Sangren Hall

Sangren Hall on WMU's campus.

Western Michigan University criminal justice students will partner with the Michigan State Police to solve cold case murders as a part of a new program offered to undergraduates. In the program, students will re-open old murder investigations and potentially discover more information to allow the case to move forward.

Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten, director of the program, said the program provided an opportunity to criminal justice students interested in careers in law enforcement. 

“So I thought maybe this is a perfect match,” said Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten, director of the program. “I can train undergraduates how to do proper police investigations and research and MSP might hear of leads that my students come up with.”

She added DNA technology has changed dramatically since many of the murder investigations have closed, providing the cases an opportunity to move forward as well.

The program will allow for students to get a hands-on experience that isn’t accessible inside the classroom.

“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about the procedures and everything,” said Carl Huber, a doctoral student in the program. “It’s another thing to kind of have that hands-on, being able to look at the actual case files, see what the old detectives have done, and what some of the updates were on it.”

The Cold Case Program is taken for up to 5 credits, both a lecture and lab are required. Students in the program will learn policing techniques, history and how police have investigated cold cases. 

“They’ll also be learning what documents look like, what actual police reports look like and what information police officers need when they’re doing an investigation,” said Ashley Chlebek, a doctoral student in the program.

The program will be open to upper-level undergraduates in the Criminal Justice Studies major. Students will be selected for entry into the program through an application process. The first cohort of undergraduates will join in fall 2021

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