6 Questions with Marianne Case

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I graduated with a BA in Psychology and Religious Studies (double major) in… (a long time ago).

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

Having graduated from the law magnet program at my high school, I thought for sure I’d be a political science major, go to law school, and practice law like my dad.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

I mainly remember how much fun it was working in the department as a TA and office aide. Betty set the bar way too high for any future bosses I’ve had!  I’ll also never forget the last office hours I had before I graduated when it felt like 50 REL 100 students tried to cram into the lounge for help and pretty much none of them had read any of the materials…

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

Currently, I run the marketing team for Alpha Testing® (Alpha), a soils engineering firm based out of Dallas, TX. I ended up at Alpha somewhat by chance (I coached cross country for the son of my now boss), and have been here since January 2008. 

My team is primarily responsible for preparing qualifications packages to win contracts with school districts, municipalities, colleges and universities, and private development clients. In addition, I am responsible for Alpha’s social media presence, including our website, blog (www.whereitallbegins83.com), Facebook, and LinkedIn.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

Definitely! My job is all about critical thinking – trying to figure out what our clients’ concerns are, why those concerns are important, and how my company can best address them. The questions our clients ask may seem random, but they are all rooted in some issue that needs to be solved. Being able to read critically and decipher the meaning of vague texts comes in handy almost every day.  The question I ask my team more than anything is, “WHY is that important to your client?”

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

The classes and tasks that are the most challenging are the ones that will be most valuable. Don’t underestimate the value of having a “safe space” to discuss ideas, and take advantage of it while you can. And never pass up a movie night with pizza and Jones Soda.

And yes, that’s Marianne with her son, Tommy.

6 Questions with Susanna Dunlap

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I was enrolled from 2008-2013 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I had no clue what career I wanted to pursue! I decided to attend UA based on my acceptance into the Million Dollar Band and to fulfill my college marching band dreams. I entered as a journalism major and even considered pursuing elementary education based on aptitude surveys and volunteer experiences.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

I credit my Intro to Religious Studies class in ten Hoor Hall with securing my decision to pursue other REL classes in Manly Hall. I took Women and Religion as well as English Bible as Literature in Manly Hall. These two classes really stand out in my memory. Not only did I enjoy the thought-provoking dialogue with classmates and faculty, but I also developed the ability to critically appraise and discuss scholarly discourse. We laughed so much and really got along well, making for an excellent classroom environment. My classmates and faculty felt like family! We spent lecture breaks feeding Basil, the resident squirrel at Manly Hall, and eating snacks from the lounge—all very good memories!

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I practiced as a registered nurse in emergency-trauma medicine in Huntsville, Alabama immediately following graduation. I am currently pursuing full time MSN studies at Vanderbilt University for triple-certification as an Adult-Gerontological Acute Care/Family Nurse Practitioner and Emergency Nurse Practitioner. My decision to pursue emergency nursing was secured in 2011 when I volunteered in Tuscaloosa as a first-aid assistant immediately following the tornado. Working with individuals facing emergent and urgent health crises really became my main focus—and thus, I ended up working in emergency-trauma medicine.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

My REL education equipped me with complex tools to evaluate, compare, and appreciate culture and human behavior. For instance, as a nurse working in a high-stress, fast-paced environment where emotions are labile and a human life potentially hangs in the balance, there is a subtle finesse required to navigate cultural or religious differences that significantly affect the patient and the treatment plan. Additionally, providers must be able to safely and efficaciously apply scientific rationale and evidenced-based practice with regard to these cultural and religious intricacies that are embedded into this particular human experience. There is no exact instruction manual for these skills but having the aforementioned tools from my REL education certainly help promote a positive outcome in what are often grueling circumstances.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

I suppose I would tell myself to go to Sitar more often. I really enjoyed their food! On a more serious note (not that Sitar isn’t serious!), I would tell myself to read more of the recommended readings rather than just focusing on the required readings. I’ve practiced this in my graduate career and found that the recommended readings offer just as much insight and learning opportunity as the required readings. This means more work, but the pay-off can be immeasurable!

6 Questions with Shane Sharp

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

1997-2001; Psychology and Religious Studies (double major)

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I wanted to do something that didn’t involve backbreaking labor in the hot, hot sun.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

The best classes I had were with Dr. Catherine Roach, and those didn’t happen in Manly Hall. What I remember the most about my classes in Manly was how students would simply tell professors they were wrong, especially in the Old Testament and New Testament classes. Dr. Green, of course, took this in stride. Dr. Weinberger was too old to put up with any of that and would outline each and every way the student was wrong (and not in a nice way).

