It was indeed an odd summer, for everyone. That we all know.
What you might not know is that the REL faculty, despite being home since mid-March — minimizing trips out of the house, shopping carefully, and, in some cases, spending lots of their time either homeschooling children or packing up and moving houses (whether just across town or across the country to join us here in Alabama) — have been busy working. A fair bit of that work has been focused on revising Fall classes, of course. The rush to take all courses remote, back in the Spring, was followed by a summer of closely watching the infection rates around the country, and not just here in our region (since a large percentage of our students come from all over the US, and beyond) while trying to calculate the likelihood that the virus and measures to address it on campus (e.g., social distancing in classrooms, which reduced classroom occupancy by up to 80%) would require us to make use of remote teaching tools once again.
But class prep and homeschooling weren’t the only things that faculty have been focused on this summer. They’ve been making progress on a variety of projects — likely not the sort of progress they had planned, since the summer is when most faculty members dive into projects that took a backseat to teaching in the Fall and the Spring. But progress has been made all the same.
For example, to name but a few of the projects on which they’ve been working throughout the summer:
Prof. Touna and Newton have been collaborating on the proposal for a new edited collection of essays (involving about 10 other scholars), which they’ll soon be submitting to a publisher, in hopes of it being contracted.
Prof. Altman, along with faculty mentors, moved last Spring’s American Examples workshop on teaching to a remote format and, though he’ll be on sabbatical this Fall, he’s currently planning their Fall workshop on public humanities, which (due to ongoing travel restrictions) will also need to be done remotely.
Prof. Simmons was commissioned to write a review essay, on current scholarly work on post-Blackness. American Literature, and is editing a special issue for the open-access online journal, Religions, on the topic of slave religion.
Prof. Loewen mentored REL MA students this summer, who were teaching online courses of their own, while he also took the lead in writing a grant proposal (along with Prof. Ramey and Altman) for how REL could study COVID planning and responses throughout rural American (unfortunately, it was not funded) and participated in newly devised remote versions of international workshop in the philosophy of religion.
Prof. Ramey continued working on a co-written world religions textbook — one that, much like his own course, takes a rather novel approach to the topic. And, as incoming Grad Director, he’s been getting ready for our new incoming class.
Prof. Szanto been getting two courses on Islam ready for Fall — in fact, we’re pleased to report that the campus has enough interest in studying Islam that she’s teaching both classes in her specialty area this semester.
There’s lots more, of course, but that’s just a sampling of what we’ve been up to this summer — everyone has a bunch of things they’re working on, while also making sure they have a good supply of masks on hand, are keeping their families safe and healthy, and are all set for the start of what promises to be a semester to remember.
If you missed it, see our most recent update on the Fall.