Carolyne Williams and her group excavating at the Body Farm.

Carolyne Williams is a political science graduate from Illinois State University’s class of 2021. She received an Alice Ebel Scholarship to attend the National Forensic Academy Collegiate Program, which took place July 11-30, 2021. The program is based on the 10-week version that law enforcement agencies can send their crime scene technicians or officers to. Those who attend the program get hands-on experience in crime scene management, forensic photography, impression evidence, crime scene mapping and diagramming, latent fingerprint processing, DNA evidence collection and preservation, forensic anthropology and remains recovery, bloodstain pattern analysis, and ballistics reconstruction. The program is held in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the students live in fully furnished apartments nearby. The collegiate program is mostly made up of undergraduate students, although one can also earn graduate credit. At the end of the 3-week course, participants will have earned 9 credit hours.

Carolyne Williams in the lab photographing latent fingerprints.

The National Forensic Academy Collegiate Program is a great starting point for anyone interested in criminal investigation. Attendees study real-life cases, work mock crime scenes, work as a team to recover real human remains at the body farm, process fingerprints, cast impressions, and more. The program brings in experts in these fields to teach each section. The program creates an atmosphere in which participants can build connections with all the instructors as well. The NFA staff is more than willing to help each student with their career and educational goals.

Many participants go into the program not knowing what they want to do after college or with a completely different interest in mind. During the three weeks, everyone gets a chance to explore different opportunities and really lean into what their main interests are and what direction they want to go. Some like forensic anthropology the most, while others become interested in latent fingerprint processing. The instructors for each section are all open to questions and discussing different options with everyone individually.

Carolyne Williams in the lab working on photographing shoe print impression evidence.

Williams decided to pursue crime scene technician work in the Knoxville area. Crime scene technicians go to crime scenes, take photographs, collect and process evidence, and testify in court. Williams hopes to work in a civilian unit where one does not have to be a sworn officer. The Knoxville area is somewhat of a hub for law enforcement because it is home to the city police department, sheriff’s office, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and an FBI field office. The possibilities are nearly endless in the field of criminal investigation and forensic work.

After reconnecting with members of her session, Williams confirmed that everyone shared the idea that the National Forensic Academy Collegiate Program was a life-changing experience. Many of the members are staying in touch and hope to attend the 10-week version at some point in their careers. In job descriptions, one may even see the National Forensic Academy listed as a preferred qualification, especially within the East Tennessee region.