Professional development event brings the dead to life

Campus News, News

Zombies invaded campus on Thursday to give students of the public relations, journalism and other media departments real-world experience with a crisis situation.

The idea started with Kelly Messinger, professor of English at Capital, after hearing about another school in Texas doing a similar event. For Capital’s event, she wanted to make sure disciplines other than PR and journalism had hand in what occurred.

“We’ve got professors involved who want to be zombies,” Messigner said. “So we’re doing it one better, I think.”

Several departments were involved in the event. Theatre students helped do special effects makeup for the zombies, and many of them acted as zombies for the event.

Students from PRSSA organized two press conferences to allow students and the media (including WXCU, the Chimes, and CapTV) to ask questions and learn about developments in the situation.

There were also text updates, set up by Professor Betsy Pike, that students could sign up for that alerted them when important events happened, such as the capture of buildings by the zombies and updates on the times of press conferences.

When asked about her feelings on the event, President Beth Paul said, “Cap students learn in interesting ways.”

The main goal of the event was to get students in the media field to think on their feet and get experience with a controlled crisis.

“[Students] need to be able to, for example in PR, respond to a crisis situation and do crisis communication,” Messinger said. “The journalism folks, they need to be able to report on something in live time…this is different, so it’s going to be a test for them.”

It was also important that the event was kept as secretive as possible, to force students to think on their feet and communicate effectively about the situation.

“In a planned way, [the event] creates an opportunity for chaos,” Jeff Gress, professor of communication, said. “It’s one thing when you have time to plan your paper, reedit it … as opposed to viewing something, assessing it, internalizing it, and then communicating about it.”

Drew Gittins, a senior psychology and organizational communications major, is using this event as his capstone project.

“I’m really excited for the PR students to get to handle an abnormal situation as if it was real,” Gittins said. “I wanted to do something fun and creative that involves organizing people, and I didn’t really want to turn in a paper for my capstone; I feel like that’s been done so many times.”

The event started at noon, with zombies beginning to “attack” students in the center of campus. At 1 p.m., students in PRSSA held their first press conference at the fountains, where they explained the situation and gave students tips on how to stay safe. After the press conference, zombies held interviews with WXCU, talking about their movement Zombie Lives Matter and explaining their side of the attack. Zombies also held a protest outside of Blackmore Library just before 2 p.m. At 2 p.m., there was a second press conference where students were made aware of a cure and vaccination for the zombie virus.

UPDATED: Oct. 8, 2017, 9:38 p.m.

Check out the Storify coverage from the events here!

Heather Barr

Leave a Reply