Forensics academy is once in a lifetime
Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011 12:02 pm
University of Tennessee at Martin criminal justice students will have a first-ever opportunity to participate next summer in a three-week UT National Forensic Academy Collegiate Program. The summer 2012 program will include time studying at the UT Anthropological Research Facility in Knoxville, also known as the Body Farm.
The National Forensic Academy and the UT Martin Criminal Justice Program are partnering to offer the in-residence program, the first of its kind in the nation to offer crime scene investigation training to undergraduate students. The program was previewed last week for UT Martin criminal justice students.
Dr. Bill Bass, UT forensic anthropologist, who developed the Body Farm in 1978, made the UT Anthropological Research Facility famous. The facility has inspired several popular crime novels and has been featured in TV documentaries. Currently, the UT Department of Anthropology provides the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center access to the facility to train law enforcement personnel attending the National Forensic Academy.
Besides forensic anthropology, the NFA curriculum will cover crime scene management, DNA evidence recovery, shooting incident reconstruction and bloodstain pattern analysis.
“Before the discussions with UT Martin (to offer the program), this training was only offered to law enforcement personnel,” said Don Green, LEIC executive director and retired deputy chief of the Knoxville Police Department. Green, a UT Martin graduate who began his policing career in South Fulton before moving to Knoxville, saw an opportunity for a partnership to benefit undergraduate criminal justice students while adding an academic component to the LEIC’s mission.
“An additional benefit is that attendees to this program will also be allowed to participate in an online, virtual reality computer software program prior to attending the NFA Collegiate Program,” Green said.
Participants completing the course will receive nine hours of undergraduate credit. UT Martin students have enrollment priority, but if slots remain open, students at Tennessee Board of Regents institutions and law enforcement professionals who want to further their college education can participate by enrolling through UT Martin.
The cost to enroll in the intensive program is $4,600, which includes tuition, curriculum, housing, training materials and equipment usage. Dr. Brian Donavant, UT Martin assistant professor of criminal justice and the instructor of record, sees the course as an investment for criminal justice students.
“It’s almost like combining a class with an internship since the program contains such a strong academic component, and all of the instructors are law enforcement professionals and some of the most renowned experts in their respective fields,” Donavant said. “If this program becomes viable, we will establish a catalog course for UT Martin and even hope to see it eventually evolve into an additional concentration area within our degree program.”
The goal is to offer up to two courses each year, he said, adding that he sees this program helping students realize their goals to enter high-profile careers. “Many students enter our program with unrealistic expectations of careers in CSI (crime scene investigation) that they get from television,” Donavant said.
“The reality is that you usually need to major in chemistry or biology and then work for several years in law enforcement just to get your foot in the door. This program will enable us to provide an unparalleled practical experience for our students that will make them more competitive as they seek jobs in this growing area.”
Brad Barnes, senior criminal justice major from Murfreesboro, currently has a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation internship and hopes to someday work for the agency. TBI agents have advised Barnes to work a patrol position first to prepare for investigative work. The NFA experience will provide a head start for achieving his ultimate goal. “I think this will be an excellent opportunity to get some experience in doing investigations,” Barnes said.
David Gilton Jr., a junior criminal justice major from Newbern, plans a career in forensics. “Further on into my career, I would like to be a detective,” he said.
He’s seriously considering the NFA class and, like Barnes, says the opportunity will “benefit me whenever I get into my law enforcement career.”
Anyone wanting more information about the NFA or other UT Martin criminal justice programs can contact Donavant at email@example.com.