At first blush, a summer program about zombies will naturally evoke some giggles or a scratched head. For this reason the Truman Institute has devoted significant attention to consulting credible figures in science, medicine, literature, and education to develop its program.
The Advisory Board
The Zombie Scholars Academy Advisory Board began its work in 2011, discussing the curriculum and logistics of a summer program at Truman State University. The Board has focused attention not only on content, but also on how to convey the core message of disaster preparedness to a young audience. The Board includes:
Dr. Peter Cummings, MD
Dr. Peter Cummings is a forensic pathologist working with the office of the Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner. There he works as the Director of Neuropathology. Cummings is board certified in Anatomic, Forensic, and Neuropathology and has a career filled with truly fascinating experiences. He served on the identification teams for the World Trade Center disaster and the Swiss Air plane crash. In 2009 he was a NASA astronaut candidate finalist and he maintains an active research agenda exploring the effects of cosmic radiation on retinal glial cells in space flight. He has served on the faculties of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the Royal College of Surgeons (Ireland), and the University of Maine. He is the author of The Atlas of Forensic Histopathology. Dr. Cummings ties these interests to the exploration of zombies in his recent work of fiction, the Neuropathology of Zombies, perhaps the only work of fiction to feature a neuropathologist as protagonist.
Dr. Maria Evans is Board Certified in clinical and anatomic pathology and practices these for Chariton Labs and Northeast Regional Medical Center in Kirksville, Missouri. She is an Associate Professor at A.T. Still University’s, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine – the founding school of Osteopathic Medicine. A graduate of Truman State University, she previously served on the Truman Board of Governors. She received her medical degree from the University of Missouri School of Medicine. In addition to her experience as a physician, Evans’ is currently involved in the ministerial discernment process for the Episcopal Church, bringing an ethical and philosophical component to the development of the zombie camp curriculum. She freely embraces all aspects of her nerdiness.
Nick McCracken, MBA
Nick McCracken is a Product Innovation Research Manager, at Ford Motor Company and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Marketing at Michigan’s Walsh College. Professor McCracken conducts research to gain insight into customer wants and needs for future Ford and Lincoln products in North America, Europe, South America, Asia, and other markets. Before joining Ford, he was a senior vice president for consumer insights and strategy at Young & Rubicam Advertising. Professor McCracken’s experience also includes launching the Visteon corporate brand identity across seven countries and directing the communication launch strategy for the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit. McCracken joins the advisory committee both as a film and fiction enthusiast and an expert in human behavior and marketing.
Dr. Jason Miller
Dr. Jason Miller is Senior Research Officer at California State University-Channel Islands. He formerly was an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Truman. Dr. Miller played a leadership role in a number of Truman’s summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives, serving as Director of the NSF-funded SPECTRA program, as a leader in Truman’s Mathematical Biology Program, and as the organizer for Truman’s Kauffman Scholars Collegiate Residential Institute. Miller has a particular interest in the relationship between mathematics and biology, which makes him a great fit for exploring how mathematical modeling can tell us about the spread of contagions – such as a zombie plague. Dr. Miller has a strong commitment to interdisciplinary learning.
Inspired by a lifelong interest in the undead, Matt created the Zombie Research Society in 2007 and continues to serve as its Head Researcher. Since its inception the Society has spawned chapters all over the world and throughout the United States – including in high schools. He has a broad base of knowledge in zombie science, survival, and pop culture, and even received advanced combat and survival training in the French Foreign Legion. He holds a Master’s degree from the New York University Film School, where he received a Sloan Foundation National Fellowship for science in screenwriting. He later served as an adjunct faculty member at NYU. His successful publishing career includes That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale, perhaps the only children’s book to take-up the zombie topic. His Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies, stands as a virtual encyclopedia of every concept scholars of zombies have explored, as well as a highly credible manual of advice for survival in any disaster scenario. Mogk has appeared in documentaries about the zombie phenomenon, as a speaker at conventions, and as a participant on Spike TV’s Zombies vs. Vampires episode of “The Deadliest Warrior.”
Bill Oberst Jr. has been a working actor for 20 years; the first 14 of them on the east coast stage. His Jesus Of Nazareth played 1,100 venues, and his portrayal of John F. Kennedy in JFK toured 20 states and the Kennedy Library. Since moving to Hollywood in 2008 he has amassed 115 credits in film and television; including lead roles in the History Channel docudrama Sherman’s March, The Hallmark Channel movie The Shunning and the CBS series Criminal Minds, as well as a multitude of independent films. Bill’s performances have been recognized with a Daytime Emmy Award, a Golden Cob Award as Best Rising B-Movie Actor and multiple Best Actor Awards. In 2013 Variety magazine called his onscreen persona “chilling.” Bill’s IMDb page is http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994. Followers of the zombie genre will be most familiar with Oberst’s work as President Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012).
Aaron Sagers is a journalist/TV personality and zombie expert who has covered the walking dead genre on CNN and on his Travel Channel show “Paranormal Paparazzi,” where he serves hosts and co-Executive Producer. Sagers has traveled the country talking about the re-animated corpse menace at numerous pop culture conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con, Dragon Con and more. He is also the founder of Paranormal Pop Culture (www.ParanormalPopCulture.com), an entertainment site that explores horror, supernatural and all elements of the paranormal – as seen on Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and BBC. Sagers is also a contributor to CNN.com, MTV Geek and Sirius/XM radio. He is the author of “Paranormal Pop Culture: Rambling and Shambling Through the Entertainment of the Unexplained,” and is a part-time professor of Journalism at NYU.
Dr. Steve Schlozman, MD, is currently the Associate Director of Training for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Program in Child Psychiatry, and Co-Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry for Harvard Medical School. He is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry. He is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard and Lecturer in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He earned his Medical Degree at the Brown-Dartmouth Program in Medicine, and completed his training in general psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and his Child Psychiatry Residency at the MGH/McLean Program in Child Psychiatry. His academic work focuses on curriculum reform and educational endeavors at the medical student and post-graduate levels, as well as on the psychiatric treatment of medically ill children. His first novel, the Zombie Autopsies, was published in March 2011 and he is currently collaborating with George Romero on a film adaptation of the novel. Previously he gained recognition among scholars of the zombie phenomenon for his journal article that theorized the existence of Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome.
Advisors and Consultants
Max Brooks is best known for his significant contributions to the Zombie literary genre. His books The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War are both New York Times bestsellers. Brooks has been referred to as “the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism,” and his World War Z applies the oral history methodology, challenging the reader to think seriously about what individuals and governments would do in a scenario in which controversial ethical choices are required for the survival of humanity. Brooks’ book is due to be released as a film in June 2013, starring Brad Pitt and Matthew Fox.
Dr. Kevin Minch is the Director of the Truman Institute and Dean of two summer academies at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He is also a Professor of Communication and the former director of the University’s speech and debate team. He has worked with summer programs at Truman, Yale, and the University of Kansas almost continuously since 1997. As the Truman Institute Director, he has primary responsibility for the development of Zombie Scholars Academy and its curriculum. He has been at Truman since 1999.