Conversation and finding common ground: these are the keys to de-escalating conflict, according to some communication scholars.
Now, thanks to a $645,776 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Missouri State University will be able to expand efforts to prevent radicalization.
The Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) grant will fund the Fuse project.
Fuse encouraged university students to engage in meaningful conversations on difficult topics and form connections with peers.
How students led the way
The project was created as part of an Ad Team competition in the 2020-21 academic year.
Samantha Francka, MSU web and marketing specialist, led the Ad Team through the successful campus-wide project and the team took second place in the competition.
Learn more about the Ad Team competition
Francka brought in Dr. Stephen Spates, MSU assistant professor of communication and Alex Johnson, MSU director of community engaged learning, to apply for the grant to continue the campaign.
“We are grateful to receive funding at such a high level to be shared by the Reynolds College of Arts and Letters, International Programs and Center for Community Engagement,” said Spates.
“This will provide us the resources we need to continue fostering opportunities for healthy conversations in the local community.”
Countering terrorism locally
The DHS created the TVTP grant program to empower communities against online radicalization and white supremacism.
Missouri State plans to use the grant money locally to expand this empowerment initiative into the greater Springfield community.
“Our Fuse team plans to be intentional in the Springfield community by partnering with local organizations and contributing to a welcoming atmosphere in the larger community,” Francka said.
Fuse works to promote understanding through conversation.
The online platform allows users to navigate learning modules to become Fuse-certified and download a card game to spark conversation with their peers.
Students involved in Fuse host a podcast where they invite experts in the community to discuss topics on race, misinformation and how people can help their loved ones through the process of deradicalization.
This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, award number EMW-2021-GR-00065-S01.