Local News: Contingency Anthropology Course Begins Fall Term (04/15/22)

Anthropology students learn about human osteology using artificial bones. According to anthropology professor Jennifer Bengston, understanding bone placement and structure is a crucial part of forensic anthropology studies.

Photo by Jennifer Bengston

Southeast is introducing a new online anthropology course called AN355 Cold Case Anthropology this fall. During the online full semester course, students will learn the basics of forensic anthropology while also learning about the methods and techniques used to gather information about cold cases.

In the course, students will learn how to identify skeletal human remains and investigate long-term missing persons cases. Students will also learn about forensic social science perspectives and how the media contributes to forensic cases. They will also create a final case report project focused on a specific cold case of their choice.

Cold cases around the world arouse the interest of many. Students enrolled in the course will gain an up-close look at the procedures for identifying remains of missing persons.

The course is a specialty course taught by Associate Professor of History and Anthropology, Jennifer Bengtson. Bengston measured interest in the Living at Southeast Facebook page prior to registration in the fall. She said the course filled up within a few days.

“I know we have some psychology students in the class, some criminal justice students, and even some journalism students, and I think all of those disciplines contribute to this cold-case universe in their own unique ways,” Bengston said. “I am very interested in working with students from other majors to see how other students would approach the same cases.”

Bengston is building the course on canvas and will be doing so throughout the summer.

Participating students can work at their own pace and customize their learning experience due to the diversity of majors among enrolled students.

Bengston plans to include different modules in the course for different knowledge levels of the students.

Alex Meyer is a graduate student in anthropology who hopes to become a forensic anthropologist. You have taken several courses at Bengston over the past few semesters and are eager to work alongside students from other majors.

“As a high school anthropology student interested in forensics and bioanthropology, I’m interested in working on cold cases as it relates to forensics,” Meyer said. “The reality is that cold cases go unsolved because there isn’t enough time, resources or funding to do them, so they just sit on the shelves.”

Bengston said she hopes the new course will be a success and be included in the future curriculum for compulsory anthropology courses, but with a different course number.

Dominica Bowles is a sophomore in criminal justice and psychology. Bowles has always been interested in cold cases and wanted to expand her knowledge on the subject. Bowles’ goal is to become a forensic detective, and she believes an anthropological background would be helpful in helping her with that.

“I love diving deep into cases while trying to figure out information about cold cases or mysteries,” Bowels said. “I really hope that the course will help me understand people better by looking at cases and learning more about reactions and reactions to these types of cases.”

Bengston said she is also interested in starting a cold case club and leading it as a faculty advisor. She said to start the club you first need a group of motivated and passionate students.

For more information on the Anthropology Special Subjects courses, go to CoursesSEMO and scroll down to AN355.

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