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START intern works with NGO on reintegration program


START intern works with NGO on reintegration program

April 28, 2020Erin Copland

Many people can discuss extremism, but Viola Roggia is one of the few people who can have that conversation in five languages.

Roggia is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Global Affairs, with a specialization in Data Analytics, at New York University. She also works with an NGO as a part of her thesis capstone, during which she is helping to create a reintegration program for a young woman who was convicted of engaging in terrorist activity online, and who has since deradicalized. That young woman will soon be released from prison.

“It’s a very tough thing for people who were incarcerated to go back into society, plus if you add the stigma of being a terrorist, it exacerbates everything,” Roggia said.

Born and raised in Italy, Roggia initially pursued a career in economic research, which stemmed largely from her love of studying mathematics.

Roggia earned her bachelor’s degree in Economics and her first master’s degree in Finance from the University of Trento. One of her earlier internships was a position at the Alto-Adige Chamber of Commerce, where she conducted an independent project to publish a report on the export activities of the region.

In her spare time, Roggia loves to draw, and held two exhibitions of her artwork in Italy in 2012 and 2013. Her first exhibition took place in an abandoned church, and focused on an apocalyptic theme, related to the rumors of the end of the world according to the ancient Mayan calendar.

Roggia also enjoys volunteering with New York Cares, a charitable network that allows individuals to choose which project they would like to work with.

In addition to being an artist and volunteering, Roggia has a passion for languages, having studied five languages in total.

“I started learning English in the first grade and it was great, I loved that,” Roggia said. “I learned Spanish during my undergraduate work, because in order to graduate in Italy you have to be proficient in two languages. Then I became fluent in German after taking classes and studying abroad in Germany for a semester during my first master’s degree. Now, I'm studying Arabic.”

Her interest in studying extremism began after taking a summer study abroad class on terrorism in London and Northern Ireland taught by Dr. Mary Beth Altier, who encouraged her to apply to a START internship.

Last fall, Roggia was a part of a consulting practicum with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), comparing expert opinion to empirical data on major trends in terrorism.

Roggia, who is graduating this semester, dreams of a future career working with anti-extremist organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

“Especially with this internship at START, I’ve become very passionate about studying hate crimes and other social justice issues, like racial bias within the criminal justice system,” Roggia said.

In addition to her work with the NGO this semester, Roggia is an intern at START on the project A Pathway Approach to the Study of Bias Crime Offenders.

“I like the work, it’s very interesting,” Roggia said. “It’s also very sad—it can feel overwhelming sometimes, but I do believe the fact that we’re making this dataset is a good thing. You need research, you need data about extremism if you want to understand how it works and how to solve it.”