On Tuesday, June 12, a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) student organization finished third in a national competition leveraging social media to counter extremism.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Innovate Against Hate campus challenge finals took place in Washington, D.C. in front of a jury panel of industry leaders, including representatives from Facebook, Univision and Pew Charitable Trusts, among others. The competition challenged students to design, pilot and implement social or digital initiatives with the goal of countering hate and extremism.
The three finalists included UNO student organization “Room at Our Table” and teams from the University of Maryland and Boise State.
The UNO students presented the results of an online and in-person campaign, which aimed to change the attitudes of people who were uncommitted in their feelings about refugee families in Nebraska.
“This is particularly relevant to Nebraska because we resettle more refugees than any other state per capita,” new UNO graduate Virginia Gallner said. “We shared the stories of a local family of refugees to give people a better understanding of where these families are coming from and what they’ve been through. Ultimately, we wanted to help people feel more empathy.”
The students tracked the effectiveness of their efforts for comparison to white supremacist groups’ social media posts targeting refugees. To learn just how effective the different groups’ messages were, the team leveraged cutting-edge marketing technology in the College of Business Administration’s Koraleski Commerce and Applied Behavioral Laboratory (CAB Lab), measuring physical responses to messages. The result: both sets of posts caused strong emotions – but the group’s digital work in combination with an in-person event created more positive perceptions about refugees.
The campaign is an evolution of a project the team developed in 2017, earning a fourth place finish in a similar competition sponsored by Homeland Security and EdVenture Partners.
Gina Ligon, associate professor of management, says the students’ use of marketing technology and theory is what helped them advance to the finals of the competition.
“This is an example of how technology from a business school can make an impact in the fight against extremism, in this case local white supremacists” Ligon said. “It shows how collaborative, interdisciplinary work can offer unconventional solutions to serious threats and how students can be credible messengers against extremism.”Beyond social media, the team also organized an in-person group dialogue event with more than 60 attendees. The group’s community partners include Lutheran Family Services and ADL Great Plains. Campus partners include Sustained Dialogue at UNO, Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative at UNO, as well as faculty and graduate students within the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Business Administration; the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media (UNO Social Media Lab); the College of Information Science & Technology; and the College of Public Affairs and Community Service (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice). The effort originates from an Honors program colloquium course taught in Fall 2016.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.