Tyler Cote came to college for more than a degree.
He wanted hands-on learning opportunities - and the chance to do something meaningful.
"I wanted to leave knowing I made an impact on other people," he says. "I accomplished more than I could have imagined when I walked in here."
Of course, the Honors College graduate did earn a degree, double-majoring in political science and criminal justice with a concentration in homeland security.
But he achieved so much more. He co-authored a book chapter on the role of Twitter in the 2016 presidential election, as well as an academic paper on the psychology of the pro-Trump movement's rhetoric, working one-on-one with Assoc. Prof. Morgan Marietta, thanks to a pair of Honors College research fellowships.
Through the university's partnership with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, Cote spent a summer interning with the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C., where he researched U.S. government efforts to counter extremist messaging.
He also co-founded a nonprofit, Operation250, that won third place in the international P2P: Countering Extremism competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Facebook.
Op250, which educates students, parents and teachers about the recruitment tactics of violent extremist organizations, was started by Cote and other interns at the university's Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, where they were advised by the center's director, Asst. Prof. Neil Shortland.
The Op250 team further developed their business model through the campus DifferenceMaker program and won first place in the 2016-17 DifferenceMaker competition. They also wrote about Op250 for a UNESCO publication, "Youth Waging Peace."
Thanks to the DifferenceMaker and P2P prize money, some grants and generous donations, Cote, who graduated in December 2017, is now Op250's first full-time employee. Even before graduation, as Op250's education director, Cote went into schools, including Drury High School in North Adams, Mass., and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in Baltimore, where he used hands-on activities to teach critical thinking skills and online safety.
"Sitting in a classroom with sixty 12-year-olds and talking about what hate means, that's not an opportunity a lot of college students get," says Cote, who eventually plans to earn a Ph.D. in psychology with a focus on terrorism.
"As I move forward, I can't overstate the impact that UMass Lowell made on me and the opportunities the university gave me."