At my college there were classes in Harry Potter and term papers about Sesame Street, so I've never been one to judge the academic merits of any given corner of pop culture. All the same, I"m now preparing to demand my own Masters Degree in Avengers casting rumors, or maybe an advanced certificate in Mad Men theory, now that The Walking Dead is getting the academia treatment. According to USA Today, AMC Networks has teamed up with Instructure and the University of California at Irvine to offer an eight-week course called Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC's The Walking Dead. If the participation from AMC suggests to you this more than just a good-hearted experiment in education, you're right:

"Fans of the show know that The Walking Dead is about more than zombies; it's about survival, leadership and adapting to situations that are perilous and uncertain," said the network's vice president of promotions and activation Theresa Beyer to USA Today. Beyer's very presence in this article confirms that the class really is all about promotional opportunities, and a creative way to get people on the Internet talking about zombies during the upcoming fourth season of the show. The first class is scheduled for October 14, which is the day after the new season's premiere. If you want to hear more about this class-- which will be taught by UC Irvine faculty members from the public health, social sciences, physics and math departments-- entirely in PR speak, here's more from Beyer:

There is clearly a growing appetite for engagement with The Walking Dead, and we hope this online course will drive a deep, sustained connection with the show during its upcoming fourth season and offer a legitimate educational experience that can be applied even more broadly.

If you're already sold, you can click here to sign up for the course (it's free!), and also learn more about the topics it will include. Here are some of my favorite highlights:

Social identity, roles, and stereotyping—as shown through leaders like Rick and the Governor

The role of public health in society—from the CDC to local community organizations

The spread of infectious disease and population modeling—swarm!

The role of energy and momentum in damage control—how can you best protect yourself?

Nutrition in a post-apocalyptic world—are squirrels really good for you?

If you're one of those apocalypse minded types who's constantly preparing for the end of the world, this course could provide you with all kinds of skills to fuel your paranoia. And if you're a fan of The Walking Dead who's already watched all the trailers and dug through all the Blu-rays, the class might be the last, best way to obsess over the hit show. Just don't start pretending you're now a CDC-certified expert on how zombie viruses get spread. This is education for entertainment purposes only.

For a more traditional way to prep for the new season of The Walking Dead, here's the latest clip.

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