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Heather Walsh-Haney

Heather Walsh-Haney

I wanted to teach at FGCU because the focus then and now is experiential learning

Photo of Dr. Heather Walsh-HaneyAfter earning both her bachelor and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Florida – and while completing her doctoral work in physical and forensic anthropology – Dr. Walsh-Haney joined the faculty at FGCU. Eight years later, in 2013, she became leader of the Forensic Studies Program.

“I wanted to teach at FGCU because the focus then and now is experiential learning,” said Walsh-Haney, who strongly believes students need hands-on experiences, especially in the field of forensics.

“We have a practitioner-based program,” she said. “Prior to joining FGCU, forensic faculty members have all been in the field doing important forensic work. They bring those experiences into the classroom, and they bring their students into the field.

“Being directly involved in casework helps students understand the many roles individual analysts play as part of a forensic investigation. For example, I’m focused on skeletal remains, but how do I collect evidence without impacting other aspects of the investigation?” She believes there is no substitute for on-the-job training.

Before students enroll in the program, Walsh-Haney asks them to carefully consider their options. “Are they prepared to obtain a graduate degree involving intensive research and writing?” she said. “I give them book titles to read and list peer-reviewed journals for them to review. I ask whether they envision themselves in the field conducting interviews and collecting evidence, or do they see themselves in the lab working on skeletal remains and translating observations into a report.”

Students stand to benefit greatly from Walsh-Haney’s in-depth experience as consulting forensic anthropologist for eight Florida medical examiners and principle investigator for over 500 forensic anthropology cases. Her research interest involves better understanding the human condition through analysis of skeletal remains and its intersection with crime.