Ramapo College of New Jersey Launches Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center

New Jersey’s Ramapo College Launches Genetic Genealogy Research Center


originally published: 02/12/2022

New Jersey's Ramapo College Launches Genetic Genealogy Research Center

(MAHWAH, New Jersey) — Ramapo College of New Jersey, the state’s public liberal arts college, launched the Center for Investigative Genetic Genealogy at Ramapo College (IGG Center), the first center of its kind to offer case studies, research, and hands-on training in investigative genetic genealogy. The vision of the innovative new center is to secure justice through the ethical and competent use of investigative genetic genealogy to support the resolution of cases involving wrongful convictions, unidentified human remains and violent crimes. The Centre’s first class of IGG Certificate Program students will enroll in the spring of 2023.

“The launch of our new IGG center illustrates how, through forward-thinking and dynamic initiatives, Ramapo serves the public good. This center doubles our mission to develop ethical leaders who are competent, civic-minded, and committed to learning by doing,” said Cindy Jebb, President of Ramapo College.

The Ramapo IGG Center is led by two prominent leaders in the field – David Gurney, Ph.D., JD, and Cairenn Binder, MS. Dr. Gurney, assistant professor of law and society at Ramapo College, was formerly a member of the Wrongful Conviction Clinic (now Innocence Project of Arizona) at the University of Arizona. He holds a certificate in genealogical studies from Boston University and is chairman of the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Accreditation Board, which develops standards for the IGG. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Forensic Genealogy Special Interest Group of the Association of Professional Genealogists Forensic Genealogy.

Ms. Binder is Director of the Investigative Genetic Genealogy Certificate Program at Ramapo College. She is a founding partner of Coast to Coast Genetic Genealogy Services and is also Director of Education and Development for the DNA Doe Project. She used IGG to provide investigative leads in a number of high-profile cases, including identifying the victims of John Wayne Gacy, Gary Ridgeway (the Green River killer) and Keith Jesperson (the Happy Face killer). ), among others.

“Since 2018, investigative genetic genealogy has become an essential tool in securing justice,” Dr. Gurney said. “Over five hundred cases have been resolved with the help of IGG. With the new center – the first of its kind – Ramapo will be at the forefront of ensuring that IGG is practiced competently and ethically, while expanding the reach of IGG by exonerating those wrongfully convicted .

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Thanks to a generous multi-year private donation, the IGG Ramapo Lab will be housed in the College’s new Peter P. Mercer Learning Commons, providing a safe place for the study and practice of IGG. This dedicated space will include teaching and learning stations, essential database and software subscriptions, and operational support that will enable the Center to support at least five cases per year while supporting efforts. of the IGG Center to increase research and scholarship in the field.

President Jebb added: “With two of the leading leaders in this emerging field, we know that David and Cairenn will continue to do work that furthers our public purpose, integrates the liberal arts, develops talented problem solvers and attracts recognition. Through the generous commitment of longtime College supporters and leaders, Susan and Nick Vallario, the IGG Lab is positioning Ramapo as the first lab of its kind by focusing exclusively on IGG and providing case studies and research in more education.

Combining traditional and genetic genealogy, IGG can provide leads in cases involving unidentified human remains and violent crimes where other methods have failed. As IGG is viewed by more investigative agencies, there is a need for competent and ethical IGG practitioners, IGG pro bono services for cash-strapped agencies, and an expansion of IGG – particularly in the area of ​​wrongful convictions. The IGG Center at Ramapo College will meet these needs and ensure that IGG remains a powerful tool in securing justice.

To achieve its vision of ensuring that IGG is practiced ethically and competently, the IGG Center seeks to provide IGG pro bono work on cases involving wrongful conviction, unidentified human remains, and violent crime. In addition to its dedicated case work, students enrolled in the IGG Workshop and the IGG Certificate Program (scheduled to launch in the spring, pending board approval) will gain practical and ethical experience through to immersive work with real IGG cases. These cases stem from partnerships with public agencies and non-profit organizations, which will benefit from the pro bono IGG services provided by IGG Center staff and students. Currently, Ramapo has partnerships with the Bergen County (NJ) District Attorney’s Office, the Innocence Project of Idaho, and the Loyola Project for the Innocent. Additional partnerships across the country are being negotiated.

“We are grateful for the trust that our partners place in the Center and in our students. The opportunity they will present through the cases referred to us will not only provide valuable practical experience to students, but will demonstrate to them and the public that the pursuit of closure and justice is within our reach more than ever before,” Liant said.

The IGG Center will also focus on the research and expansion of IGG, in particular by engaging in the ongoing discussion of the practical and ethical limits of IGG, and seeking to expand the reach of IGG to make justice for underrepresented populations.

In 2023, the Ramapo IGG Center will also host the world’s first professional conference dedicated exclusively to IGG.

To learn more about the Ramapo IGG Center, visit www.ramapo.edu/igg

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