Imagine opening the door to the dean’s office and finding the reception area roped off with yellow crime scene tape.
In the middle of the room – the slumped body of Jeff Russell, Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning and Dean of Continuing Studies. Standing close by is a UW-Madison police detective. A man in a white lab coat solemnly pronounces Dean Russell “dead.” There is no time for tears, no “next of kin” to be notified because there is a crime scene to investigate, a suspect to be charged and justice to be served.
The man in the white lab coat is SoHE professor Majid Sarmadi, and for more than fourteen years, he has been “killing” UW-Madison’s top administrators, giving students in the PEOPLE program an authentic hands-on learning experience with a crime scene investigation. And this year, the School of Human Ecology and Professor Sarmadi were honored by the PEOPLE program for their work in “educational advancement and workforce development of youth.”
During the course of the CSI program students get early exposure to the variety of careers and majors on campus using chromatography, spectrophotometers, infrared analysis and flammability testing equipment. Students In the PEOPLE program not only experience what it’s like to learn in a university setting, they get a chance to preview areas of study they may be interesting in pursuing once they get to college. The program involves a team of dedicated graduate students and high school teachers working with Professor Sarmadi to critique and adjust the class, making sure the content and experience is top notch and meaningful.
Professor Sarmadi is the liaison between the PEOPLE program and the School of Human Ecology, and has been connecting programs and students for more than a decade. While best known for his research in the fields of chemical properties and structures of textile fibers, plasma modifications of materials, textile flammability, wettability, dyeing and finishing, it is his passion for creating the best learning experience for students that is most impressive.
Professor Sarmadi’s string of victims includes Dean Emerita Robin Douthitt, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Police Susan Riseling and Provost Paul DeLuca.
“[The project ]shows that the campus and people at a high level at the university are committed to undergraduate education and the PEOPLE program,” Sarmadi says. “I never worry about where to find the next victim because there are always a few volunteer deans in the queue.”
 No deans were harmed in the production of this story.