Backstory: Prof. Merinda Simmons

merinda

Backstory” is a series that asks the REL Faculty to tell us a little bit about themselves, to explore how they became interested in the academic study of religion and their own specialty, elaborating on their current work both within and outside the University.

Where are you from?

Tampa, FL.  I grew up celebrating what I took to be my “Southern heritage” of strong coffee, palm trees, and red beans and rice.  When I moved to Alabama after a stint in Appalachia, my students informed me that I was ridiculous to claim Southernness as part of my identity.  I can’t help but think that that rude awakening contributed to my interest in Southern Studies, in how various groups classify this complicated region and how those classifications shape certain relationships to power and something called “the past.” Continue reading

Can I Order the Authentic Dish, Please?

noodles

By Wesley Davidson
Wesley Davidson is a senior Religious Studies major and Judaic Studies minor from Dothan, Alabama. He plans to continue his study of religion in culture at the graduate level and is currently playing the waiting game after finishing the application process.

Recently while perusing The Huffington Post I came across an interesting article titled, “10 Common Food Terms That Have Lost All Meaning.” The article’s main concern is how certain food classifiers such as authentic and natural have been overused and in the author’s opinion have “lost all meaning” as a result. The problem seems to be that we can no longer trust a company when they advertise their product as such because they have used descriptive terms that some deem to be inappropriate or misleading. We encounter this all the time when choosing which restaurant to go to or what item on the menu best suits our current tastes. Continue reading

Experience Is In the Eye of the Beholder

colorrun

By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She currently works as a staff member in the Department as a Student Liaison and filmmaker. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

The other day I came across a friend’s Facebook photo that advertised the upcoming 4th of July Color Run in Montgomery, AL. It reminded me of Russell McCutcheon’s post discussing the marketing strategies of the for-profit company The Color Run, LLC. I, like many others it seems, assumed it was a non-profit, cancer awareness type event. While it is marketed much the same as other charity events, their website does say on that they are a “for profit event management company.” So while the information isn’t widely advertised, it’s no secret, either. Continue reading

Making Cents

Picture 2Every now and then you hear about a really large, anonymous tip that’s been left for a server — here’s a story (including video) from the other day on this very topic, from nearby Knoxville, TN.

Of course, it’s hard for a scholar of religion not to hear things we commonly call religious scattered all throughout this story, like the

Jesus has blessed us and we were led to give it to you.
God Bless!

note that accompanied the tip, as well as the recipient’s conclusion that God led these kind people to her in her time of need, not to mention the concluding report that she’s been searching through scripture to see if the amount left, $1,075, is significant for, after all, it’s “not exactly a nice round number.” So there must be “some significance to the number,” right? Continue reading

Backstory: Prof. Steve Jacobs

steve

Backstory” is a series that asks the REL Faculty to tell us a little bit about themselves, to explore how they became interested in the academic study of religion and their own specialty, elaborating on their current work both within and outside the University.

From where do you hail?

I was born in Baltimore, MD., grew up in Silver Spring, MD, just outside of Washington, DC, and lived ~ 7 minutes from the University of Maryland, which is why I went to undergrad in Pennsylvania! Continue reading

In the Currents of Change

savannah fSavannah Finver is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College, double majoring in Religious Studies and English. She is an avid reader and writer. She is interested in the impact of religion on American politics and social order. This piece was originally published in STAC’s student newspaper, Thoma, and when it came to our attention we thought it would make an ideal guest post on the REL blog.

When I first came to STAC, I declared a Childhood/Special Education major for two reasons. The first was that I could not see myself doing anything other than teaching; after all, my mother is a teacher, and I have spent my entire life around young kids. The second was that, knowing myself fairly well, I was certain that I could never, ever, ever work a desk job.

Now, here I am, in the middle of my sophomore year, having recently switched to a double major in English and Religious Studies.

Yeah, it’s a jump. Continue reading

But Was It Worth It?

lovemyjobA new report has just been released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAUP) — the press release opens as follows: Continue reading

But Don’t They Quack the Same?

khara

Khara Cole graduated from The University of Alabama in 2013 with a double major in Religious Studies and Public Relations. She currently lives in Chattanooga, TN working in Marketing/New Product Strategy for BlueCross BlueShield of TN.

How many times have you heard someone make the claim “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”? My normal reaction to this statement would be a blank stare and a gentle nod followed by a topic change; however, I’ve noticed that this particular statement has started to gain momentum as more and more people whether it be celebrities, politicians, or “normal” folk like you and I have bought into the idea that spirituality is something that is totally separate and existent outside of religion. Continue reading

Personalized Reading Experiences

Like a lot of academics, I’m sure, I got this email the other day, from a textbook publisher doing its best — like all those MOOC providers and other eBook developers — to create the impression of a need.

Picture 7Funny, but I thought we’d already invented a way to have an individualized reading experience. Continue reading

What Does “Omaha!” Mean?

Photo: Craig Hawkins via Flickr

Peyton Manning loves Omaha. Or at least the Denver Broncos quarterback loves to yell “OMAHA!” just before the start of a play. Omaha is just one of the many words he and other quarterbacks yell just before the ball is snapped. Sometimes these words are audibles, quick changes of the play the team is about to run. Sometimes they are meaningless verbiage meant to confuse the other team. Continue reading