Coming Attractions: A Change in Format

Screenshot of computer screen during Zoom videoconference, with many participants

As communicated to all of our students over the past week, UA is maintaining limited business operations (LBO) for at least the next two weeks (and it will re-assess during that time concerning whether those conditions continue), with students asked not to return to campus. (A plan will soon be rolled out, from the central administration, concerning when those living in the residence system can return to collect their possessions.) This means that offices will not be staffed in person for the coming weeks and, instead, staff and faculty will be working remotely (in most cases, from home); the Spring semester continues, however, though classes are changing, as are the way faculty and students will interact. Continue reading

REL COVID-19 Update

Graphic from University of Alabama COVID-19 Response Site

It’s been an interesting few weeks in REL, to say the least; given the worldwide spread of COVID-19, the University of Alabama extended Spring break, asked students not to return to campus after it, and released a plan to alter how we finish the semester. Originally we planned to re-open main offices on the Monday after Spring break but the so-called limited business operation (LBO) of campus has been extended until Sunday, March 29 (with only essential employees allowed on campus) — though this is all subject to change, as UA System officials and campus leadership reassess a situation that changes daily. For example, as of March 19 the libraries closed and stop loaning material. But classes are indeed still moving to an online format, effective Monday, March 30, and your professors will be in touch — if not already — with the plan for each course. They’ve been working throughout the Spring break to devise a plan for their large lectures, seminars, independent studies, and graduate courses (just as some have been thinking up activities for their own children, who are themselves home from school). And we’ve all been in touch with each other regularly, to ensure that everyone is in the loop and doing well.

Which we all are.

So far, we’ve been communicating with everyone via email, but it seemed time to put a post up on the blog, to update everyone on a few things. Continue reading

Upcoming REL Events Canceled

Canceled Sign in an airport

With Spring break right around the corner, during which little might be taking place on campus, but happening just as the nation-wide spread of the COVID-19 virus shows no signs of slowing down, we felt that it was necessary to be proactive and to think ahead a little, so that REL students, faculty, and staff know that at least a few things are settled for the coming weeks.

Because the experts continue to tell us that not only regular hand-washing, etc. but also maintaining a strategic social distance are crucial elements to curtailing the spread of the illness — going so far as to advise against attending unnecessary large events or engaging in unnecessary travel  — we thought it wise to just go ahead now and cancel some of our upcoming events:

– The 18th annual Aronov Lecture, on April 6, with our guest lecturer coming to Alabama from New York, has been canceled and is being rescheduled for the Fall semester.

– The 7th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on March 26 is canceled.

– The 19th annual REL Honors Day reception on the balcony, on Apr. 3, is also cancelled; instead, award winners will have letters sent to them in the coming weeks.

In part because we are currently unsure what the University will be doing in the coming weeks, it pains us to send out this news now; but, ensuring that our students, staff, and faculty stay healthy and also stay informed are among our highest priorities.

Be well during the Spring break and stay in touch with UA news in case an announcement is made concerning post-Spring break classes.

New Staff Soon Joining REL

With Betty and Donna’s upcoming retirement (effective April 1 — did you see the announcement?), it’s time to announce who we’ve hired to keep both our main office and the Department as a whole on the right track.

LeCretia Crumpton will be our new full-time Administrative Secretary; she’s currently working on campus in the Department of Chemistry, where, apart from general clerical duties and working with a variety of UA systems, she’s focused on assisting their efforts to recruit and host graduate students.

LeCretia Crumption, new REL Admin Secretary

Edward Guy will be our new half-time Office Associate II (working mornings); he’s worked in a variety of staff positions at UA for about 25 years, including the Grad School and the College of Engineering.

Edward Guy, the new Office Associ II

We’re so very pleased to have both LeCretia and Edward about to join the Department. Looking back on the changes that Betty and Donna have both seen during their time in Manly Hall we’re hoping that our new staff members get to see even bigger changes as REL keeps moving forward.

