Yes, this semester we’re celebrating our Department’s 50th anniversary.
If you’re interested in some of the historical background, then see this post from this past August.
The short story is that UA’s Department of Religious Studies dates to 1932, as best we can tell, but only in 1966-7 did the university — just like public universities all across the US — make the changes necessary for students to study religion in a manner that satisfied the requirements of the US Constitution’s First Amendment. Practically speaking, that meant moving away from having a variety of campus chaplains offering theologically-oriented courses to hiring Ph.D.s trained in what was quickly emerging as the academic study of religion (usually called Religious Studies in North America).
To mark this milestone, and to celebrate the many other reinventions that have continued in this Department over the years, we’re dedicating March 28-29, 2017, to three events that we’ll host, each of which focuses on a group which has been essential to our success: faculty, grads, and current students.
- On Tues, March 28, we kick it off with Prof. Merinda Simmons hosting two faculty lectures on the study of religion at Alabama and in the US, one delivered by Prof. Michael Altman and the other by our currently longest serving faculty member, Prof. Theodore Trost (who came to UA in 1998). Dean Robert Olin, of the College of Arts & Sciences (which is generously funding our anniversary program) will open the event along with Prof. Patrick Green, who was the longtime chair of the Department and who retired in 1999. This event will take place in Gorgas 205 from 2:00-3:30 p.m.
- Beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 29, Prof. Matt Bagger will host our 4th Annual REL Undergraduate Research Symposium (also in Gorgas 205); current REL majors and minors, working with their faculty mentors, will present their original research and field questions from the audience. (Talk to an REL prof if you’d like to participate!)
- And from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., also on Wednesday, March 29, Prof. Altman will host an evening discussion with a group of grads we’ve invited back — all doing very different things with the careers, working either here in Tuscaloosa or in London, England — as our 50th anniversary Grad Tales event. They’ll be here for all three events and we’ll likely also have a more informal event with our grads and current majors/minors that afternoon; we hope that students in our Spring Core courses attend this evening discussion — to get a better idea about the various futures for which liberal arts skills can prepare them.
The events are all free and open to the public and each includes light refreshments.
You can get a copy of the full program here (PDF).
So come on — it’s a celebration.