The Jim Salem Chair Award Goes to REL

We’re very pleased to announce that, at the year-end A&S chairs event over the weekend, Dean Robert Olin presented the annual Jim Salem Chair Award to REL’s own Prof. Russell McCutcheon.

Instituted by the Dean after the death, in July of 2012, of the longtime American Studies Department Chair, Jim Salem, the award recognizes “outstanding leadership to students, faculty, and the College.” Salem, who chaired the search committee that brought Dean Olin to UA, was known for his enthusiasm, dry wit, and use of American pop culture as a way into understanding 20th century American culture and politics.

Prof. McCutcheon came to Tuscaloosa in the Fall of 2001, to chair REL at a time when the Department was on the brink of reinvention; while serving three terms as chair (2001-2009; 20013-present) he has also had a productive research and teaching career at UA, being named to one of the campus’s few University Research Professor positions in February of 2018.

Given annually, the Jim Salem award is selected by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and, with Dean Olin’s upcoming retirement in September, this marks his last selection for this award.

Congratulations, Prof. McCutcheon!

Coming Soon: American Examples

Just after Spring Break, the first American Examples Workshop will be hosted at the University of Alabama, funded jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Religious Studies. Held here in Tuscaloosa and organized by Prof. Michael Altman, the goal of the workshop is to rethink the way religion in America is studied and taught.

Continue reading

On Beginnings: Part 21

This essay (serialized here across 24 separate posts) uses words and numbers to discuss the uses of words and numbers — particularly examining evaluations of university degrees that employ statistical data to substantiate competing claims. Statistical analyses are crudely introduced as the mode du jour of popular logic, but any ratiocinative technique could likely be inserted in this re-fillable space and applied to create and defend categories of meaning with or without quantitative support. Questions posed across the series include: Is the data informing or affirming what we believe? What are the implications of granting this approach broader authority? The author, Melanie Williams, graduated from UA in 2006, with a B.A. in Anthropology and Religious Studies.


I don’t know how to calculate the abstract value of degrees I don’t have, so I’ll talk about a few things I think I know, and wish I had known sooner rather than later.  I didn’t progress through college based on anything like cognitive ability, creative skills, or academic merit.  I got into and through college because I had parents who signed a promissory note to put me there.  If college is the filtering process that is portrayed in these many articles, it is not the “realization” of latent academic “potential.”  It is merely the line between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot afford to pay.  I graduated from UA’s College of Arts and Sciences with two of the bleakest majors these articles have rated, though I think their combined score vaults me into the range of, maybe, the college of Social Work.  I have used any means at my disposal to land all of the low-paying jobs I have had since graduation, to wit:  apply, persist, cajole, or (only twice so far!) lie.  Most of the time, if I discuss it at all, I tell people I earned a B.A. in the same blasé tone of voice I would use to tell them I once had a benign tumor, and I receive the same heartfelt tones of sympathy.  If you put stock in such things, you could easily put me into the category of the 25th percentile for whom college was not a good investment.  This has nothing to do with the “absolute” economic or social value of obtaining a degree; it’s a consequence of the decisions I have made along the way as I stumbled through my wayward life.   A more graceful, clever person, with or without a degree, may have maneuvered more successfully, however that may be defined.  Perhaps it’s the opportunity itself that’s priceless, and you can either make use of it or squander it.  But on any given day – clipboard in hand – how will you know the difference?  Continue reading

3 Things You Should Do During #RELWeek


The College of Arts and Sciences is all about REL this week. That’s right, it’s #RELWeek. What does that mean? It means that A&S will be featuring REL on its social media accounts all week as part of its All About A&S campaign. So, here are three things you can do to celebrate #RELWeek


1. Follow us on Instagram.

Just think about it. #RELWeek #AllAboutAS

A photo posted by UA Dept. of Religious Studies (@studyreligion) on Oct 6, 2015 at 7:20am PDT

2. Tweet about why you love your REL class or what’s great about being an REL major with the hashtag #RELWeek. //


3. Follow the College of Arts and Sciences on Instagram and Facebook so you can win free stuff!

We could also add that you should find us on Facebook and Twitter but you already knew that, right?

Happy #RELweek!


In the Limelight

rameynewslettersnipTo view an enlarged pdf file of the
pictured article about Dr. Ramey, click here.

Did you catch this article featuring Dr. Ramey and his research in the recent College of Arts and Sciences newsletter “Celebrating Excellence” (Vol. 5, No. 1)? If not, you can pick up a hard copy in our office, or click the link above to read it online.

Learning to be Quick and Agile

ferrisDid you attend the inaugural Hidden Humanities Lecture last night in Gorgas Library (sponsored by the College and Arts & Sciences)? No? Well, you missed quite an event — it was filmed so watch for that in the coming weeks. And don’t forget, the second lecture is coming up in late February, with a new speaker.

In the meantime, check out this video of Prof. Ferris, last evening’s lecturer, talking about the Humanities…

the gateway to success, it’s the gateway to thinking on your feet, learning to be quick and agile, and to translate that into decisions that are going to make your future much more secure…