I’ll be honest; religious studies was not on my radar as I began my undergraduate career at the University of Alabama. However, it turned out to be exactly the program I needed to realize who I was, as well as who I was to become. I began as a biology major in 2000, but as I became aware of the wide variety of fields of study the University offered, I began to seriously think about another passion of mine: philosophy. Although I had taken a couple of basic philosophy courses, I new that it was really the religious or spiritual aspects of human cultures that appealed to me the most. After all, I’d always been fascinated by mythology and the passion so many people exhibit over religious beliefs, so why not take a class or two just for the fun of it.
After REL 100, I was hooked. A semester later I declared religious studies as my new major, finding myself totally immersed in a program that engaged me with studies ranging from general overviews of religious philosophies and cultures to whole seminars devoted to researching concepts of genocide or Tibetan Buddhism. I picked up Judaic Studies as a minor, and by December of 2003, I received my B.A. Although I still hadn’t quite decided what path I wanted to take from there, I knew I wanted to work with texts or continue to be involved with the Humanities further, but I didn’t really want to pursue a teaching career. As fate would have it, I discovered that U of A also has a great Library and Information Studies program, and after checking that out, it was obvious that the marriage of these two degrees would be a happy one indeed. With a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree, I found that I could apply the critical and analytical thinking processes honed from my religious studies experiences to the arena of information management and retrieval. Having my degree in the study of religion in culture really helped me bring something unique to the table, as working with the Humanities at large is a huge part of library/information science.
I received my MLIS in August of 2005, with a focus on cataloging. I now work as a cataloger / editorial assistant for an EBSCO database dealing with fiction titles known as NoveList, in Durham, North Carolina. This is perfect for me, as I primarily create bibliographic records for adult fiction titles, involving subject analysis that requires me to daily reflect on my own background in the Humanities to accurately describe to the reader what a given title is about. This is most helpful when I get to work with science fiction or fantasy titles, as many deal with concepts of identity and relationships with gods and goddesses. Although it may seem an odd path to take, my new career blends seamlessly with my experiences at U of A’s Department of Religious Studies.
Although I am grateful to all of the faculty members I had a chance to study with, I am especially thankful for the impact Dr. Steven Jacobs had on my academic path. His courses on genocide, the Holocaust and studies in Judaic philosophy were some of the most rewarding academic experiences of my life. I consider him both a mentor and friend, as I’m sure my fellow alumni will agree concerning any faculty member in the program. I encourage anyone with a desire to study human culture, history and the concepts of the “sacred’ versus the “profane” to give Manly Hall a visit. The rewards, for me, are still coming. Roll Tide!!
I also got married in December of 2005 to Pamela McNeil, a 2004 U of A graduate in English, now pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at UNCW. We live in Cary, North Carolina, happily ever after!!