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Zombies Invade College Classrooms, Inspire New Teaching Methods



By Samantha Gordon
Posted March 08, 2013 11:00 AM

Colleges begin using zombie apocalypse scenarios in the classroom.
Colleges begin using zombie apocalypse scenarios in the classroom.

While most college students only get to talk about zombies in their spare time, a few lucky collegiate minds have the opportunity to earn credits while they explore the significance of the zombie apocalypse.

Zombies, the reanimated bodies of the dead that live to eat human flesh, have long been entertaining horror fans.  But in recent years, the idea of a zombie apocalypse has captivated the masses so much so that the threat of this scenario can seem nearly real. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even has a blog dedicated to this topic that discusses various ways to prepare for this highly unlikely event.

While CDC director Dr. Ali Khan indicates equipping people for the day the undead walk the Earth also prepares them for a slew of more likely natural disasters, the notion of a zombie apocalypse can also be used to start discussions about the philosophical and strategic implications of such an event.

Such is the case at Michigan State University (MSU), where students can enroll in a seven-week summer course that examines the way people behave during catastrophes. According to East Lansing ABC affiliate WXYZ, students enrolled in the class will explore the way humans behave in times of turmoil compared to more peaceful times. They will be placed into a zombie apocalypse simulation and divided into teams where they are tasked with handling various situations. Students will look to historic examples of catastrophes such as the Black Death to help them through the course.

"We are using the idea of a zombie apocalypse to attract attention to the important research and science on the topic of 'Catastrophes and Human Behavior,'" Glenn Stutzky, social work instructor and creator of the course, told WXYZ.

MSU students aren't the only ones studying the possibility of zombies roaming the planet. USA Today College reports that Lone Star College-Montgomery offers a similar course. Professor Jared Cootz began teaching a class called "Sociology and Zombie Apocalypse" in spring 2012. This class focuses on the cultural impact of zombies, and students read Max Brooks' novel World War Z and watch zombie-centric films. They also hold blood and food drives and play games like capture the flag where some students dress up as zombies, according to USA Today.

While the chances of zombies actually becoming a reality are basically nonexistent, the study of such a possibility is proving to spark students' interest in a new way. The president of Lone Star College-Montgomery, Austin Lane, told USA Today that he believes incorporating popular culture and nontraditional teaching methods is effective at keeping students engaged in their education.

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