Penn State experts contribute to NATO counterterrorism training curriculum

Jessica Hallman
March 23, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new international publication, which will be utilized as a framework for counterterrorism training in organizations around the world, has expert input from several Penn State faculty, students and alumni.

The Counterterrorism Reference Curriculum (CTRC) was produced by a multinational team of approximately 90 researchers, government officials, and military and law enforcement personnel. NATO will use the document — which examines past problems in terrorism and counterterrorism to help anticipate and mitigate future potential threats — to train NATO members and partners, as well as government organizations, in tactics and strategies that could combat or prevent terrorism. The curriculum is slated to be finalized this summer.

Peter Forster, associate teaching professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State and co-chair of the Partnership for Peace Consortium’s Combating Terrorism Working Group, served as co-editor of the curriculum, along with fellow co-chair/co-editor Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

“What [NATO] asked us was, very simply, if this combination of subject matter, expertise and practical experience could be melded into something that’s deliverable to a wide audience,” said Forster. “[The participating collaborators] all have experience related to military, law enforcement, the intelligence community or law.”

“The publication of the CTRC comes at a crucial time as NATO leaders recently underscored the alliance’s commitment to its role in the counterterrorism space,” added Tyler Zurisko, a 2015 graduate of Penn State’s School of International Affairs and current U.S. Department of Defense official who oversaw one of the themes of the CTRC. “The threat will continue to transcend borders, further necessitating a common understanding among the international community.”

The curriculum — which is broken down into four main themes composed of various blocks and modules — contains course learning objectives, assessments, source material and case studies. Several students in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology contributed to the publication.

Peregrin Summers, a junior in security and risk analysis, is one of those students. His contribution focused on cryptocurrency and how criminals and terrorists use it on an international scale.

“[Participating in this project] was an invitation to an open door,” said Summers. “I got to experience something beyond the borders of the college, as well as various international cultures as far as my career and professionalism are concerned. That means more to me than any grade.”

Trisha Miller, a senior in security and risk analysis, whose contribution to the curriculum focused on the history of terrorism, agreed.

“While it’s definitely a prominent point on my resume, more than that it was the format of collaboration that I really took a lot from,” said Miller. “We were all researching different things, and all had a different piece of the puzzle, but were working toward the same outcome.”

Other Penn State experts who contributed to the CTRC include Greg Kruczek, assistant teaching professor in the department of political science in the College of the Liberal Arts; Samantha Weirman, doctoral student in informatics; Schreyer Scholar Austin Thoet, junior in security and risk analysis; and Cara Schwartz, junior in cybersecurity analytics and operations.

“This is an internationally-reviewed publication, so to have Penn State involved from an institutional perspective is quite an honor,” said Forster. “It demonstrates the expertise that is here, the quality of students that are here, and our commitment to engaged scholarship and internationalization.”

He concluded, “I’m very proud of the way we were able to engage some of our best students and get them to focus on specific parts of the curriculum and write things that are now included in this curriculum. From their perspective, this is engaged scholarship at the highest level, because what they are doing now is going to be translated truly globally.”

Last Updated March 23, 2020