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

The REL Cohort Book Club

Flyer for October's book club reading: The Handmaid's Tale

Erica Bennett, in her first year of REL’s MA, completed an Honors degree in Religious Studies/Sociology Anthropology at Millsaps College in Jackson Mississippi, where she spent much of her time either playing volleyball for the college’s team, participating in several different clubs and organizations, or coaching a local youth volleyball club. Once at UA, she wanted to create something that might help to bring her cohort together, in a year as divided and isolated as 2020 had been. REL shows great interest in expanding students’ writing and reading skills so she thought that there was no better way to do this than to start a book club and blog about the books — with this being her first, with more to come.

This was the baptismal month for the newly formed Cohort Book Club. This group was formed with the goal of reading a new dystopian themed novel each month. Partly to help our minds escape form the terrifying and almost dystopian America/world we seem to now inhabit, but to also give the members a way to be introspective into our ever-changing society. This is a place for insight, discussion, and criticism of our world while also a place to analyze what could be worse. For the first month, a month before the national presidential election, I decided that reading The Handmaid’s Tale would be most appropriate for this occasion. Continue reading