During CentreTerm 2020, Robyn Cutright, Charles T. Hazelrigg Associate Professor of Anthropology and interim director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, is helping students apply what anthropologists know about the human skeleton to criminal contexts by identifying skeleton remains and reconstructing the circumstances around death.
Having taught this course over the years during long semesters, this is the first time Cutright has taught it during the three-week term in January, when students are given the chance to explore unique topics and faraway places through immersive courses, studying abroad or completing an internship or research project.
“CentreTerm is a great time for the course, because we have a lot of time to work in hands-on ways with the materials,” Cutright said. “So far, we’ve worked with casts of skeletal material in the lab, done an exercise to simulate how forensic anthropologists document and recover material from crime scenes.”
Students have also participated in a yoga class specifically designed to help them mindfully connect with their own bodies as a way to reinforce the vocabulary they’ve been learning to describe the skeleton.
“Later in the term, students will inflict trauma on chicken bones and then use them as samples to practice describing and analyzing blunt-and-sharp force trauma,” she added. “CentreTerm gives us the freedom to do engaged, hands-on learning.”
Throughout the course, Cutright said she hopes her students learn to examine complex evidence critically—an important skill in forensic anthropology—but also in their broader lives and academic trajectories.
“I hope they learn more about humans and more about how science works,” she added. “I also hope that they apply what they’ve learned in different ways, from better understanding world events—we study how forensic anthropology is applied to recover victims of mass disasters and war and to document genocide—to watching television crime shows a bit more critically.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 20, 2020