Eastern adds forensics program to offerings

By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — High-tech crime-solving science called forensics is a big part of TV crime dramas these days. But as the science has evolved over the last few years in the real world, the supply of forensic scientists hasn’t kept up with the demand.

It’s that demand that faculty and administration at Eastern New Mexico University hope will drive a new major of forensic science in the fall. They say the outlook for employment and earnings in the field is excellent.

Regents gave approval for the new four-year degree through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in April.

Kathy Durand, ENMU professor of anthropology who is overseeing the new program, said most of the courses for the degree were already being offered in the anthropology, biology, chemistry and criminal justice departments. It was just a matter of adding a course or two and pulling things together in a cohesive program.

“There’s a real shortage of this (forensic science training) in this state,” Durand said. “So much so that Gov. Richardson increased the budget for the state labs (for recruitment and pay increases).”

Durand, who has been with ENMU since 1993, said jurors see “CSI” or one of the other crime dramas on TV and expect to see forensic evidence being introduced. She said the reality is that the state crime lab is so backed up prosecutors often have to proceed without that evidence.

“Criminals are actually going free for lack of this type of training in our state,” Durand said.

ENMU has also added degree programs in dairy, range management, pre-veterinary and agriculture education.