Rochester Institute of Technology is one of 45 universities worldwide participating in the Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism Initiative. Now in its second year, the U.S. Department of State sponsored program administered by EdVentures Partners, is geared toward millennials countering extremism among their peers and in the community.
Saunders College of Business received the invitation last May from EdVentures CEO Tony Sgro, said Adriana Bóveda-Lambie, assistant professor of marketing who assigned the P2P challenge to 29 students in her social media marketing class for the fall semester.
The Saunders team chose the platform name, ProjectNE1 (pronounced anyone), to signify how anyone can be participating in violent extremism, anyone can be affected by it, and anyone can help stop the violence.
With an operating budget of $2,000, the students have created a public relations and marketing agency, “Think Global,” to implement a multitude of interconnected strategies to unite youths and peers against the online presence of violent extremism and recruitment propaganda. The team’s early stage tactics include a logo, website, social media campaign including two scheduled campus events, documentary video, and GoFundMe account.
“Violent extremism is this generation’s challenge, not only for millennials but tweens,” said Bóveda-Lambie. “Extremists have taken over online; there are too many of them and new ones show up every day. We can’t challenge them in numbers and we can’t physically challenge them, but at ProjectNE1 we believe we can outsmart them, change the narrative and turn the tide.”
Think Global chief publicist is Andrea Miller, a native of Hammondsport, N.Y., and fourth-year Saunders College major in business management and new media marketing. She said when the class project started, most students had seen news reports about ISIS and violence, but it all seemed to be happening so far away from home.
“I never thought this kind of violence could affect so many younger people, especially those who are close to my age,” said Miller. “So many times we work on projects for a grade, and they are usually forgotten the next semester. But this project could actually be sustained and make a difference in people’s lives. If we can help save even one person from the influence of extremist groups, all of our hard work will be a success.”
The Saunders College student group has scheduled two campus events at RIT to raise awareness about ProjectNE1:
Catherine Kaucic, co-head of ProjectNE1 and Think Global, said the first thing that came to her mind was “impact.”
“We are making an impact on our own lives, on the lives of others, and on the lives of those to come,” said Kaucic, a third-year Saunders College marketing major from Niskayuna, N.Y. “We have the power to change what is currently going on in the world with our voices and our ideas to help influence and educate youth of today. I am proud to be part of such a significant social movement for our generation and I look forward to seeing the imprint that ProjectNE1 has on education in the future.”
On Jan. 14, 2016, the top three participating schools will be invited to Washington, D.C., to present their campaign to government officials and industry leaders at the U.S. Department of State. The winning team will receive a scholarship prize of $5,000, followed by $3,000 for second place, and $1,000 for third.