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Wang’s Journey Compares Forensic Techniques With UK

Published: November 3, 2009

Criminal Justice’s John Wang spent three weeks this summer at the United Kingdom’s University of Leicester with 21 students from CSULB, San Diego State, and John Jay Criminal Justice College as part of a Study Abroad class on forensic studies.

“I thought this class would offer a useful comparison of forensic investigation techniques between the two countries,” explained Wang, who joined the university in 1999. “The war on terror continues and transnational crime is on the rise. Our students need to know what’s going on in other parts of the world.”

Wang believes the class is a boost to the Criminal Justice Department. “The department and the college have been very supportive of the class and I am especially pleased with the level of cooperation I received from the Study Abroad program and College of Continuing and Professional Education,” he said. CSULB’s Education/Study Abroad Office advises students, faculty and staff about the many opportunities to intern, study, teach, volunteer and work abroad. Programs include semester and year-long options as well as short-term, summer and winter session opportunities.

Department chair Hank Fradella agrees with Wang. “Justice and liberty often depend on the reliability of forensics. Errors can mean freedom for the guilty and incarceration for the innocent,” he said. Fradella explains that students need to understand that the quality of evidence plays a vital role in criminal investigation and prosecution. They must also be able to identify relevant types of evidence and maintain the integrity of that evidence to insure its subsequent admissibility in court. “But we do not have some exclusive knowledge base in the U.S. on such procedures,” added Fradella. “Techniques being developed or perfected in other countries can be adopted here. Indeed, the University of Leicester is the birthplace of modern forensic DNA analysis. By partnering with them, CSULB is facilitating transdisciplinary, transnational education.”

John Bonds, Wang’s teaching partner at the University of Leicester, visited CSULB in October to recruit for another trip next summer.

“The class had its origins in the department’s comprehensive revision of its curriculum in 2007,” explained Wang. “One of the department’s goals was to add more classes about forensic studies. After all, without science, it becomes more difficult to solve crimes in the 21st century. The new curriculum includes a new survey of the forensic sciences, criminalistics, forensic psychology, forensic pathology, white-collar crime and a class about the investigation of high-tech crime. This new class is also part of this department’s effort to internationalize our curriculum. We want more global understanding in our courses.” Wang helped design the team-taught class. “In the morning, the class would be taught by University of Leicester scholars and in the afternoon by me for the comparison,” he explained. “It was my job to introduce the American methods, techniques and procedures. Students were required to take two exams, make two presentations and research two papers.”

One of the biggest recommendations for such global classes is the changing job market. “In today’s economy, résumés need all the help they can get,” said Wang. “Learning experience at a global level provided by this course looks good on anyone’s résumé. Overseas experience is very important these days. Classes like these certainly make it possible for American students to compare systems in forensic sciences as well as law enforcement between countries they are interested in. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are ours? With such global understanding, our students will become better leaders in our criminal justice system in the future.” Forensic studies also provide another opportunity for students in the natural sciences, engineering, nursing, psychology and even the arts to explore career opportunities using the skills and knowledge of their respective disciplines within the justice system.

Wang and Jay
Photo by Victoria Sanchez
John Bonds (l) with CSULB’s John Wang on his visit to the university in October.

Student feedback has been positive. “We’ve already had our first reunion party,” he laughed. “Everybody’s happy and said they learned a lot. This was more than just a chance to travel. It was a learning opportunity.”

Wang saw his newest book, Asia Organized Crime and Gangs in the U.S., published in English in 2007 by the Press of China Public Security University and hopes to see his new book on forensic studies to be completed next year. He earned his Master’s degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University in 1990 before going on to receive his doctorate in criminal justice from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1994. Wang is a member of the International Association of Identification (IAI) and American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Next summer’s trip will mean even better organization, Wang believes. “I will have two pre-trip meetings and a better PowerPoint presentation on preparation,” he said. “We learned a better way to do things this time.” Wang believes the chance for international education is an invaluable tool for any faculty member. “The key is to find good contacts or partners overseas,” he said. “Of course, budget support is also essential. But once faculty members have done it for the first time, I think they will love the experience and the direction their instruction is taking. Plus, international teaching does more than improve teaching methodology, enrich course content, and bring new information to our students; it supports all kinds of research.”

Fradella concurs and adds, “The comparative study of law, justice, and forensics will advance international cooperation in crime-solving while simultaneously advancing students’ global awareness. Accordingly, we hope not only to continue our partnership with the University of Leicester, but also to expand our international ventures to include other countries. China is next on our list.”