When Zombies Attack

As part of a pop culture course, students test whether they have what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse.

(Video by Scott Cook and Jennifer DeWitt)

Do you have what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse?

That was the question guiding Assistant Professor of English Jana Mathews’ winter intersession course, Naked and Afraid: Survivalists and Hunter-Gatherers in Popular Culture. During the five-day class, students studied society’s fascination with and fear of zombies, as well as our natural impulse to prepare for apocalyptic events. One of the course’s activities included creating a zombie run on campus, during which students dressed up as zombies—fake blood and all—and attempted to “kill” 75 students from four other intercession courses.

The run consisted of a half mile marked course around campus. The participating runners had three balloons taped onto their bodies, which represented their lives. The zombies were scattered across the course in various hiding spots, waiting to kill victims by pulling off all three balloons.

“The purpose of this activity was multi-fold,” Mathews says. “It served as a sociological experiment to test how people respond in emergency situations; it evaluated the effectiveness of evacuation plans; and it served to illustrate how fear, anxiety, and hysteria operate in social contexts. Plus, who doesn't like dressing up a like a zombie?”