What You Missed at This Week’s Grad’s Tale

gradtaleshannah

Wednesday saw the semester’s first installment of “There and Back Again: A Grad’s Tale,” an event that brings back alumni who graduated from UA with a degree in Religious Studies to talk about life-after-diploma. This time, Prof. Mike Altman talked to Hannah Hicks, now a second-year law student here at UA. A double major in Religious Studies and Philosophy who graduated in 2013, Hannah talked about the ways in which her degrees in the liberal arts helped prepare her for her post-graduate studies. Specifically, she related the importance of the critical thinking skills she gained from her majors. Hannah’s interested in “public interest law”—an area of legal studies focused on advocating for or meeting the needs of specific communities (often, this happens through working with nonprofit organizations or specialized groups). With this in mind, she talked about how her work in the Religious Studies Department has helped her to think analytically—and not just in terms of statistical description—about what she deems to be “structural violences” like systemic racism and poverty.

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Critical Thinking with Izzy, Episode 1: Structure and Agency

IzzyAnyone who is a virtual or actual friend of mine knows that we have a dog, Izzy — a 7 year old boxer that we’ve had for 6 years. (Ok, let’s just be honest: she has us.) Why? Coz I’ve posted a pick or two of her over the years.

She’s cute, what can I say?

Last night, seated in the living room, it occurred to me what a great illustration she provides of how we can talk about structure — as in social structure — and agency, and doing so in a way that doesn’t emphasize the one to the exclusion of the other, as if we are all mindlessly determined by forces larger than ourselves, on the one hand, or, on the other, as if we are all following our bliss and freely inventing ourselves every moment of the day. For it is surely somewhere in the middle, no? As I’ve said on plenty of other occasions, none of us invented the grammar that was pounded into us as children but, in the midst of using it, we can tweak it too — ain’t that right? And if we’re successful in the tweaking, then those who come after us will think that’s just one more of the rules they ought to be following.

But back to Izzy…

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Self-Help Jesus in America

Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

By Allie Rash
Allie Rash is a rising senior double majoring in Mathematics and Religious Studies. She hails from Franklin, TN, but calls North Carolina and Kansas home as well.  This Spring Allie completed an independent study with Prof. Mike Altman on ideas of self-help in American Protestantism. In this post she reviews the final book they read together, Kate Bowler’s Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. This post originally appeared on Allie’s independent study blog, Self-Help Jesus.

The final book we read for this semester is called Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel by Kate Bowler. And, as the title assures, it made for a beautiful finish to my quest. In my first post I laid out three questions I would try to keep in mind during this semester and they were: Continue reading

Study the Humanities and Save America

I came across the above tweet last week and it made me smile. Jack Bauer, the main character in the FOX television show 24, earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA. On one level, it became an interesting answer to, “what can you do with a humanities degree?” You can save the free world, that’s what. Continue reading

No One Has a Monopoly on Teaching Critical Thinking

meanlsatupgaapp2013Yesterday my colleague Steven Ramey posted about a recent study of those who took the 2013 Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) — their undergraduate GPA, their undergraduate major, and their LSAT score. The means for each major were then graphed (above), with undergrad GPA on the vertical axis and LSAT score on the horizontal, making Classics majors (far top right corner) the highest preforming by both measures.

But you may notice that Religious Studies majors are also near the front of the pack (near the top right of the graph). Their LSAT score is just a little off the leader pack, yes, but their GPA makes them stand out — combined, they’re apparently strong contenders for law school.

The actual data is as follows (in which n = the number of people in each major): Continue reading

Who is the smartest?

6831018124_f526e4d32a_mDoes it even make sense to generalize about students who major in a discipline, using statistics such as test scores and GPAs? Probably not, as each student’s success depends on her own abilities and hard work, strategic choices and realistic advice. Plus, programs at each university have their own character, and those who major in that program often have a significant self-selection bias. Continue reading

Grad Tales Part IV

gradtales4On March 31, 2014, the Department hosted its fourth (and final for 2013-14) “There and Back Again: A Grad’s Tale” event. For this event, Prof. Russell McCutcheon talked with REL grad John Lyles about what he’s been up to since he left Manly Hall in 2010 after earning his B.A. in Religious Studies, with a minor in Biology. Continue reading

Living on a (Deconstructed) Prayer

Geoff Davidson

Geoff Davidson earned his B.A. in Religious Studies and Political Science in 2009. He went on to earn his M.Div. from Baylor University in 2012. He is currently employed at Habitat for Humanity of Waco, Texas, while also working as a supply preacher.

Last week a state representative in the Alabama Legislature lit up social media by proposing a bill requiring public school classrooms to begin each day with the examination of a text. The politician in question is Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, and the bill is HB318. Why is starting the day with a text stirring up so much controversy? The text in question is a prayer; namely, any prayer used in the opening of Congress.  Continue reading

What Does “Omaha!” Mean?

Photo: Craig Hawkins via Flickr

Peyton Manning loves Omaha. Or at least the Denver Broncos quarterback loves to yell “OMAHA!” just before the start of a play. Omaha is just one of the many words he and other quarterbacks yell just before the ball is snapped. Sometimes these words are audibles, quick changes of the play the team is about to run. Sometimes they are meaningless verbiage meant to confuse the other team. Continue reading