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Dec. 16, 2022

Just in case, writing students author plan to combat zombies

What if zombies were to invade Maryville and make their way to the Northwest Missouri State University campus? Students in a professional and technical writing course have a plan for that.

The students in Dr. Trevor Meyer’s class took on the fictional scenario this fall as a collaborative project and presented their plan during their final session Dec. 7. It was a project that began with students working as two separate groups until Meyer noticed each group was creating complementary plans and combined the students into one team working toward a singular goal of defending Northwest against zombies.

“I was like, ‘You know what?’ There’s us and there’s the dead. Let’s work together,” Meyer said. “They’ve really done quite a solid job.”

With a made-up $750,000 budget, the students’ defense plan offered solutions to existing and future problems while proposing the Administration Building as a shelter. The plan outlined ways to prepare, preserve and ration resources, including food, water and medical supplies. During the initial stage of the invasion, a group identified as scavengers would be tasked with collecting food and supplies, and a second group of fortifiers would be assigned to prepare the Administration Building for defense and shelter. The plan designated spaces throughout the building for defense, storage, living quarters and a control center. Eventually, the survivors would fill the roles of medics, gardeners, hunters, guards and leaders.

Students in Northwest's professional and technical writing course on Dec. 7 presented their plan for defending the campus against zombies. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Students in Northwest's professional and technical writing course on Dec. 7 presented their plan for defending the campus against zombies. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

More importantly, the project provided students with experience in practicing skills related to varied forms of writing, primary and secondary research, and project management as well as budgeting, production timelines, effective organization, and graphic and document design. Students collected information by interviewing Northwest staff, reviewing previously published documents and conducting field research.

McKenzy Gauert, a junior English major from Independence, Missouri, who worked on the project as an editor and graphic designer, said the project pushed her to broaden her understanding of technical writing.

“Throughout the entire process, we were challenged to improve our abilities as writers and expand our skill set to accomplish the requirements of the project,” Gauert, who desires to have a career in editing or teaching English literature, said. “Even though there were details that could be changed, this project was extremely successful at teaching us real-life skills and lessons in the technical writing field.”

Meyer, who joined the Northwest faculty in 2018, conceived of the zombie survival project while he was teaching at another institution. Although it is based on a fictional scenario, he noted public safety agencies and organizations often use it as basis to prepare and practice their safety plans. As part of his project, Meyer also has students read zombie-related writing, including “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks.

“It still does a lot of the same practices that we know – making sure that the audience is aware, making sure that the purpose is explicit, thinking about document design, thinking about organization, priming the reader with setting up expectations ahead of time and then coming back after,” Meyer said. “I figured if all of these folks can use this fictional scenario to practice practical skills, we can do the same. It’s also a way to keep it fun and interesting.”


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215