Amy Heil, a New Mexico State University alumna and a forensic interviewer for Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, will visit campus next week as part of the homecoming festivities hosted by the NMSU College of Education.
Heil is the recipient of the 2016 NMSU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Education. She is scheduled to give a talk from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 in the NMSU College of Health and Social Services auditorium, inside the CHSS Annex. The talk is free and open to the public.
Heil received bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and psychology from NMSU in 1996, and a specialist degree in school psychology through the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology in 2008.
As a forensic interviewer, Heil has the difficult job of interviewing children who are victims of or witnesses to a possible crime. Heil said although her job is tough, she finds it incredibly rewarding.
Her first introduction to forensic interviewing was while working at the Doña Ana County District Attorney’s Office in 1998. At the time, she worked in the juvenile unit, helping develop and run a program for first-time, low-risk juveniles who needed to get through the juvenile justice system quickly so they could get the services they needed. Prosecutors handling the juvenile cases asked Heil if she could review videotaped forensic interviews of children. That experience has evolved into a career in forensic interviewing, which gives a voice to children who are victims of horrific crimes.
“The prosecutors asked me to start assisting them by watching these videos, taking notes and just helping them so they could look over the notes and see what was said during the interviews, then they would go on and make their decisions on whether a case was going to be filed or not,” Heil said. “That was my first introduction to forensic interviewing and I loved it. I thought it was really fascinating and really interesting.”
Since completing her education at NMSU, Heil has returned to campus to speak at undergraduate criminal justice and psychology classes about victimology. She has also spoken at conferences and has testified as an expert witness in Arizona, where she’s provided training to law enforcement and child welfare investigators. She also has experience as a school psychologist at schools in Las Cruces and Gilbert, Arizona.
Heil attributes her successful career to her education at NMSU, saying it has had a “huge impact.”
“When I started college in 1991 I thought I knew what I wanted to do. It’s obviously changed throughout the years, but at the core it’s stayed the same,” Heil said. “It’s afforded me the opportunity to find my path and blend all of my interests into a desired outcome.”