DETROIT — Dozens of Michigan State University students survived a zombie pandemic this summer.
Or at least a class about one.
For the past seven weeks, Glenn Stutzky, an instructor in the School of Social Work, taught a course not previously offered at the East Lansing university.
Called "Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse — Catastrophes and Human Behavior," the online class, which wrapped up on Friday, encouraged students to consider how human behavior and nature change after catastrophes, both historical and hypothetical.
In this case, the hypothetical was a zombie apocalypse.
On the surface, it may not sound like the most rigorously academic class ever offered.
"I really didn't know what to expect as far as the material goes, but I imagined it would be an easy 4.0," said Tiffany Mora, a sophomore and human biology major from Macomb Township. "I was criticized by many. My friends would say, 'I'm not wasting my money on a class about zombies. What could you possibly learn?'"
For his part, Stutzky embraced that kind of skepticism.
"Controversy is part of having an idea worth sharing," he said.
Stutzky, who started as an instructor at Michigan State in 1996, also teaches Introduction to Social Work and a class on bullying. With the summer semester approaching, he thought the current pop-culture obsession with the undead might be a nice entry point for students.
So he went all out, producing a "teaser" video — starring him — that introduces the coming zombie outbreak that is at center of the course and interacted with students throughout the seven weeks via Facebook, Twitter and a YouTube channel. The class even employed what Stutzky said was the country's first "embedded" librarian in a college course (her unofficial title: head zombrarian).
His mantra: "Be interesting."
It appears to have paid off.
Nearly 180 students completed the course and were placed in groups, where they were tasked with developing ways to survive the zombie onslaught.
Danielle Brophy's group met weekly on Facebook.
"I can tell you that I'd feel safe running from zombies with them," said the 29-year-old psychology major from East Lansing.
Mora, 19, was the leader of her group, which, she said, successfully avoided a pitfall that could have ended with their demise.
"One of the challenges we faced was to decide whether or not to let someone desperately pounding on the door inside our barricaded shelter," she said. "Our group unanimously agreed to keep him out, and as a result he was mutilated and killed.
"But it was a good decision. Later on we found out he was infected. He would have zombified in our safe house."
Stutzky said the class will be offered next summer, but unlike this summer's version, it'll be available to undergraduate and graduate students alike.
And non-students as well, such as Frank Hahnel, 35, of Maitland, Fla., who works for a company that manufactures 3D Laser Scanning equipment for law enforcement.
He signed on as a "lifelong student" after having his interest piqued while seeing the course description online.
"Believe it or not, I did end up learning a lot in the course," Hahnel said. "It wasn't a course that you could just sit back and do nothing, and still get an 'A' or 'B.'"