Things You Didn’t Think You’d Learn in Grad School: Coding

Students working in REL 503

Erica Bennett, now in her second and final year of the REL MA, is from Louisiana and earned her undergraduate degree from Millsaps College. Working with Prof. Touna as her supervisor, she is also a T.A. this semester for Prof. Simmons’s REL 100 and Prof. Altman’s research assistant on the American Examples grant. She is interested in studying new religious movements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our society revolves around, and cannot function without, technology. From Netflix party hangouts and social media to collaborative online work spaces and daily Zoom meetings, technology seems to have become even more integrated into our daily lives. While people use the internet, websites, apps, and other technologies every day, most do not know how the internet works, that it is physical resource, or that anyone can learn to code or program. One reason I decided to enroll in the Religion in Culture MA program at the University of Alabama was the emphasis on helping students grow their digital humanities skills. Before my first class at UA, I expected to learn skills that would be helpful for digital projects like making podcasts, videos, and websites to distribute my research to a wider public. I did learn those skills (thank you REL 502!) and I get to practice them on a regular basis. What I did not expect to learn, and surprisingly really enjoy, was how to code and program to assist in my research efforts and better understand the digital world we live in. Continue reading

Should I “Public Humanities”? A Process for Thinking about Whether to Get Involved

 

The Event

I recently hosted a two-day workshop with Richard Newton as part of the American Examples project. Our aim was to think about “public humanities” with the 12 participants in the 2021 cohort. The first day’s over-arching question was, “should I “PH?” I thought it might be useful to share the process that guided our session, since others may be asking that question, too.

We planned this workshop with the assumption that none of the participants have a clear idea of what  is meant by public humanities. They are a group of early career scholars of religion in America. Our workshop was one among several aspects of the project, which engages the study of religion in America across the three areas of research, teaching, and public scholarship. American Examples trains and mentors early career scholars to work beyond the boundaries of American religion. Continue reading

Computational Thinking in the Humanities

Woman in 1955 working at an early, large computer

As previously announced, REL has established its own digital lab (RELdl), directed by Prof. Jeri Wieringa. The lab is an outgrowth of REL’s long investment in integrating computing skills into the life of the Department and its degree programs; among our goals is to see the lab inject energy and expertise into a variety of collaborative research projects and curricular initiatives. Continue reading

Welcome to the REL Digital Lab (RELdl)

Annoucement of the REL Digital Lab on new website.

Visit the RELdl Webpage: http://digitallab.religion.ua.edu/

The new school year has started and the REL Digital Lab is open for business, under the leadership of Prof. Jeri Wieringa.

Visit the new RELdl website to learn more about the Lab and how it will specifically support REL teaching and collaborative research.

Note: the RELdl is not an open lab (i.e., for checking email, writing/printing essays, etc.).

Welcome Back!

It's been quite a year...Where did the last year go…?

The new routine of remote and, when in-person, masked and socially distanced classes was so different from what we all were used to that our sense of time has really been thrown off; for while it may seem like an eternity ago, the start of the Fall 2020 semester, not to mention the swift move to remote classes to complete the Spring 2020 semester, also seems like it was just yesterday.

And suddenly it’s the summer of 2021. And then it’s the third week of August. And then…

We’re hopeful that everyone stayed as safe and healthy as possible this past 18 months, that you’re all taking the risks and dangers of the COVID virus’s variants seriously, and that we’ll again see you in-person on the balcony for the Fall 2021 semester.

As always, there will be peanuts — but, sadly, they’re not for you.

REL Update: Start of Fall 2021

Crimson-colored mask

With the start of Fall 2021 classes just a couple weeks away it’s time to send out an update to ensure that everyone in REL is on the same page for how the semester will start.

New Mask Mandate

If you have missed it, UA recently announced implementing a mask mandate on campus, to be regularly reassessed throughout the semester. All classrooms are back to full capacity, however, and the plexiglass has been removed from classrooms, though stand-alone plexiglass barriers are, we believe, still present at the lectern/multimedia podium of many classes. Also, COVID accommodations — unless it rises to the level of a disability, and that is determined by making an application to UA’s Office of Disability Services (ODS) — have been discontinued.

Read the new policy and find more info.

This means that masks are required of all students in REL, whether you are in the Department to visit the main office or see a faculty member or attending any of its classes. Continue reading

Got a question? 1-800-REL-HELP is here with an answer.

Sometimes there are tough questions in the academic study of religion. That’s why there’s 1-800-REL-HELP, a hotline for your most difficult religious studies quandaries. Written by participants in the 2020 American Examples working group and produced by recently graduated MA students Jack Bernardi and Jeremee Nute, these videos answer questions about everything from atheism to ritual and cults to charisma.

The videos are posted on the American Examples YouTube channel (Subscribe!) or you can watch them on the playlist below.

 

UA’s Fall 2021 Operations Plan

UA COVID-19 Update IconBelow is the content (complete with links) of an email sent to all UA faculty and staff on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, discussing the university’s expectations around UA’s return to classes in the Fall 2021 semester.

REL faculty and staff have taken the risks of COVID-19 very seriously since early in 2020 and we hope that all students, as they return to campus, comply with the various requirements and recommendations outlined below.

___________________________

The University of Alabama System released today its Fall 2021 Operations Plan. In accordance with the System plan, The University of Alabama updated its COVID-19 plan with guidelines for Fall 2021. Widespread utilization of the life-saving COVID vaccine has helped UA officials plan for our Fall semester experience. Every member of our campus community is strongly encouraged to be vaccinated to keep you and our campus safe and Protect Our HerdContinue reading

Third Time’s the Charm

Prof. Steve Jacobs seated at the University Club in 2017

Prof. Steve Jacobs, above, in April of 2017 at the annual Arts & Science reception at the University Club, for newly promoted faculty — celebrating his promotion that year to Full Professor.

Since starting full-time at UA in 2001 (my “start date” is easy to remember: 1/1/01), past A&S Dean Robert Olin and current Dean Joseph Messina have accorded me three one-semester sabbatical research leaves to pursue avenues of research in my areas of academic specialization: the Holocaust of World War II, historical and contemporary genocides, and Judaic Studies. This work and the sustained opportunity to do so without teaching and/or committee responsibilities during my time away has resulted thus far in books, articles, and conference presentations and lectures. The third of these research sabbaticals is this Fall. Continue reading

Tip of the Iceberg

Graph showing the increasing frequency of the phrase "religious expression" since 1800The common English phrasing “religious expression” carries with it a set of assumptions about what scholars of religion study as well as how and why they study it, though the term is today so widespread that I doubt many think much about what it entails. Continue reading