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Undergrad students searched for “missing” dean

Staged kidnapping was setting for experiential learning event

It all started out like any other undergraduate event - until College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Dean Honggang Yang was kidnapped by a group of masked assailants.


The “kidnapping” was actually part of “CSI CAHSS,” the college’s participation in the university’s initiative for Experiential Education and Learning, or ExEL. The event was designed to expose 63 students from UNIV 1000 First Year Seminar to what each CAHSS department offers in their curricula.

Following the dean’s kidnapping, a detective in a trench coat enlisted students to help search for the culprits. Divided up into four groups, the students visited multiple stations throughout the Performing and Visual Arts Wing of the Don Taft University Center. At each station, faculty from different departments related skills that would help in the search for the dean.

“A lot of our teaching is learning by doing,” said Associate Professor Molly Scanlon, Ph.D., who teaches in the Department of Writing and Communication and serves as ExEL Faculty Coordinator.


At the Department of Writing and Communication station, students learned how to assemble a newscast on the kidnapping. At the Department of Justice and Human Services station, they examined fingerprints for clues. Students from the Department of Performing and Visual Arts demonstrated how to apply makeup that simulated wounds and bruises. At the station for the Department of Literature and Modern Languages, students were tasked with translating a message left by the culprits in Spanish.

Over the course of three hours, the four groups moved through every station and reconvened to share their conclusion on who was responsible for the kidnapping. The event ended with the detective and her partner returning to arrest the culprits.


Scanlon said the idea was conceived by Assistant Professor Tammy Kushner, Psy.D., of the Department of Justice and Human Services. The event took about two months to put together.

“It required selfless participation from all the departments,” Scanlon said. “We all have a passion for what we teach, and we want to share that with our students.”

The ExEL initiative was started two years ago by NSU President George Hanbury, according to Teri Williams, Ph.D., the Director of ExEL and an adjunct professor. In addition to events like CSI CAHSS, Williams said ExEL can take the form of faculty-mentored research, internships, career development, travel exploration, and more. Williams said early immersion experiences give freshmen a taste of graduate school.

“They’re dipping their toes in the deep end as freshmen and get see what it’s like to be a graduate student,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to leverage our graduate colleges and show them what’s next.”

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