NATO grant opens door for student research with international security implications

November 18, 2019

This story was originally published by the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Arts & Sciences on November 15, 2019.

NATO research grant is an opportunity to involve students in real-world considerations and give them the opportunity to both gain valuable skills and to provide fresh input and perspectives to inform the methodology.

Research

Michelle Black, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Arts and Science was recently awarded a research grant from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The grant, which is the first of its kind for UNO, will support NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) concept development seeking to enable coherent deterrence through a shared understanding of the complex 21st century multiple-actor deterrence framework, implications for alliance decision making and adaptation to new and emerging security challenges.

The research goal is to examine deterrence in a complex spectrum, incorporating state and non-state actors for the development of a tested and validated assessment methodology.

Dr. Black will incorporate her current research on multi-actor deterrence and violent extremist organizations into the development of a ‘coherent deterrence methodology’ that could adapt to future challenges within a complex international system. Dr. Black leveraged UNO’s unique relationship with the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska to incorporate further research into the development.

“NSRI’s support has been instrumental with this research grant, as it has allowed me to understand details from an allied perspective that I would have never been able to receive if I limited my conversations and research to just open source material,” Dr. Black said.

“In, fact, due to this relationship, I was recently invited and hosted by NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) to be their keynote speaker during a workshop focused on deterrence. The outcome of that meeting significantly shaped the purpose of this deterrence methodology due to real-world events and issues. I feel fortunate that I was a part of those discussions.”

Dr. Black also recently traveled to SHAPE in support of the research grant, located in Mons, Belgium, for the deterrence workshop, and then continued on to Madrid, Spain, for the International Concept Development and Experimentation (ICD&E) Conference.

Student Experience

“The ICD&E conference was our first attempt to bring this research in front of NATO operators and planners to test and validate the variables of the methodology,” Dr. Black explained. “We were also able to bring a few students with us to help with the workshop.”

Dr. Black says the NATO research grant is an opportunity to involve students in real-world considerations and give them the opportunity to both gain valuable skills and to provide fresh input and perspectives to inform the methodology.

“Madrid was an incredible learning opportunity where I was able to experience the work environment I’d hope to achieve in the future and meet wonderful career mentors who took the time to invest in students as equals,” said Liz Armenta, political science major and research assistant with Dr. Black.

“NATO understands the importance of involving students and younger professionals into their work and concept development,” Dr. Black said.

Maggie Reding, political science major and research assistant, agreed.  "I am so thankful for the opportunity to be within NATO's working and learning environment,” Reding said. “The experience is truly incredible and I am so excited for what comes next." 

In total, Dr. Black has recruited eight research assistants, both undergraduate and graduate students, to help collect data that will help test the next experimentation session scheduled to take place in the United Kingdom in January 2020.

Background

Dr. Black has been a research partner for NSRI since she came to the university to become a full-time academic in August 2016, shortly after graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with her Ph.D. and departing the Department of Defense as a government civilian.

After several years of working as a deterrence analyst for United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), where she planned and conducted operations specifically for deterrence purposes, Dr. Black switched over to the political science department at UNO.

“Being able to combine my research with my past real-world experiences is very rewarding,” she said, “and I feel that I can take all of the lessons I learned during that time as an operator and combine them with my academic expertise to produce something I think the operators and planners can use.”