Alum leads workshop on researching romantic suitors

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

Cheaters and scammers beware, there’s a cyber sleuth out to expose your dark secrets. Emerson alumna Maria Coder left the newsroom at the Associated Press in order to create a series of secret-weapon courses and workshops called “Investidate” that teaches singles to dig around for information to fully understand their significant other’s baggage. Coder hopes to arm the dating world with the tools necessary to avoid heartbreak and danger.

Tonight, at 7 p.m. in room 504 of Ansin, this Sherlock Holmes of blossoming romances will bring her detective skills to Emerson for the first of a series of workshops held at high schools and on college campuses. The class, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 101,” aims to teach students how to navigate Craigslist postings, read body language, deduce personality from a dorm room, and hone their research skills through Facebook and other social media sites.

Coder says she chose Emerson as her first collegiate stop because of her roots.

“Emerson is where I learned how to conduct research, real research. Emerson was very hands on and I always felt I could make anything happen there,” she said. “And that has translated to my career seamlessly.”

The 1998 graduate studied mass communication and broadcast journalism. After graduation she focused on crime reporting and became a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting by sharing story ideas, news gathering techniques, and news sources. Through this work, Coder realized that much of what she researched could be applied to her dating life.

“I started to get scared from the news stories I was seeing and reading, like Natalee Holloway in Aruba — we still don’t know if she was killed or put into a prostitution ring,” she said. “I decided I needed to protect myself and wanted to protect others as well.”

Although journalism was important to her, Coder said she felt she wasn’t making enough of an impact.

“You write something, and then it goes,” she said, commenting on how news is fleeting and moves quickly onto the next big issue. “Afterward, I would have nothing to show for it. I wanted to help people and see a lasting effect. That’s what [my] book does, it is a useful resource that people can keep coming back to and use as a reference.”

What began as a hobby has turned into formal classes and her book, which Coder began writing in 2005, is expected to be published soon.

“The workshops started in the spring, with only a few women huddled around my computer in coffee shops and cafes,” she said. In August, Coder opened her services to larger groups in New York City.

Coder explained that there are three reasons to investigate your date — preventing financial ruin, steering clear of physical danger, and avoiding emotional harm.

“It takes the fear out of dating and makes it safer for people to meet others,” she said. “It’s about having the power and resources to get out there and not be scared.”

Coder’s decision to commit to “Investidating” was affirmed this summer after she Facebook snooped her boyfriend, who was missing from the apartment at 4 a.m. The sleuthing led her to find more than three dozen messages to other women. Her boyfriend of four months had been cheating on her and planning his late night rendez-vous via social media.

“It was very disturbing, all the messages were similar. It was the kick in the pants I needed to dust off my book and finish it,” she said. “And it confirmed I was right all along.”

A range of gumshoeing tips specifically for online dating are also on tonight’s agenda, including how to create a “Date-ah-base” by making your friends aware of your plans to meet a potential suitor. Through rigorous studying, Coder demonstrates how to identify the two largest fronts in online dating: the phony solider and the imitation investment banker.

Although some of the digging may lead to dirty secrets or lies, Coder believes that it is crucial for all daters to know the truth, no matter the consequences.

“I had one woman who discovered her boyfriend had a restraining order against him and another who found pills on her boyfriend’s bathroom floor. You don’t know if you’re putting yourself in harm,” she said. “I want my clients to feel empowered and be fully aware of their situation; to recognize it sooner and act on it.”

“A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 101” is tonight at 7 p.m. in room 502 of Ansin.

For more information on Coder or her classes, visit investidateyourdate.com.

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