Undergraduate research on Somali-Americans to be shared at international conference

Undergraduate research on Somali-Americans to be shared at international conference

PUEBLO – The research of two undergraduate students at Colorado State University-Pueblo will be presented at an international counter-terrorism conference in Scotland next week by a CSU-Pueblo faculty member.

Bryan Priest, junior political science major from Canon City, and Sarah Staggs, senior political science major from Glendale, Ariz., conducted research on Somali-Americans who were recruited in the U.S. to fight for al Qaeda-affiliated groups. Their paper "Involving Foreign Fighters in Somalia," will be presented by the faculty member who guided the research, Dr. David Malet, assistant professor of political science at a conference, "The Globalization of the Conflict in Somalia" March 24-25 at the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland. The conference is being organized by the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, one of the world's top academic terrorism research centers, to commemorate two decades of continuous war in Somalia. St. Andrews, Scotland, is perhaps best known as the birthplace of golf several hundred years ago.

According to Malet, the paper combines the original work that the two students did in his seminar on Islamic Insurgencies last fall on the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia and its successes in recruiting Somali-Americans to return to Africa for jihad. Malet incorporated the student research into his ongoing research on foreign fighter mobilization. Presenters at the conference will represent various countries, including the United Kingdom, Somalia and Brazil, as well as American universities like Harvard and Georgetown. Conference organizers plan to publish the research either as chapters in an edited volume or academic journal articles. 

Priest was born in Flint, Michigan to James and Cheryl Priest in 1973 and moved to Colorado when he was five.  He graduated from Canon City High School, and worked for 10 years in the semiconductor industry. When his company closed as a result of foreign competition, he obtained Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits to complete his bachelor’s degree. He has always loved discussing politics and philosophy and has a passion for sharing knowledge and teaching. He intends to graduate in May 2011 with a major in political science, a minor in education, and a certificate in Homeland Security.  After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in public service, either working for the Department of Homeland Security or another governmental agency or through teaching. He has two children, Trevor and Kaitlynn.

Staggs was recruited to CSU-Pueblo from Arizona on a basketball scholarship. She will graduate in May with a major in political science and a minor in women’s studies. She is currently working on implementing Gay Straight Alliances in the Pueblo high schools and hopes to establish a Youth Group for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered) students.  She also is involved in an internship partnership with the YWCA to conduct a “Stand against Hate” rally here on campus. After graduation, she hopes to be involved in non-profit work for the LGBT  or AIDS organizations.

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.