more about the ICST, visit

  • John Horgan is director of Penn State's International Center for the Study of Terrorism.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 17, 2012