Gina Ligon is the chief at a 5-alarm fire — she’s coordinating response efforts and leading the path to better research, bridging the gap between research and reality, and identifying the gaps in research around counterterrorism.
Ligon is the Director of the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence based at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, where she heads a consortium of academics who study terrorist behavior and the best ways to stop it. Her goal is to translate research into tools for frontline Homeland Security professionals. She is the driving force behind the LEADIR (Leadership of the Extreme and Dangerous for Innovative Results) database, examining the interplay of leadership and organizational structure in Violent Extremist Organizations. Federally funded and used by the Department of Defense and the
Department of Homeland Security since 2010, the dataset provides analysis of a sample of 280 violent extremist organizations and 295 violent extremist leaders active between 2008 and 2017. The data can be used to provide insight into which violent extremist organizations and leaders will emerge as the most strategically differentiated in the coming years.
Ligon is also the Jack and Stephanie Koraleski Chair for Collaboration Science and has specific expertise in innovation and leadership. She is using that expertise to collaborate and drive research into areas that will help first responders, counterterrorism professionals, and others fighting violent extremists.
Prior to joining NCITE, Ligon was a full-time faculty member at Villanova University in the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development.
Ligon does all that and still makes time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to publish over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles on leadership, innovation, and organizational structure of violent extremist groups. She sits as Editor of Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict Journal: Pathways Toward Terrorism and Genocide. What we can learn about and from terrorist organizational behavior is driven by the deep fire in Ligon to leverage data to inform and hone our counterterrorism response.