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When preparation meets opportunity

CMU graduate secures dream career with the Mesa County Coroner's Office

Landing your dream job out of college isn’t easy, but for recent Colorado Mesa University graduate Alexis Prall this is her reality.

Prall wanted a career in criminal justice ever since she was young. It wasn’t until she was on CMU’s campus that she realized the scope of possibilities available.

“Once I got to college, I was drawn to investigative work specifically surrounding deaths,” said Prall.

Prall took a course called Forensic Anthropology with Professor of Forensic Anthropology Melissa Connor, PhD, and found working with skeletal remains intriguing. 

“I think it's really interesting to be able to learn so much from a person, even after death,” said Prall. “There's so much information to learn and discover. It's also an honor to uncover the last story of a loved one’s life.”

She became an intern with the Forensic Investigation Research Station (FIRS) — a CMU research facility that focuses on the decomposition of human remains.

“Students are trained on working in the outdoor area with the human remains, taking data for research projects, placing remains and picking them up for maceration. Maceration is cleaning remaining tissue off the body so that a clean skeleton can be added to our skeletal collection,” said Connor. “In addition, most interns complete an additional project. Alexis was completing the analysis, photography and write-up of a skeleton in our collection.”

Because of COVID-19, Prall’s internship with FIRS was cut short. Fortunately for Prall, she was able to intern with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office (MCCO) and when the semester ended she was hired on as a medicolegal death investigator.

"She will be assisting with investing deaths that occur in Mesa County to determine the cause and manner of death,” said Mesa County Coroner Victor Yahn. "We see very horrific things every day and it takes a special person to do the job. Her work at the university laid a solid foundation for her."”

Prall’s internship with FIRS gave her the hands-on learning experiences, which prepared her to be a MCCO deputy coroner.

Prall says landing her dream job is unbelievable.

“I am very fortunate to have received this opportunity. With COVID and everything being uncertain, I thought it was going to be nearly impossible to land a criminal justice job after graduation. Now I don't just have a job, but I'm starting my dream career way sooner than I thought possible,” she said.

“Landing a “dream job” straight out of college is not luck — it is having worked hard enough, long enough to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise,” said Connor. “It’s a matter of focusing on coursework, and also looking for internships, related work opportunities and anything that will help a student get that first toe in the door.”

Prall said every day on the job is different and she’s constantly learning.

“It has been interesting to learn the different ways to approach each type of scene. It's really fascinating to see the parallels between what I learned in college to how I'm now able to apply it to my career,” said Prall.

Prall said Connor as well as other criminal justice faculty’s support helped her thrive and made the learning experience enjoyable.

“What was Thomas Jefferson’s quote? ‘I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.’ Alexis prepared so she was ready to take advantage of the opportunity when it arose,” said Connor.

 

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Written by Kelsey Coleman