Last semester Prof. Merinda Simmons mentored graduate student Alex Ates in an independent study — a program designed to help students earn credit while researching specific material that typically manifests into a conclusive project.
Alex, an MFA student in the Department of Theatre and Dance, compiled data on the Free Southern Theater before writing a compelling essay on the groups’ confrontation of “American moral contradictoriness”. The community theater group was founded in Mississippi in 1963 with the goal of combining art and politics on stage to promote social justice across the American South.
At the end of the semester, Alex compiled his research in a paper titled, “Powerful Contradictions on Charged Stages: Theater Revolutions in the Jim Crow South”. The project recently led to his selection as the 2019 Graduate Student Winner of the Southeastern Theatre Conference Young Scholar Award. He will present his paper at the 2019 SETC Young Scholars Panel Presentation in Nashville, TN.
Alex’s Independent Study with Prof. Simmons was not his first time working with the Religious Studies Department. Last year, he consulted with another faculty member, Prof. Altman, before successfully directing The Christiansin the fall semester. His career as a graduate student at the University of Alabama and his recent nomination as the SETC Young Scholar Award Winner demonstrates his skill for researching, writing, directing, and acting.
Prof. Ted Trost will be taking over as the Department’s Undergraduate Director, (so students, be sure to schedule your next advising session with him!). In case you were wondering what the role of Undergraduate Director entails, Dr. Trost has taken the time to answer a few questions about his position.
What exactly does an “Undergraduate Director” do?
The undergraduate director works with the chair and the faculty to determine what courses will be offered each semester. My primary responsibility is to assist each student in determining the course of her or his study—mainly in the Religious Studies but also with an eye toward meeting all University requirements in order to graduate in a timely and convenient fashion. Toward that I end, I meet with each Religious Studies major every semester to plot out an itinerary through the wilderness of academic options and to clear students for registration. I also keep apprised of developments in the Registrar’s office and initiatives throughout the University that affect course offerings and advising protocols.
What sorts of questions or problems can you help students with?
I advise students about the courses we offer from semester to semester and help them decide what shape to give their Religious Studies major. I am familiar with the specialties of all the faculty members and, therefore, can recommend particular courses to take and independent study options to pursue.