A Lesson on Origins at #REL50th

Our 50th anniversary celebrations have come to an end (but we’ll post a fun fact each Monday for the rest of the semester) — and, if you ask me, it was a great success.

We filmed parts of it (i.e., the two faculty lectures, by Profs. Altman and Trost, and the opening to the next night’s Grad Tales panel — featuring five grads who returned to help mark the occasion [scroll down here to see who they were]); these movies are now being produced in the main office. They’ll probably be posted in a few weeks. Continue reading

Celebrate Good Times

Yes, this semester we’re celebrating our Department’s 50th anniversary.

If you’re interested in some of the historical background, then see this post from this past August.

The short story is that UA’s Department of Religious Studies dates to 1932, as best we can tell, but only in 1966-7 did the university — just like public universities all across the US — make the changes necessary for students to study religion in a manner that satisfied the requirements of the US Constitution’s First Amendment. Practically speaking, that meant moving away from having a variety of campus chaplains offering theologically-oriented courses to hiring Ph.D.s trained in what was quickly emerging as the academic study of religion (usually called Religious Studies in North America). Continue reading

A Busy Week in REL: Grad School Workshop, Grad Tales, and the Manly Cup

It’s a busy week this week around Manly Hall. Here are three REL events you do not want to miss this week.

1. TONIGHT a 6pm in Manly 210: Graduate School Workshop

Are you thinking about going to graduate school after you graduate? Do you have questions? Where to apply? How to apply? What’s it like? How do you pay for it? These are good questions.  I will be hosting the event and I need your help as I organize the event. Tweet me your questions so I can come with answers (or with people who might have answers). Send your questions to @michaeljaltman and use the hashtag #RELGradQ! Continue reading

The #GradTales Audience: Reflections From Current Students

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As you may be familiar one of our events here in REL is the Grad Tales Event: Here and Back Again. The department invites a former REL major to talk about their experience before and after graduation, in hopes that they can help current students think not only about their place in the university but also how to make the best out of it; to think creatively about the courses they take in the humanities in general, and how to put that knowledge in good use after their graduation. In our last Grad Tales event we invited a recent graduate, Alexis Poston, to the task and Prof.Touna asked the students of her REL100 class to attend the event and write a brief paragraph with their thoughts regarding the talk. What follows are some of those students’ reflections. Continue reading

Marketing and the Academic Study of Religion

kharaWhat connects red lipstick, racecars, and health care? The study of religion, of course! (Well, sort of.) Khara Cole, a 2013 graduate with a double major in Religious Studies and Public Relations, has found the skills that she developed in Religious Studies particularly important, as she designs products and their implementation for a health insurance company. She returned to campus last week to talk about her experiences working in the corporate world. The tasks of writing persuasive business proposals and accessible marketing texts clearly draw on her skills that she developed in our classes that emphasized various writing assignments. Solving problems, looking at both the little details and the broader picture as well as the ways different people might respond to the issues, employs the analytical and critical thinking skills that she, like many of our majors, considers a highlight of their work in Religious Studies.

In terms of lipstick and race cars, Khara provided this concrete example of the value of her religious studies major. When Khara began working on her current team implementing new products for her company, she noticed two previous marketing posters, one with a tube of red lipstick dominating the poster and the other with a racecar. Thinking of her first course in the department (Women and Religion with Prof. Simmons), she recognized the gender stereotypes implicit within these posters geared to different audiences and began developing more effective marketing efforts that avoided such gendered stereotypes that would alienate portions of the target audiences. Her story illustrates clearly the relevance of the questions that we often ask in our classes about the ways dominant symbols develop and the groups that those symbols exclude. Looking at those posters with a critical gaze enabled her to consider the ways a range of people might view them rather than accepting the symbolism of dominant stereotypes. In her experience, her skills in critical analysis, therefore, facilitate better marketing and communication strategies. As other graduates have told us, a major in Religious Studies helps students develop skills that provide vital contributions to a range of careers, including business and marketing.

A New Series Kicks Off: Grad Tales Extra

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Zac Parker graduated with a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Alabama in 2011. Here he helps us kick off our new, ongoing series, Grad Tales Extra, in which grads not able to join us on campus, to discuss the relevance of their degree, can drop us a line instead, to update us on what they’ve done since leaving Manly Hall.

During the year following graduation, I spent many months traveling, camping, and backpacking around the country, taking time to explore and reflect on what I wanted to do in my life and figuring out what priorities were most important to me. In the Fall of 2012 I entered the East Carolina University Master’s program for Anthropology, eventually graduating with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology in the Spring of 2014. Upon receiving my M.A., I entered a month-long residential yoga teacher training program at Swami Satchidananda‘s Integral Yoga ashram at Yogaville, VA. Currently, I am living in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO, working as a Life Coach at a blended online\in-person high school for “at-risk” students and teaching yoga on the weekend. I continue to enjoy expanding my understanding of religion in its many forms, with its many aspects.

I cannot fully express the deep and sincere gratitude I have for the Religious Studies department, for what it has given me. I have been shocked when talking to a number of fellow UA alumni since graduation how little others seem to have gotten out of or enjoyed their undergraduate careers. Nothing could be further from the truth for me. Every single Religious Studies class, in addition to the amazingly supportive faculty and fellow majors, was incredibly eye-opening, thought provoking, and (sorry to sound like a Hallmark card) even life changing. It truly, truly was, and I cannot thank the department enough for helping guide me along my own path of inquiry and understanding. I certainly do not mean to take away anything from any of the faculty, but I’d specifically like to thank Dr. Trost, Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Ramey, and the late Dr. Murphy (may he forever rest in peace) for helping instill in me an everlasting thirst for greater understanding and the ability to critically question things in ways I had previously unimagined.

Did You Miss Last Night’s “A Grad’s Tale” with Samantha Bush? Here’s All the Wisdom in One Blog Post

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Last night we had the pleasure of hearing from Samantha Bush, an REL grad, about her life after the Capstone and how her REL degree has helped her get her career started. If you missed it last night, here are the highlights thanks to our intrepid team of live tweeters.

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A Grad’s Tale Tonight: Ask Questions & Follow the Conversation with #GradTales

thereandbackWe are happy to welcome another Religious Studies graduate back to talk about life after college. Samantha Bush will be joining us to reflect on her time in REL and the skills she learned in our department that have translated to her career after graduation.


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Also, follow the conversation tonight and tweet us your questions for Samantha throughout the day today and tonight at @StudyReligion using #GradTales. See you tonight at 6:30 in the Anderson Room (205) of the Ferguson Center.


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Grad Tales Begins Again

thereandbackLast year the Department of Religious Studies started a new speaker series, Grad Tales: There and Back Again. This Wednesday at 6:30 pm in the Anderson Room of the Ferguson Center (upstairs, in the older part of the Ferg) we will kick off this year’s series with recent grad Samantha Bush as our first speaker.

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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