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

REL Adds a New Faculty Member

Lauren Horn Griffin

The Department of Religious Studies is very pleased to announce that Dr. Lauren Horn Griffin is joining the faculty, as a full-time renewable Instructor, for the start of the Fall 2020 semester.

Earning her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016, Lauren has worked full-time at the University of Oklahoma since 2016, as a digital learning designer in their Office of Digital Learning while also being a regular lecturer in their Department of Religious Studies. Her research interests include the study of saints and other authoritative figures in Roman Catholic communities and the role they play in the creation of national, ethnic, and cultural identity. Combining this with an expertise in digital humanities, her current research focuses on Catholic material culture in digital spaces, specifically how Catholic history is constructed on social media.

In the Fall 2020 semester Lauren will be teaching REL 105 Honors Introduction to the Study of Religion in the Fall as well as REL 310 REL Goes to the Movies, our regular one credit evening course (repeatable up to three times).

We’re very pleased to have Lauren join the faculty and excited by how her expertise enhances REL’s strength in the study of identity as well as its initiative in the digital humanities.

Because REL was authorized to make this hire at a rather late date,
Lauren will begin her appointment working remotely and so we
look forward to when she is able to join us in Tuscaloosa.

REL Update: Starting the New Fall Semester

UA graphic listing tips for staying healthy during the Fall semester

In mid-June we posted an update about the upcoming Fall classes but with the semester’s start now just two weeks away, it’s time for another update on some specific changes to REL classes.

So while we certainly leave major details about re-entry to the University to communicate to students, staff, and faculty (with information found at UA’s health info site, concerning such things as the required COVID-19 testing, new conduct rules, and the required health check every three days [which requires your Bama credentials and a cell phone number]), there’s some details about REL that we’ll convey here. Continue reading

Our Actions Have Implications

University of Alabama sign on the need to wear a face mas.

We’ve been getting some inquiries from friends around the country who have seen news reports on so-called COVID-19 parties hosted by some students in Tuscaloosa (as well as elsewhere in the country, according to reports). The local Fire Department’s Chief reported this to the city council the other day but now we see that it has made the national news — such as this report from yesterday morning: Continue reading