It Cuts Both Ways

President Trump poses with newspaper headline sayig he was acquitedIf you were paying attention to US news this past week it was probably tough not to know that the Senate trial of President Trump concluded with him being acquitted by a vote that pretty much went along straight party lines. I say pretty much because a lone Republican Senator, Mitt Romney, from Utah, voted to convict.

The reason Romney’s vote stood out for some scholars of religion on social media was likely the manner in which he couched his decision in light of his faith. Continue reading

REL’s Annual Careers Workshop

Last year's REL CV-writing workshop

REL grad Khara Cole (Religious Studies and Public Relations, 2013), and member of our Alum Liaison Committee, is a freelance career coach and will return for her third annual CV-writing/careers workshop for REL majors, minors, and MA students.

It will be held Tuesday, February 11 at 6:00 pm in Manly 210 (with pizza), with individual meetings with Khara scheduled that evening for her return visit on Wednesday, February 19, for one-on-one meetings for her feedback on CVs etc.

If you’re thinking about how best to represent your skills, wondering what skills you might have, and how to look for work after graduation, then join us.

 

The Science of Religion–A Work in Progress

Students working on a whiteboard, diagramming the parts of an essay.

Prof. Richard Newton reports on a discussion topic from his graduate seminar on the history of religious studies. His students have been talking about the backstory of debates on definition as it pertains to religious studies. This week, students read a little bit from the nineteenth century Dutch scholars, Cornelis P. Tiele.

In my History of the Study of Religion seminar, our Religion in Culture graduate students have been discussing the very enterprise in which we are engaged. The course is built around the following question:

What does it mean to discuss the academic study of religion as a history, a field, and a discipline?

There are many places to start with such an endeavor. And if interest warrants, I’ll share how we’ve done this in a future post. For now I’ll go in media res and just share an interesting passage that we came across in our study. Continue reading

Call for Submissions: Alum Liaison Committee Award

Old typewriter keys

Are you a student in an REL class this year (whether or not you;re a major or minor in our Department) who is game to write approx. 500 words on:

  • How you found the study of religion at UA
  • Aspects of the field that you found surprising
  • Unexpected ways in which you might apply what you’ve learned

If so, then our Alum Liaison Committee, comprised of four REL grads,
wants to hear from you!

Annually, at the Department’s Honors Day ceremony, the members of the Alum Liaison Committee award a small number of prizes to the essays that they found most interesting, surprising, or even compelling.

Get more details on the award and consider applying.
Deadline: March 1, 2020.

Submissions should be sent to Prof. Vaia Touna (who will then share them with the committee); they must also contain:

  • The student’s name, CWID, and email address
  • The student’s College (A&S, Business, Nursing, Social Work, Engineering, etc.) as well as their Major/Minor
  • The REL course/section in which the student was/is enrolled and its year/semester
  • The student’s status (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, or Senior) at the time of their submission

Be creative!

Highlighting REL Undergraduate Research

Student presenting a paper at the 2019 undergrad research symppsoium, with students listening

It’s that time again: time to consider presenting your research at REL’s 7th annual Honors Research Symposium. Devoted to the work of our undergrad students, the annual symposium is chaired by REL M.A. students and is again organized by REL faculty member, Emily Crews.

The event this year will again be held in Gorgas Library 205, all morning on Thursday, March 26 — we’ll announce the actual start time closer to the event, once we know how many students will be presenting.

All students enrolled in a REL class — whether or not
you’re a major or minor — are eligible to participate.

So if you have an essay that you wrote for one of your REL classes that you think could be revised and presented orally in approx. 10 minutes, then contact an REL professor to see if they’ll mentor you in the revision process. Or perhaps if they’ll even supervise a new paper that you intend to write for the event. Once you have your mentor in place, they’ll alert Prof. Crews that you’re aiming to participate in the event.

Note: students working on Honors projects in REL are expected to present their research at this annual event.

Light refreshments will be provided.