Robert L. McKenzie

Senior Fellow and Director, Muslim Diaspora Initiative

Robert L. McKenzie, PhD, is a senior fellow at New America and founding director of its Muslim Diaspora Initiative as well as an adjunct professor at Columbia University. McKenzie is a domestic and foreign policy analyst and scholar of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with fifteen years of applied research and work experience for the U.S. government, private sector, and academia. An anthropologist by training, McKenzie is an expert in displaced persons, refugee resettlement and integration, and Arab and Muslim communities in the United States and Europe.

McKenzie serves as the principal investigator on a series of projects studying how hate spreads online and in the real world. These projects include: a collaborative project with Anti-Defamation League entitled Exploring Online Hate; a collaborative project with a large tech company looking at how misinformation spreads online after terrorists attacks; an in-depth study of communities of extreme hate online, with a focus on neo-Nazi and KKK groups; an interactive map tracking anti-Muslim activities at the state and local level; and a book project looking at the rise of hate groups in America (Brookings Institution Press 2020).

Before joining New America, McKenzie was a visiting fellow and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he focused on the Syrian refugee crisis. In his most recent government position, McKenzie served as senior advisor for countering violent extremism (CVE) at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to that position, McKenzie was the project director and responsible for establishing and launching the Hedayah Center in Abu Dhabi—the world’s first-ever international center on CVE. While at the Hedayah Center, McKenzie had oversight of an eight-million-dollar budget, project controls, and staffing; drafted the Center’s strategy and programmatic initiatives; and conducted stakeholder engagement with senior officials in 15 capitals across the Middle East and Europe.

McKenzie earned a bachelor’s in economics from Michigan State University, where he was a walk-on to the men’s varsity basketball team. He earned a master’s in security studies and a graduate certificate in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, and a doctorate in anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His PhD dissertation was about urban refugees in the Middle East. He has been a lecturer at Wayne State University (Detroit), a researcher at the American University in Cairo, and a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford.

McKenzie has written for, appeared with, or been cited by: Al Jazeera Arabic; Al Jazeera English; Baltimore Sun; Bloomberg View; Brookings Cafeteria Podcast; CityLab; CNN; C-SPAN; Detroit Free Press; Foreign Policy in Focus; The Guardian; Houston Public Radio; The Intercept; NPR; New York Times; Quartz; Share Radio; Washington Post; and Washington Times.