When Zombies Roamed the Campus
Most students spend their first weekend in college making new friends, going to parties and exploring their new home. The students in Heather Hayton’s First Year Experience Course were chased by zombies.
“I wanted to have a scenario whereby students would have to experience some of what makes zombie narratives so compelling,” said Heather, associate professor of English and department chair. “After reading or seeing so many zombie flicks, it’s easy to lose sight of the surprise element and begin to think we could do it better. But when we are put in a truly surprising, even fake, situation with lots of adrenalin pumping, our reactions change.”
Heather organized the event with students who took her English capstone course on zombies last year to stage a zombie apocalypse, and keep the pressure on her First Year Experience students throughout the night. (Capstone courses are for advanced students and cross traditional disciplinary lines.)
Students from the capstone, current students, graduates and even some staff members played the role of zombies gave the first-years a night they would never forget.
“Even though I’m into horror and gore I was a little scared, it was a surprise,” said Vanessa Madonna, one of the first-year students. “I definitely didn’t expect to get chased around campus by a swarm of zombies! I learned that I need to start watching more zombie movies and that it’s difficult to work as a team when under so much pressure.”
“My experience was great,” said student Ian Weisenberg. “I had an awesome time trying to survive and help those who were in need of it. I learned a lot just from this simulation. Like, fear not the zombies, but other humans. I learned that physical characteristics of certain students made them leaders and that even the quieter more passive students had brilliant plans and ways to avoid being eaten. They just had to be heard.”
Ultimately, the students managed to learn some skills that would be useful in a zombie apocalypse. Heather said that what they learned that night will be useful throughout college.
“It turns out these are the same skills needed for success at college and in life: to learn how to be adaptable, problem-solve, work together as a community, and to be resourceful,” said Heather. “So this entire experience was choreographed by me and my awesome team of zombie alumni so that the FYE students would have to develop those skills to survive the night.”
Story by David Pferdekamper ’12
Photo by Kacey Minnick ’13