Rebuilding After the Apocalypse


Alia R. Tyner-Mullings

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Stella and Charles Guttman Community College


Tyner-Mullings, A. R. (2015). Rebuilding After the Apocalypse. Stella and Charles Guttman Community College.


This assignment uses a social science perspective to help students think about the building blocks of a society. The idea at the foundation of the assignment is to encourage the students to move beyond what we learned in the classroom and apply these concepts to real world issues. In their assignment, students are expected to describe a predicted result of a current social problem and apply their knowledge and skills to the rebuilding of society once that problem destroys it. This assignment is designed to assess the DQP proficiency Applied and Collaborative Learning.

Background and Context

The assignment is used in the capstone of our Liberal Arts and Science program and is therefore primarily for students near the end of their time in the major at the community college level. This course is taught according to the specialization of the faculty member(s) teaching it. In this particular iteration, three faculty members taught the course based on the idea of an apocalypse and post-apocalyptic worlds. Each module was four weeks long and this assignment was part of the module taught by the sociology professor.

Alignment and Scaffolding

As this course is the capstone, students have completed most of their courses for the major. Introduction to Sociology is important so the discussion of what a social problem is and what social institutions are will not overshadow the application of those concepts. Prior to distributing the assignment, the students have reviewed what a social institution is and the role it plays in society. The assignment scaffolds through a social science curriculum on social problems and social institutions. The students should also have discussed what it means to follow a social problem to its logical conclusion and what the different outcomes could be.

In undertaking the assignment, students must focus on a specific social issue, identify the type of apocalypse they are dealing with, and design a social institution.  For this, they chose among a set of possibilities such as those below.  Alternatively, the class could discuss and decide on one social problem and/or one social institution and then each individual or group presents their related social institution.

Sample Social Issues

Global warming

Racial discrimination

Gender discrimination

Economic inequality and instability

Defunding of social programs

Energy Dependence


Types of Apocalypses

Natural Disaster

Biological creation

Extra terrestrial






Social Institutions: a set of norms that support the needs of a society. While the mechanisms that fulfill these needs might change, all societies require some version of these social institutions.







Mass Communication







The first time we taught the course, some of the students had difficulty separating the fantastical idea of something like a zombie apocalypse from the practical understanding of our current world and how it may change. Other students could not connect with the idea that, if the world changes dramatically, many of our current ways of life will become extinct.

However, there were additionally many students who, in their assignments or reflections,  commented on how much they enjoyed being able to apply what they had learned in this course and their other Liberal Arts and Sciences courses to real world problems. We were quite pleased that they understood and fully embraced our design for the course.

This assignment represents a revised version of the initial assignment providing a stronger linkage between the scaffolded parts and a set structure to the origin of the social problem and the institution that emerges.

Though this assignment is somewhat particular to the structure of this course, at its foundation, it could be used in any other sociology, urban studies or political science courses that encourage students to examine social institutions from a different perspective and to think about how they might meet a society’s needs in a world distinct from this one.

Other Information

These projects represent a mix of individual and group assignments. The social institutions were distributed randomly and groups were made in that way. Assignments #2 and #4 were group assignments while #1 and #3 were individual. However, this could also be done with each individual creating their own version of an institution for a social problem/apocalypse that the class as a whole decides to use or coming up with several different apocalypses and creating versions of a given institution for each of them. This might assist in the discussion of social institutions as students can discuss how they meet the same needs in different societies.

Please select an option

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