WSU Honors Program Prepping for Apocalypse

OGDEN, Utah – As many college students step back into college life, students in the Honors Program at Weber State University are discussing the end of the world.

New to fall semester are two courses that investigate the modern fascination with the apocalypse and solutions to one of the most pressing end-of-civilization problems — not enough food or water.

“The Honors Program strives to offer classes that truly are outside the box in terms of content and teaching,” said Dan Bedford, WSU Honors Program director. “In doing so, we offer a place for faculty and students to stretch themselves creatively and intellectually, which benefits the entire campus. Students gain from opportunities to learn in unusual ways, in a small-class, discussion-focused environment. These classes can ignite a passion for learning that lasts some students their entire lives.”

"Karen Cooper" portrayed by Kyra Schon, Night of the Living Dead

“The Apocalypse and After,” taught by Scott Rogers, English associate professor, will focus on how post-apocalyptic themes are a modern fascination, intensified by each new invention.

Zombies have transformed over time, according to Rogers. Students will study that change in various zombie literature and films ranging from “Night of the Living Dead” to “World War Z.”

Zombies were used to reveal different cultural issues during various time periods, Rogers said. In 1968, George Romero used zombies to illustrate racial issues in “Night of the Living Dead.” In Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake “Dawn of the Dead,” zombies represented mindless consumption and consumerism.

“The zombies are a stand-in for any catastrophe,” Rogers said. “That’s the genius of zombies; they’re just a vessel you can make whatever you want. If you’ve got a culture with an anxiety, throw it in there.”

In addition to cultural issues, zombies can address the idea of societal collapse. One of the more recent types of zombie fiction involves the spread of rampant viruses and the possibility of life in a post-apocalyptic world.

“It’s no coincidence that this genre emerges right at the moment when the world gets globally connected on a scale that it’s never seen before,” Rogers said. “It’s about a sort of realization that we have this enormous dependency on technology and that the world we live in makes the spread of horrifying diseases really easy.”

Rogers wants his students to examine the zombie culture mania by asking why this artistic event is happening now and what it says about the culture that produced it.

“If the students come out of class asking those questions about every phenomenon they see, whether it’s some particular genre of music or art or television show, it was successful,” Rogers said.

The class is held Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 10:30-11:20 a.m. in Stewart Library Room 325.

The second Honors course tackling a world-ending challenge is “Food and Water for a Hungry World.” Students will discuss ways to provide enough food and water for the growing world population and what science has done for the way in which food is grown.

 “Access to potable water and nutritional food are fundamental to life,” said Bridget Hilbig, botany assistant professor and instructor in the Honors Program. “The current issues of population growth, urbanization and climate change threaten that access and create a fear of an apocalypse-like environment, but also a strong desire to find a solution.”

In 2015, it is estimated that 780 million people were undernourished. Although that number is improving, it is nowhere near the goals set by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization or the World Food Summit of 1996. It’s easy to imagine how lack of food and water would dominate an end-of-the-world catastrophe. That’s why Hilbig likes to discuss it with her Honors class.

“Global food security is a challenge that will affect their lives, and the solution requires innovative minds and collaborative effort from many different fields,” Hilbig said. “It will require changes to agribusiness, changes in science and farming practices, changes in policy. Most importantly are an increased awareness and education about where your food comes from and what or who determines what you eat.”

That’s what Honors students will consider all semester in the class that will be located in Stewart Library Room 325 on Wednesday from 12:30-3 p.m.

“Honors classes aren't necessarily more work than other classes, but they are different, and they are challenging,” Bedford said.” Most of them also count for general education credit. Students who want an academic adventure should try an Honors course.”

Visit weber.edu/Honors for more information about the Honors Program.

Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.

For photos, visit the following links:

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Contact:

Dan Bedford, Honors Program director
801-626-8091 • dbedford@weber.edu

Scott Rogers, English associate professor
801-626-7502 • srogers@weber.edu

Bridget Hilbig, botany assistant professor
801-626-6176 • bridgethilbig@weber.edu

Author:

Charles Bowker, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7295 • charlesbowker@weber.edu