This February the American Academy of Forensic Sciences met in Denver, Colorado, for its annual meeting. One order of business was a gathering of the Forensic Science Education Program accreditation Commission (FEPAC) to decide which university programs currently under review would be granted academic accreditation. Though the number of FEPAC accredited graduate programs was expected to jump dramatically this year, due to the many programs that applied for accreditation and were inspected, only one new program received full accreditation for the next five years--the Masters in Forensic Science Program at Sam Houston State University.
With the addition of SHSU, there are only eight fully accredited forensic science graduate programs in the United States, a testament to the program as well as the rigorous guidelines FEPAC sets forth. The process of just applying for accreditation "is a major undertaking," said Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, director of the program. FEPAC considers all facets of a program, from its guiding missions and goals to the equipment made available to students. "It looks at everything," Kerrigan said, "from our planning process, how we evaluate ourselves, what kind of institutional support we have, our budget, our resources, our scientific equipment. It looks at academic and non-academic support, advising, library services, computer services." The most important goal of accreditation, however, is ensuring that a program is teaching students what forensic scientists need to know--that they will leave fully prepared for work in a real crime lab--and the forensic science program at SHSU meets and exceeds that goal.