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A closer look: Alfred State’s Wayne Bensley brings real-world knowledge to the classroom

A closer look: Alfred State’s Wayne Bensley brings real-world knowledge to the classroom

When examining Wayne Bensley’s career under a microscope, several things become evident: his knowledge and passion for the forensic science field and a strong dedication to his students.

Like so many other Alfred State faculty members, Wayne was employed in his field for many years prior to working at the college, where he now serves as an associate professor and chair of the Physical and Life Sciences Department. Over the course of his teaching career, Wayne has passed on his real-world knowledge and experience to countless students, proudly watching as they transform from untested freshmen, to graduates, to seasoned forensics professionals.

Wayne’s own academic path began at Syracuse University, which he graduated from in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry. Two years later in 1994, he earned a Master of Science in forensic science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In 1995, Wayne began working at the Indianapolis Marion County Crime Lab in Indianapolis, IN.

“I was working as a chemist, so that means I was analyzing items that were seized that were suspected controlled substances,” he said. “My job was to determine if in fact what was submitted was a controlled substance, and if it is a controlled substance, what is it?”

From 1995 to 2007, Wayne worked at the crime lab analyzing suspected drugs. In his last few years there, he moved to the trace evidence division, where he also analyzed blood from suspected drunk-driving cases and performed microscopic analysis of hair and fibers.

One of the aspects of his jobs that Wayne enjoyed the most was that no two days in a row were ever the same.

“Some days were very routine. We would get five or six cases of suspected marijuana or suspected crack and cocaine over and over. I saw those so many times,” he said. “But then, I had a case where I analyzed almost a ton – 1,900 pounds – of marijuana that was seized. I had a case where I analyzed 12 kilos of cocaine. Their street value was probably half a million dollars. There were some fairly high-profile cases in Indianapolis in which I was analyzing evidence as part of that case.”

Another favorite part of his job was serving the public, albeit in a way not many people think about.

“We were not trying to ‘get the bad guy.’ It’s not really what forensic scientists do,” he said. “Forensic scientists simply scientifically analyze the evidence that is presented to us. For example, if there was somebody dealing drugs, they would not be able to put that person in prison without the analysis of the drugs by the chemist. It’s a small part in the whole big case, but it’s critical to something like that.”

While he greatly enjoyed working as a forensic scientist in Indiana, Wayne wanted to be closer to his family in Earlville, a small town in central New York. One day, he came across an opening for an assistant professor position at Alfred State College.

His wife, Julie, a math teacher, felt he should apply for the job based on his ability to instruct others, whether it was “teaching the jury” while testifying in court or training police officers in aspects of his job.

“Basically, that got me into the education field,” he said. “I had no previous desire to even be a teacher.”

Since joining the Alfred State faculty in January 2007, however, Wayne has grown to love being an instructor and guiding the next generation of forensics professionals. Originally hired as an assistant professor, Wayne has since been promoted to associate professor, and in 2017, he assumed the role as chair of the Physical and Life Sciences Department. He is also the program coordinator of the four-year forensic science technology major.

Outside of the classroom, Wayne has served the college as a member of Faculty Senate, in addition to being a member of several committees, including the Academic Integrity Committee, the Student Life Committee, and the search committee for the new dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. He is also a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the Northeast Association of Forensic Scientists, and the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. On a personal note, he and his wife are the parents of two children, Jennifer and Sam.

Throughout his time at Alfred State, Wayne has taught a variety of courses focused on chemistry and biochemistry, as well as a course on professional preparation. He has also taught the senior capstone and oversees all of the student internships.

One of the biggest moments in Wayne’s career as an educator came in 2016, when the forensic science technology program was granted accreditation status by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). At the time, it was one of only 20 FEPAC-accredited bachelor-level programs within the field nationwide.

“We knew that we had a really strong program here, even though it was young and small and not well-known nationwide,” he said. “Having that FEPAC accreditation verifies that the work we had put into this program was up to the standards of the field. It was basically a stamp of approval that we are preparing our students when they graduate to be scientists working in the field.”

Seeing his students graduate and succeed in their careers, in fact, is what Wayne considers to be his biggest achievement as an education professional. As his former students go on to work at crime labs in Erie County, New York City, and even Washington, DC, Wayne can’t help but take pride in knowing that he played a role in their success.

“To me, the biggest achievement we can have as educators is to see the students walk across that stage and then become productive members of society,” he said. “Just knowing that we are preparing them to do that, that’s the biggest honor we can have as educators.”

Wayne with a student in a lab
Wayne Bensley, pictured here with a student, brought years of real-world experience with him when he joined the Alfred State faculty in 2007.