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University considers offering new forensics degree option

Jan. 23, 1997

By Cindy Szelag

Lariat Reporter

University students who are interested in both social and physical sciences or who would like a career related to criminal justice may soon have a new degree to better fulfill their needs.

Several students who are interested in forensic science as a major have been taking action to incorporate this degree into the Bachelor of Science program.

A degree in forensic science would be interdisciplinary, essentially adding sociology and anthropology classes to a pre-med degree, said Dr. Susan Maki-Wallace, assistant professor in the department of anthropology.

No classes would have to be added to University curriculum to facilitate this major, she said.

Maki-Wallace said that as a member of the pre-med committee, she sees the importance of a forensics degree to medical school applicants.

Even pre-med forensics students who do not do well on the MCAT and cannot get into medical school can find an abundance of jobs in the forensics field with just a bachelor's degree, including positions with the FBI, Maki-Wallace said.

Maki-Wallace also sits on the board of the Central Texas Association of Forensic Science, which is building a private forensic institute in Waco.

The institute should be up and running in the next six months, and would give forensics students hands-on experience at performing autopsies. This is an opportunity that few undergraduate students have, Maki-Wallace said.

Maki-Wallace teaches several courses in osteology and forensic anthropology and said she would like to see a forensics degree implemented.

'If it ever comes about, I would love to be involved in it,' Maki-Wallace said.

Students in some of Maki-Wallace's forensic anthropology classes apparently saw brochures regarding forensic majors at other universities and considered bringing the program to the University.

Lauren Pancheri, a Houston junior majoring in pre-med anthropology, has written two letters to faculty members, including Maki-Wallace, in favor of adding the new major. Along with her first letter she included a petition with 500 signatures of students who felt it would be a good idea to add this major to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Pancheri said she got a positive reaction from her correspondence, indicating that faculty members were interested in the degree and were appreciative of the student involvement.

Pancheri said she heard about the possibility of a forensic major near the beginning of last semester, and has been working toward the goal of adding it ever since.

'I'm impatient, because I only have a year and a half left,' Pancheri said.

Pancheri's said her next goal is a new petition with only signatures of students who would be likely to major in forensics if it were added.

'I am trying to get in touch with people who are interested in the major to start a forensic club whether or not the major is implemented,' Pancheri said.

Even with all the student involvement, implementing a new major is not an easy process, said Lois Ferguson, assistant to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. First, the concerned department would have to write a document that indicates the course structure of the major and that the faculty is competent to teach these courses.

This document then goes to the curriculum committee, who reviews it and sends it back if there are any questions or concerns.

Once this committee votes in favor of the major, it goes to Dr. Donald Schmeltekopf, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, Ferguson said.

Finally it makes it to the desk of the president and the Board of Regents.

The process may take a year or longer, Ferguson said, and the forensics degree is still at the beginning of this long sequence of events.

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