A Penn State Harrisburg faculty member is playing a lead role in the University’s international efforts to strengthen the fight against terrorism.
With an international reputation for research and writings on terrorism, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science Michael Kenney has been named the first Fellow of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism (ICST) headquartered in the College of The Liberal Arts on the University Park campus.
In making the announcement of Kenney’s appointment, center director John Horgan explained, “Here in the ICST, scholars like Dr. Kenney are examining critical research questions on terrorism and political violence. We conduct research that asks: Can those who engage in terrorist activity be profiled? What are the ways in which people become radicalized to terrorist movements? What are the ways in which the Internet promotes new developments both for terrorist groups and those who combat them? Can people leave terrorist groups and what can we do to influence that process?
“Terrorism is one of the most complex social and political issues of our time. It is a term and concept that defies easy explanation, a tactic and strategy that can have overwhelming personal, social and political consequences, and one that continues to challenge the academic community,” Horgan pointed out.
Kenney’s extensive research has taken him to Israel, Spain and the United Kingdom in an effort to learn how Islamic extremists share and create knowledge and experience. “Several years into the war on terrorism, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies continue to confront agile adversaries who learn from experience and adjust their organizational structures accordingly,” Kenney pointed out.
His most recent investigations in Spain and the U.K., supported by a $150,000 grant from the research center of the U.S. Justice Department, “has direct implications for criminal justice policy and practice in the U.S. By increasing our understanding of the organization learning processes undertaken by Islamist networks in Europe, the research could prevent terrorist attacks against the U.S.,” Kenney explained.
Previously, Kenney visited Israel through a fellowship for an intensive course on terrorism studies, and he was one of eight scholars from across the nation to be awarded a fellowship to Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
“One focus of the ICST’s research is on how terrorists organize and how they think,” he added, noting that his research focuses on those areas. “There are homeland security issues emanating from that. We in the center are working on research that is developing new knowledge and could create policy recommendations to short-circuit terrorists’ learning process.”
Kenney’s ongoing research also enhances learning in the classroom for his students. “My research informs my teaching,” he stated. “I can stand in front of my students and discuss Islamist terrorism because of my research agenda.”
In addition to teaching courses in Penn State Harrisburg’s undergraduate Political Science and Public Policy and graduate Public Administration programs, Kenney also will be sharing his knowledge this fall with online students pursuing the University’s 12-credit certificate in Homeland Security and Defense. The certificate, with its academic home in the college’s School of Public Affairs, will be delivered exclusively through the virtual World Campus, with all courses taught by Penn State Harrisburg faculty.
A member of the School of Public Affairs faculty at Penn State Harrisburg since 2003, Kenney is author of the critically acclaimed “From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucrats, and Competitive Adaptation.”