April 03, 2012

Manchin celebrates accreditation of MU Forensic Science Graduate Program | The Parthenon

United States Sen. Joe Manchin stopped by the Marshall University Forensic Science Center on Tuesday to celebrate the accreditation of the MU Forensic Science Graduate Program’s Accreditation and the addition of the Paul H. and Dixie O. Nicely Scholarship Fund.

Manchin said that the accreditation of this program makes West Virginia the leader in forensic science.

“Marshall University is not just the leader in forensic science in West Virginia,” Manchin said. “Marshall University is the leader in the nation. That speaks well for this entire state, and you all should be very proud.”

“There isn’t a person that graduates from this program that isn’t going to have people knocking on their doors saying, ‘We want you. We want you in this government, the private sector,’” Manchin said. “So what you’re doing, I say thank you.”

Terry W. Fenger, director for the Marshall University Forensic Science Center, said over the past decade the industry  has seen a rise in the interest of forensics.

“About twelve years ago there was this, what we called, CSI effect and many universities were noting the interest of students in crime scene investigation,” Fenger said. “Of course it didn’t hurt with five or six programs on television that focused on crime scene investigation. Universities responded by creating all sorts of crime scene investigation curriculum.”

“We got involved early on with our forensic science program, and, in 1994, in association with the West Virginia State police, we developed the program,” Fenger said. “We had our first class in 1995 and have graduated a class every year in May since.”

Fenger said in response to the CSI effect, that the American Academy of Forensic Science decided to evaluate the quality of the programs across the country. This was done to see if they meet standards that produce quality scientists to be hired for federal and state labs. Fender said there are at least 19 master’s degree programs in forensic science across the country.

“Last year, we submitted an application for accreditation for the digital forensics unit,” Fenger said. “This requires all coursework to be in place and to have a close working relationship with law enforcement, and last month we were notified that we had been approved for accreditation.”

Also during the program, Fenger unveiled a new scholarship fund was created in order to promote and encourage students from West Virginia and the metropolitan area to participate in this program.

The need for the scholarship was identified by Tammy White, a member of the board of advisers named the scholarship after her parents, Paul and Dixie Nicely. Fenger revealed two portraits in honor of White’s parents that will hang in the Forensic Science Center.

The accreditation will remain for five years until it’s up for reevaluation in 2017. “The accreditation body also decided that Marshall University will be the model system for the United States so far as a digital forensics program,” Fenger said.

By:  Zachary Morris