Touring the soon-to-open National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE) headquarters inside the new addition to Mammel Hall, U.S. Rep. Don Bacon heard from experts on two pressing fronts.
Gina Ligon, Ph.D., director of NCITE, spoke about the national security research she’s leading across an 18-university consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and based at UNO. The center opened last year with staff working primarily remotely.
And Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., mentioned another expected surge in COVID-19 cases. The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is at the forefront of the fight against the virus.
These were not theoretical dangers. Bacon said he was aware of online radicalization to violence — he’d received notice from law enforcement about threats against him — and he asked NCITE staff about specific groups involved in the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol.
Plus, the face masks everyone wore represented a reminder that despite the national vaccination campaign, the pandemic still represented risk. The decline in case counts has begun to stall and, in some states, reverse.
What lightened the heavy subject matter, however, was the promise represented in new building space that promises to enhance collaboration, research impact, and student and workforce development.
Representing the future was master of business administration (MBA) student Lauren O’Malley, whose prior terrorism research under Ligon was a draw to the NCITE program, where she is working in communications.
“I had Dr. Ligon as a professor – she made an impact on me,” O’Malley told the Congressman.
In turn, Ligon told Bacon that O’Malley’s top notch business education with an emphasis on finance is adding value to Homeland Security. O’Malley’s research is on how the future of banking and reliance on cryptocurrency can be exploited by groups like ISIS.
The afternoon sun filled the empty space with light, a symbol of the public-facing research the NCITE Center is leading with support from the other UNO leaders who also had joined the tour, including: College of Business Administration (CBA) Dean Michelle Trawick, Ph.D., CBA Assistant Dean Dave Nielsen, and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Sacha Kopp, Ph.D.
Admiring the progress, Bacon said he had “no idea” the building was that far along.
Indeed. NCITE is preparing to move into the space later this month.