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Students At West Chester Get Unexpected Results In DNA Tests

By John Ostapkovich

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) - America has been called a melting pot or an ethnic stew but that often refers to masses of people. DNA testing can show it applies on the individual level as well.

You might find it strange that the occasional DNA testing of willing students occurs in a communications class, but that's because Professor Anita Foeman is interested in the way people relate to each other.

"We have a narrative that is very simple and a narrative that is very singular and helps us have a straightforward identity and then the DNA just blows that right out of the water," she said. "In my opinion, that moment opens up a conversation that would not have been possible before."

She first has each student write out a chart of presumed ethnic origins, kind of the recipe of the individual. Then the DNA test often introduces unexplained ingredients, with gene markers from unexpected sources.

"And in the past they (the students) seemed to be more resistant to that and I think society is changing so that people think, not only is it okay, it's kind of neat to think there's a variety of things in my background, and I do see that conversation evolving."

Professor Foeman did the tests this year among Honors College students, and awaits funding for another round at some point, but says she'd eventually like be able to do the DNA testing at West Chester to expand what she calls the map of the human trek, that DNA doesn't forget family history even when the family does.

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