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Studying terrorism: Students on front lines of global threat

Juniors Amanda Downing and Arielle Kuiper travelled to Israel recently to learn about the global threat of terrorism. The pair are participating in a yearlong undergraduate fellowship program sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan think tank. The program teaches students about terrorist threats directed at America and allied democracies around the world.

Forty-two students were selected from around the country to participate in the unique program. The fellowship began with the 14-day trip to Israel in August and continues on campus in the fall. This is the second year William and Mary students have participated in the program. Last year Kori Lorick (‘08) and Andrews Reeves (’08) were FDD fellows.

Downing is an English/History double major who plans to pursue a legal or diplomatic career. Kuiper, who has a strong interest in national security issues, is double-majoring in international relations and biology.

“Terrorism has become a major issue in international politics, especially in the Middle East,” said Downing. “The FDD fellowship program will give me the opportunity to study the history and modern development of international terrorism.”

While in Israel, the students were based at Tel Aviv University, where they heard presentations from military, intelligence and political officials, as well as academic experts in the field of terrorism. Participants attended lectures featuring ambassadors from India, Jordan, Turkey and the United States. In addition, the fellows participated in a variety of excursions to military bases and border positions to better understand how democratic states fight terrorism.

“I was extremely excited to travel to Israel and have the privilege of working with so many knowledgeable and experienced individuals,” said Kuiper. “This was a highly unique opportunity to learn about international terrorist threats and how to prevent them.”

The students plan to present five events on campus over the course of the school year that will raise awareness of the threats of terrorism. The team will continue a campus tradition by presenting a 9/11 Memorial September 11th to honor the victims of the 2001 tragedy.

Cliff May, President of FDD, described the fellowship as “an opportunity for an elite group of students to become educated on the historical, cultural, philosophical and ideological factors that drive terrorism and how best to eradicate it.”