Professor Jim Pharr: The nation’s first online baccalaureate degree program in Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation

The following is a part of an interview with Jim Pharr, chair of the Department of Safety, Security and Emergency Management and EKU Online Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation professor.

EKU Online Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation professor Jim Pharr

The program recently launched the nation’s first online baccalaureate degree program in Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation. What impact do you expect this will have, both in terms of enrollment for EKU and for the profession?

Investigation of fires and explosions is a technical field that requires integration of significant information. Students must understand the chemistry and physics involved in fires to determine where fires originated. They then examine the mechanics of how heat sources interact with fuels to result in ignition. Through interviews they determine who or what may have been involved. Attention to details becomes extremely important when examining fragments remaining after explosions. Through careful examination information is learned that leads to determination of what and why an event happened. Advances in forensic information required in legal proceedings have elevated the technical competency required of fire and explosion investigators.

Eastern Kentucky University offers the only bachelor’s degree focused on this specialized field. Offering the degree on-line provides many working professionals the ability to continue education critical to their success. Addition of 100 majors is anticipated in the first two years of offering the on-line option.

A caveat to the online offering: two campus residency periods are required in this curriculum. During the 10-day residencies students will receive information that is sensitive to investigators, while integrating the information during hands on portions of the class.

Read the full interview.

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Published on April 17, 2013