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PERIL Staff

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Director of Research

Cynthia Miller-idriss
Director of Research

My interest in higher education is related to its role in capacity-building and knowledge-dissemination on issues of critical national and global import. How can higher education institutions improve and strengthen democracies, local communities, and the wellbeing of all youth? These are the questions that motivate my engagement in CUE, especially in the three areas CUE will be focused on in our first few years: polarization and extremism in education, undergraduate student wellbeing, academic progress and inclusion, and efforts to rethink the use of technology in the academic infrastructure. Within CUE, I’m especially excited to be leading the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), which will pursue out-of-the-box, empirically testable and scalable research, intervention, and public education ideas to reduce rising polarization and hate. My hope is that the PERIL approach will be a model for how CUE can connect innovative academic research with the public in a variety of areas in the years to come.
Full Profile

Brian Hughes

Brian Hughes
Associate Director of PERIL

Brian Hughes is a doctoral candidate and lecturer at American University. His work explores the impact of communication technology on political and religious extremism, terrorism and fringe culture. His work has addressed the impact of communication technology on the ideology of violent lone actors, media ecosystem of ISIS, the political economy of early "Alt-Right” media, and more. This work seeks to identify the technological, psychological, and political-economic commonalities between extremists of differing ideologies, cultures, times, and places. His work has appeared in the International Journal of Communication, Interventionen, and numerous publications with the Center For the Analysis of the Radical Right. He has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, Al Jazeera Inside Story, and the NPROne Team Human podcast. He is a Doctoral Fellow with the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right. His chapter “Brand of Brothers: Marketing the Islamic State” appears in the Indiana University Press collection The Media World of ISIS. 
Full Profile


 

Program Associates

Caleb Cain

Caleb Cain

Caleb Cain runs the YouTube channel Faradayspeaks and works as an independent researcher investigating radicalization online as it pertains to the far right.

Caleb Cain runs the Youtube channel Faradayspeaks and works as an independent researcher investigating radicalization online as it pertains to the far right. He was featured on the front page of the New York Times after the release of his video, "My descent into the Alt-Right rabbit hole," in which he describes the process by which he began to adopt increasingly radical far-right beliefs due to his time spent on Youtube.

Caleb now runs an online de-radicalization project that helps young people leave extremist movements. His method focuses on utilizing compassion, empathy, and reason, to reach people on their level and humanize the person behind the beliefs.

Meili Criezis headshot

Meili Criezis

Meili has worked as an analyst researching domestic & international violent extremism across ideologies, terrorist propaganda, online extremist networks, and more.

Meili Criezis has a Bachelor's in History and French from Southwestern University. She worked as an analyst at the Houston Mayor's Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security researching terrorist propaganda, domestic/international violent extremism across ideologies, extremist networks in online spaces, and community resiliency initiatives.

Published research papers include "Online Deceptions: Renegotiating Gender Boundaries on ISIS Telegram" in Perspectives on Terrorism and "Islam, Gender, and the Algerian Revolution for Independence" in Visions & Revisions: New Scholars, New InterpretationsShe is enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate on research and engage in work that seeks to address issues of polarization and extremism.


 

Parent Consultants

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Akiko Cooks

Akiko works as a consultant advising schools and educators on preventing & responding to hate and on prevention & intervention related to extremist radicalization.

Born in 1976 in Hollywood, CA, Akiko Ayalla Cooks was raised by a single dad who stressed education, discipline and the free spirit of the 70s. Growing up under the positive influence of the Huey P. Newton's and Bobby Seale's Oakland, California-based Black Panther Party and her father’s ideology to “care for people with dignity and treat them well,” Akiko developed compassion to become an advocate for oppressed people. Akiko attended Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, majoring in child psychology. Today, Akiko works as a consultant advising schools and educators on preventing and responding to hate, advocates for victims’ rights and mental health support, and consults on prevention and intervention related to extremist radicalization.

Shannon Foley Martinez headshot

Shannon Martinez

Shannon has two decades of experience in developing community resource platforms aimed at inoculating individuals against violence & extremism.

Shannon Foley Martinez, a former violent white supremacist, has two decades of experience in developing community resource platforms aimed at inoculating individuals against violence and extremism. Foley Martinez has worked in at-risk communities teaching and developing dynamic resiliency skills. She has worked for school systems, nonprofits, and community organizations. Foley Martinez now works as a consultant, speaker, and educator in the prevention & disruption of targeted identity violence and ideologies. She has worked with such organizations as the UN Office of Counter Terrorism, the National Counterterrorism Center, Department of Homeland Security, Hedayah, The Center for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, UN Women, Google, and Twitter. Foley Martinez has assisted in training law enforcement officers, building programs for educators, and collaborating with policy makers. As the mother of seven children ages 22 down to 3, she feels passionately about building empowered, deeply connected families and communities.


 

Education Advisor

Elijah Hawkes Headshot

T.Elijah Hawkes

Elijah has been a public school teacher and principal for more than two decades and has written about adolescence, public schools and democracy.

T. Elijah Hawkes has been a public school teacher and principal for more than two decades. He has worked in rural and urban school communities, including Randolph Union in Central Vermont, and the James Baldwin School in New York City, where he was founding principal. 

In addition to New England and New York City, he has lived and worked in Senegal and Benin, West Africa.

He holds degrees from Wesleyan University and the City University of New York.

He is an advisor to the Polarization and Extremism Research Lab (PERIL) at American University. 

His writings about adolescence, public schools and democracy have appeared in various books, magazines and online publications.


 

Graduate Student Fellows

Kesa White Headshot

Kesa White

Kesa is a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs, studying Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy. Her primary interests are terrorism, foreign policy, and national security. 

Kesa White is currently a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs, studying Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy at American University (AU). Her interests are primarily focused on terrorism (violant extremism and terrorism organizations operating in Africa), foreign policy, and national security. 

Kesa has conducted research in the field of terrorism while at AU and has completed two internships with the Federal Government (United States Department of Agriculture and the Drug Enforcement Administration). After graduating from AU, Kesa served as a contractor supporting the Drug Enforcement Administration. Currently, Kesa is working as a graduate intern with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.   

Kesa graduated from American University School of International Service with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies in May 2018.