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Vickroy: Moraine Valley CC officials welcome zombies on campus

Brad Pitt 'World War Z.'

Brad Pitt in "World War Z."

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ZOMBIE PROGRAMS

Zombies will also invade the Tinley Park Public Library throughout October. Games, books and zombie-themed programs will invite the public to learn more and play along. On Oct. 26, the library will present the film “World War Z,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Moraine Valley Community College faculty. The event kicks off at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Library is at 7851 Timber Dr., Tinley Park; (708) 532-0160; tplibrary.org

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Updated: September 28, 2013 6:07AM



Don’t panic, but undead, flesh-eating monsters are invading the campus of Moraine Valley Community College.

The virus already has infected the math, biology and, yes, even English literature departments. No field of study is safe.

“Zombies are here,” Troy Swanson said.

And educators couldn’t be happier.

It’s no secret that zombies are the new vampires, in terms of public affection and popularity. Our natural fascination with zombies, those undying, flesh-craving, join-me-on-my-journey creatures, has long been depicted across pop culture, from the 1968, “Night of the Living Dead,” to the current popular television series, “The Walking Dead.” There have been books, games, songs, and live interactive events, such as Zombie Blitz 1940, which takes place in tunnels beneath London’s Waterloo Station.

The origin of the zombie infection at the Palos Hills campus can be traced back to the library staff. Every year for the past 10, it has selected a work of literature for its One Book, One College program. A chosen novel is embraced by faculty and its message applied across curriculums. Students are encouraged to read the book and the public is invited to do the same.

Past selections have included George Orwell’s “1984” and Rebecca Skloots’ “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

This year’s choice is more than a nod to pop culture. It also addresses a growing concern for infectious disease on a global scale. “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” by Max Brooks, is timely beyond the monster factor.

“Yes, the book is about zombies but it’s more about a look at geopolitical emergency preparedness,” said Swanson, MVCC library department chair. “It uses zombies as a metaphor for worldwide pandemic.”

The Moraine staff will use them to get students thinking about infectious disease in a history, sociology, nursing and mathematical context, Swanson said.

“Different faculty members can use the book in their own way,” he said.

English or sociology students might look at how the story is told in an oral history form, like that embraced by Studs Terkel.

Math students might use differential equations to study network effects and how disease and well as information spreads from place to place.

And political science classes might consider the way a country’s politics or economics influence how it reacts to a pandemic.

The point, Swanson said, is to connect students across disciplines and to get them all working on a common theme. It also helps to establish the library as a place where all students can come together to study and share information.

“We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘How can we as a library enhance the curriculum?’ ” Swanson said.

In addition to supplying a common topic for all majors and subjects to embrace and build on, Swanson said the library will provide complementary programming, including lectures and movies.

Among the more ambitious programs will be a Humans versus Zombies game that will take place on campus over seven days, beginning Oct. 23. The active learning event will model a disease outbreak, with 2,000 pre-selected student players being “infected” with a disease and then sent out to spread that infection.

Microbiology students will look at how the infection spreads. Nursing students will study the effects and treatment. Even speech students will be encouraged to take a public stand and give voice to geopolitical viewpoints, Swanson said.

Like all good science fiction, Brooks’ novel, which spent four weeks on the New York Times’ best seller list, introduces a number of themes and issues, including disaster mobilization, how quickly infectious disease can spread and how governments react to a global pandemic.

The campaign aims to unite students in their pursuit of academic understanding, as well as to prepare them for a global workplace.

That said, Swanson added, One Book, One College is also meant to be fun. And when are zombies not fun?



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