The Criminal Justice Department at the University of Wisconsin Parkside is offering for the very first time a Winterim college course on Critical Thinking in Death Scene Investigation. The course is being offered by Dr. Jana-Marie Truesdell, PHD (Cultural and Social Anthropology with an emphasis in Forensic Anthropology). Dr. Truesdell is a member of the Kenosha community and has over 8 years of experience in this field working in conjunction with various Medical Examiner’s offices in SE Wisconsin. Her experience and passion for this area of study has been instrumental in her sensemaking 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.

This week-long course will introduce students to the basic concepts and practicalities of death scene investigation from a medico-legal perspective. Critical thinking will be facilitated through an examination of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, a series of eighteen 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.

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 include Dr. Jessica Lelinski who will give a guest lecture on Autopsy, Andy Breaker of Miller Reeseman FH presenting on Embalming Artifact, and WIDOT 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.

This course will lead to an interactive recreation of an actual life-size death scene on our very own campus in collaboration with the UW-Parkside Theater department. Leading the design and creation of the 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. 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

For more information, contact Jana Truesdell at

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