SOMERS — The Criminal Justice Department at the University of Wisconsin Parkside is offering for the very first time a Winterim college course called Critical Thinking in Death Scene Investigation. The course is being offered by Dr. Jana-Marie Truesdell, who has a PhD in cultural and social anthropology with an emphasis in forensic anthropology. Truesdell is a member of the Kenosha community and has over eight years of experience in this field working in conjunction with various medical examiner’s offices in southeast Wisconsin. Her experience and passion for this area of study has been instrumental for this one-of-a-kind course.
“Investigation and critical thinking are important aspects of life and the more you can hone in on these skills the better. There has been a huge boom of interest in this field. Television series and movies have sensationalized this field of work and people don’t always have the practical understanding of these investigative practices, this course will allow for students to better understand what’s factual and possible beyond the realm of fictional television series,” said Dr. Truesdell.
The week-long course will introduce students to the basic concepts and practicalities of death scene investigation from a medical-legal perspective. Critical thinking will be facilitated through examination of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, a series of 18 intricately designed dollhouse-style dioramas created by Frances Glessner Lee, a pioneer in forensic science. In addition, students will be analyzing the various manners of death including: natural, accidental, homicide, suicide and undetermined.
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Another component of the course will be lectures from various experts in this field including Parkside Police Officers Kurt Bergendahl and Kelly Andrichik, who will be facilitating sessions on evidence collection and processing. The list of presenters is extensive, but includes: Dr. Jessica Lelinski, who will give a guest lecture on autopsy; Andy Breaker of Miller-Reeseman Funeral Home in Union Grove, presenting on embalming artifact; and Wisconsin State Trooper Michael Smith, who will be speaking on accident reconstruction.
Additional lectures will be presented by specialists in arson investigation and drug paraphernalia. The small class size will deliver a very personalized experience and we hope this will create avenues of exposure for those students who may find a passion in this field of work.
The course will Culminate with an interactive recreation of an actual life size death scene on campus in collaboration with the UW-Parkside Theater Department. Leading the design and creation of scene are set designers Nate Stamper and Josh Christofferson. The detailed scene recreation will be staged in the UW-Parkside Black Box Theater and will be available for interactive viewing after the course completion mid-January. Members of the community including law enforcement and investigative agencies are encouraged to visit the space.
A date and time will be available to welcome any interested in seeing the space, more information will be made available via the program Facebook page: UW-Parkside College of Social Sciences & Professional Studies (facebook.com/ParksideSSPS/).