New Titles in REL: Upcoming Zoom Event

Book cover of Race and New Modernisms

Join us for an evening of conversation hosted by REL’s own Dr. Richard Newton to celebrate the publication of a new title in REL, Race and New Modernisms, co-authored by Dr. K. Merinda Simmons and Dr. James A. Crank (Department of English, University of Alabama) — a book that was a finalist for a 2020 PROSE book award (in the category of Literature).

In past semesters we would have gathered in person at the local bookstore, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, but pandemic protocols now require a different approach. As a result, our book events for Spring 2021 will be held virtually and are open to guests both on and off campus.

So join us virtually, via Zoom, on January 26, 2021, at 7 p.m. (US central time).

Current REL students (minors, majors, and graduate students), alums, and faculty will all receive the Zoom link in your inbox prior to the event.

For off-campus guests who wish to join us, please register at:
http://bit.ly/RaceAndNewModernisms
You will receive the Zoom link via email
the day before the event.

A Moving Target

Logo for the University of Vermont's Department of Religious StudiesLong ago, at the start of a Fall semester, I was speaking with someone newer to our Department about whether it was likely that we would have a tenure-track search that year; we had recently had a faculty member depart for another university, leaving our then small Department with no one covering Asia. We hoped to fill that gap, of course, but one can never be sure if requests for lines (whether replacements or new) will be granted by the University. “But surely Asia is important” I was told in reply, the person assuming that the University administration would agree.

I replied by asking whether they thought that the 22 other Departments in the College of Arts & Sciences also had unfilled lines and uncovered areas of importance to them — such as Modern Languages and Criminal Justice, or Chemistry, Biology, and Political Science. For while I may not think that another Elizabethan specialist is really needed in the English Department I can easily imagine how important such a line might be to someone over there (thus making its way into their rationale for requesting the position). So I suggested that if I were the Dean or the Provost I’d likely not be making these decisions — after all, resources are limited and not everyone will get what they want — based on the scale of value used by each Department in making their staffing requests but, instead, I’d probably come up with some other set of criteria, one that I could use across units that each employed their own local, different, and sometimes competing or even contradictory criteria for what was important or valuable. Continue reading

Q&A with Dr. Lauren Horn Griffin

Lauren Griffin

We’re pleased that we’ve been joined by Dr. Lauren Horn Griffin this year; so we asked her a few questions, about her background and her work.

What was your undergraduate major and what were you thinking, as you came to university, that you’d be doing with that degree?

I was an English Education major. I came to college as a first generation student with no idea what to expect, and I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to complete a degree successfully. I came from a rural, under-resourced public high school, and I didn’t really have the guidance I needed when I got to my large state university. (There are now lots of resources directed specifically at first gen students these days, which is lovely to see!) My parents directed me towards healthcare or education. After taking a few classes meant to introduce people to the healthcare professions, I realized that was a terrible fit for me. So I initially became a Math Education major. But then I took a literature class (on literary criticism) and it changed things for me. At first I hated the lit crit class — unlike math, there was no certainty, no “right” answer (even if you were the author of the piece, apparently!), and no clear application that I could see (“I’m never gonna NEED this,” I complained to my roommates). I got a B- on my first essay exam, which led to some tears. But mid-semester something clicked, and I was able to actually sit with some of the complexity and uncertainty. I took more literature courses after that, and eventually majored in English Education (though I taught both Math and English when I taught high school). Continue reading

Our MA Students Have Been Busy

Front page of Erica Bennett's website

Our first year MA students have been busy creating their own websites for their required REL 502 course this semester with Prof. Loewen. So we thought you might like to see what they’re interested in, let alone what they’ve created — here’s just a few: Continue reading

Recognizing Alum Accomplishments

Award plaque

At Honors Day 2019 the Department first awarded a new annual prize, to recognize the accomplishments of our graduates — the majority of whom go on to succeed in a wide variety of fields, making evident to our current students, we hope, the wide applicability of the skills gained in our classes. Then, this past Spring, it was renamed in honor of the commitment to our student shown by our longtime Administrative Secretary, Betty Dickey, who retired on April 1, 2020, after 32 years in the Department. But with universities across the country moving to limited business operations back in mid-March (due to COVID-19), there was too much happening to properly alert the successful nominees, let alone announce it at Honors Day 2020, as we had hoped.

But now is time to make-up for all of that. So, having written to our two recipients, it’s time to let you know who the faculty have selected from this past year’s nominations: we’re very pleased to announce that the 2019-20 recipients of the Dickey Alum Award are Susanna Payton Dunlap and Criag Nutt. Continue reading

Welcome Back

Video title card: Are you ready?

Yes, it’s here: the start of another Fall semester. And, yes, we have a new video to mark the occasion, which includes the newest members of the REL faculty.

It also includes an important message for this particular Fall semester: #maskup.

Don’t hesitate to contact your REL professor
if you have questions about your classes.

And…, welcome back!

You Better Believe, I’m Back!

Department mug held up against a background of our building's blueprints

The anticipation is palpable, we know, for this year’s welcome back video — which hits the airwaves tomorrow morning, on the first day of the semester.

But until then, take a deep breath — inhale…, exhale…, repeat — and enjoy last year’s video: a walk around some familiar spots on campus. And make sure to be checking your crimson email account or your classes’ Blackboard sites, for updates from faculty about how your classes will start off the semester.

#TideTogether      #WelcomeBack

Now It’s On

Walking up the stairs when arriving at REL's buildingIf you’re new to REL then you may not know much about any of our traditions — such as our annual welcome back videos.

Started in 2012, with a drive around town and an TV show theme song from the 1970s, they’ve progressed over the years, both as a way signal the start of a new school year and to tip our hat to the new faculty members who have joined us.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic changing the game last Spring, and causing everyone to rethink what it means to go back to school in the Fall, REL is pleased to announce that — of course! — we have a new welcome back video, coming on the first day of the semester. Until then, however, we hope that you enjoy a little trip down memory lane, riding into campus with Prof. Altman.

And yes, their boys are a little taller now.

Remember, it’s not a re-run if its new to you.

Course Prep and Summer Projects

home office desktopIt 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. Continue reading