Words by Michelle Mondo

Even as a child, Anna Marie Wojnar was interested in crime scenes.

“When I was little, I used to take little crime scene photos of my dolls,” she said. “I would lie them out on the floor. That was inspired by TV shows.” As a St. Mary’s University junior transfer student majoring in Forensic Science (Criminology Option), Wojnar understands the difference between the reality of her future career and the entertainment it inspires. What remains true is how working as a crime scene investigator or in forensics can impact others.

“I’ve always known I wanted to help people. But I wasn’t sure how,” Wojnar said. “Learning that you can incorporate helping people through investigating really intrigued me.”

She connected public service and forensic science as a Biology student at Northwest Vista College, where she began her college journey. Growing up in San Antonio, she used to tag along with her dad, Ronald Wojnar, when he worked there as a digital media professor at Northwest Vista. She knew she wanted an associate degree in science and the chance to explore the possibility of medical school. The realm of forensic science called her when she took her first Criminology class at Northwest Vista.

Being able to pursue Criminology, as well as Forensic Science, in the lab was why Wojnar chose to transfer to St. Mary’s. Two programs paved the way. She was a part of Northwest Vista and St. Mary’s joint program, Fostering Undergraduate Education, Retention and Transfer Environments, and the St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE).

She credited Andrew Agueros, St. Mary’s Assistant Director of Transfer Admission, with making the transfer process as smooth as possible by keeping communication open and less complicated.

Courtesy of St. Mary’s University

With U-RISE, Wojnar has begun biomedical research and traveled to Phoenix with fellow students to attend the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists. “We got to present our work and see the research from other colleges as well,” she said. “It was a really cool opportunity.”

Wojnar participates in the Student Organization for Cold Case Review (SOCCR) and the Forensic Science Club. SOCCR was founded Fall 2023 by Criminal Justice and Criminology Assistant Professor Colton Daniels, Ph.D., and students, like Wojnar, who are passionate about the topic. The mission of the club is to give students the opportunity to work on real cold cases.

Daniels has seen Wojnar excel in his classes. “Through discussions in the classroom, SOCCR and office hours, Anna showed the utmost respect, humility and drive to pursue her passion in forensics to provide compassionate justice and give a voice to those who may not have one,” he said.

Her academic adviser, Associate Professor of Forensic Science Peter Platteborze, Ph.D., has also seen her dedication to the field. Platteborze is the Forensic Science Program Coordinator. “Anna is very oriented to the interdisciplinary nature of the forensic science field,” he said. “I have seen her actively help other students who don’t understand a certain concept.”

Wojnar serves as a Rattler Orientation Leader and has volunteered at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital in Westover Hills as a nurse’s aide.

She said the Marianist culture at St. Mary’s has become important to her experience as a student and for her future success, whether she works for a local police department as a crime scene investigator or pursues a position with the FBI. “The Marianist mission brings everyone closer together because it is one goal, and that’s to help everyone move forward,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see that.”