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The Evidence is Clear: Criminal Justice Adjunct Professor Megan Roberts Is an Excellent Instructor

January 18, 2024
woman on stage receiving award
From left, Senate Faculty President George Bedell, CSM President Dr. Yolanda Wilson, CSM Forensic Adjunct Professor Megan Roberts and CSM Board of Trustee Shawn Coates pose for a photo.

At the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), courses are designed to equip students for the real world. In some courses, that might mean getting hands-on experience with technology or budgets. In the forensics classes taught by St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office (SMCSO) Crime Lab Supervisor and CSM Criminal Justice Adjunct Instructor Megan Roberts '05, it means students spend a semester gathering evidence and investigating stab wounds and blood spatters.

Roberts was recognized at the CSM 25th Winter Commencement Jan. 12 as the 2024 Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award winner, because of the excellent job she does sharing her years of experience with local police departments and for how she gives students an authentic and tailored experience in the field of forensics.  

“Adjunct Instructor Roberts is a professional in her field and all-around good and humble person that this world needs more of,” said Faculty Senate President George Bedell in presenting the award. “As an instructor in CSM’s Criminal Justice program in the School of Professional and Technical Studies, Roberts brings forensic analysis to life for her students by giving them the opportunity to work a case from start to finish. She incorporates innovative activities in her classes, creating mock evidence her students can utilize for hands-on experiences and inviting guest speakers to talk about their roles in the profession. As a result, her classes have the highest enrollment in the department. She is currently helping to create a Criminal Justice Lab at CSM to further enhance the student immersive experience.”

Bedell told commencement attendees that CSM is lucky to have Roberts on the CSM team. “Her students love her because she is able to demonstrate what she teaches. She cares about her students and is always willing to help them.”

Bedell also shared that Roberts is also a certified instructor with the Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission (MPCTC), trained in digital forensics, and is a licensed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) remote pilot. Roberts, Bedell added, also gives back to her community by sharing her knowledge with Girl Scout troops, the Skills U.S.A. competition at the high schools, and the Citizens Academy.

Roberts said that she starts each semester by setting up a crime scene, then spends the semester taking students through every step of the forensics process using an actual case that she helped to solve as a guide. She also brings in tools used by professional forensics teams and mock evidence she specifically creates for the classroom.

“Post-Halloween-sales,” she shared, “are great for stocking up on fake blood.”

A typical semester starts off with securing the scene, she continued. “Then we move onto photographing, collecting and packaging items. The students swab and fingerprint items that they’ve collected. And then we generate lab reports about what we found.”

Throughout the semester, Roberts said that she is careful to keep a couple things in mind: not everyone learns the same way, and not every student is going to pursue a forensics career.

“I graduated from CSM in 2005, so I tell my students that I have been where they are,” she continued. “I know how I learned, personally, and I wanted to make sure that I brought in all the different teaching styles to my classroom.

“I relate very much to how they’re doing and how they feel, so I really do advocate for them and figuring out where they want to go after they graduate from CSM,” she said. “I’m a huge advocate for networking no matter what their field is, and I give them examples of how networking in my field has helped my career.”

Melanie Osterhouse, chair of CSM’s faculty excellence committee, said that it is this commitment to student success beyond the classroom that sets Roberts apart. Osterhouse pointed out that Roberts has hired three former students in her SMCSO lab; is helping the program coordinator with planning a CSM forensic lab; and recruits criminal justice students to to CSM through her involvement in the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center.

"Megan’s unique contribution to CSM is linking students to real world opportunities,” said Osterhouse. “Megan is able to bring students into the CSM program and then employ them on their way out. She actively provides student access, momentum and social and economic mobility.”

“Megan Roberts has exemplified excellence in both her role at the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office and as an Adjunct Faculty member at the College of Southern Maryland,” said St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office Captain Edward Willenborg, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division. “Her commitment to our office, outstanding contributions to teaching, and dedication to professional development showcase her as a true leader, reflecting her unwavering commitment to the community and the pursuit of justice.”

Roberts said that she is proud that her work is being recognized by CSM.

“I was totally taken aback when I learned that I had been chosen, but I am honored to know that I am helping students, and CSM sees that,” she said.

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