An American Muslim born in Wyoming and raised in Texas just assumed a key role in countering violent extremism.

On February 18, the State Department announced the appointment of Rashad Hussain as U.S. special envoy and coordinator for strategic counterterrorism communications.  In this role, Hussain will lead staff from various federal agencies to expand international engagement and deepen partnerships to counter violent extremism.

Hussain’s appointment coincided with the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, held February 17–19, where civil society and government leaders discussed how to combat extremism at the community level.

Rashad Hussain has a history of partnership building. (State Dept.)

As the U.S. special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation since 2010, Hussain developed government and civil society partnerships in Muslim-majority countries and expanded engagement on U.S. policy.

Hussain’s ability to foster global partnerships is matched by his academic success. A graduate of Yale Law School, he earned master’s degrees in public administration and Arabic and Islamic studies at Harvard University. And before achieving these academic milestones, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — he is still a huge fan of its basketball team.

Hussain and his family regularly prayed at a mosque near where he grew up in Plano, Texas.

“A lot is made about American misperceptions about Muslim communities, but there’s a lot of misperceptions that Muslim communities have about the United States,” he told the Washington Post.