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I am an associate professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University. After graduating from UA, I attended Vanderbilt and received an MA in Religion. I then moved on to the University of Wisconsin—Madison and received an MA and PhD in Sociology. I was hired by NIU in 2011, and I have been here ever since. I do research in the social psychology of religion. A particular area of research I focus on is the religious practice of prayer.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

This is a fair assumption. Dr. Doty’s psychology of religion class and Dr. Roach’s problem of evil class have stuck with me. As I said above, I do research in the social psychology of religion. I also have written journal articles on theodicy, and I can trace this interest back to Dr. Roach’s course.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

Everything’s going to be all right.

Ed. Note: Dr. William Doty and Dr. Leon Weinberger, longtime members of REL, retired in the late 1990s or very early 2000s and have since passed away; former Chair of REL, Dr. Patrick Green, though retired, still teaches occasionally for Honors or Blount, and Dr. Catherine Roach is a senior member of the faculty in New College here at UA.

Tips for Career Readiness

This past week, recent REL grad, Khara Cole (who works for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama), returned to Manly Hall to offer a workshop on careers, resumes, and interview tips. Khara, having graduated from UA in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations and Religious Studies, had a lot to say on the skills she acquired while getting those degrees, and how one can effectively discuss and employ those skills when preparing for a career outside the study of religion. Additionally, Khara gave great advice on how to stand out to employers before, during, and after the interview process.

Here are some of the main take-aways from her REL Careers Workshop… Continue reading

6 Questions with Maggie Paul

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I was a Religious Studies major when I enrolled at UA, and I graduated with a double major in Religious Studies and Geography. I graduated in 2015.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I actually transferred in as a junior from a different college. I was pretty sure I would work for the Episcopal Church in some way. 

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

My Religion in Film class with Dr. Trost was one of my favorites. I took it as a higher-level independent study and ended up writing my paper on the “Church of Football” after having watched “Bull Durham” and discussing the Church of Baseball. It seemed like the most Alabama paper I could write.

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I am now the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, GA. I started off as a Youth Ministry Intern when I graduated from Alabama, and I started running the programs the next year. I feel like my background in Religious Studies really helped with this because it allowed me to have the deep thinking and reasoning skills to help my youth dig deeper into their faith. It is also helpful in helping draw different religious narratives together.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

I would definitely say that the skills of some of my REL undergrad classes are still useful! It might be a little hard to pin point what specifically because I do work in a religious field, but I will say that having a well rounded background in critical thinking and world religions allows me to not just speak at my youth, but really engage them in discussion.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

Take better notes in your books! It will come in handy when a question comes up at work.

6 Questions with Wade Bond

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I enrolled way back in 1992, and I earned a BS in Business Management.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I wanted to be a psychologist.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

I did not discover the Department of Religious Studies until I was a senior.  If I had found REL sooner, I would have taken more than one class.  Our class was divided up into small groups.  Each group was assigned a major world religion, and we were asked to teach the basics of that religion to the rest of the class.  I was in the Buddhism group and found inspiration in the concept of the middle way.  Virtue is a mid-point between polar extremes.  It was completely different than the spectrum we typically use in the West where good is on one side and evil is on the other.  Instead, balance was healthy and virtuous, and extremes were harmful.  Courage was a mid-point between cowardice and recklessness.  A healthy diet was a mid-point between gluttony and starvation.  I did not become a Buddhist, but I did gain a new perspective.  I was and I still am skeptical of supernatural claims, but I did gain an appreciation for Eastern philosophy and religion.    

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I am the Director of Risk Management here at UA.  I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity four years ago to work for my Alma mater.  And that lesson about the middle way is still with me.  Finding the middle path between cowardice and recklessness is a great description of what risk managers do daily. 

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

I’m a step ahead of you.  See number 4.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

I would give advice to my freshman self: Take more REL classes. Perhaps get a minor or a double major. 

Grad Tales–50th Anniversary Style

The Department recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a series of events and guest lecturers, and along with those guest speakers, we brought back a few of our grads to share their thoughts on how their time in REL impacted them–and how the tools they learned here are still being used in their day-to-day lives. 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

It’s Time for a Grad’s Tale!

gradtalekharacrowdIt’s that time of the year again, that’s right, A Grad’s Tale: There and Back Again is coming up! This series welcomes back UA graduates who have majored in Religious Studies to learn how the major has benefited them in post-graduate life. This semester’s installment is this coming Thursday, February 4th with Lexi Poston (with Prof. Jacobs interviewing her!), so be sure to join us in the Anderson Room (302) of the Ferguson Center at 7:00pm! Continue reading

Grad Tales are Back Again!

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The REL Department is heading into November with the startup of A Grad’s Tale: There and Back Again! This series welcomes back UA graduates who have majored in Religious Studies to learn how the major has benefited them in post-graduate life. This year’s first installment begins this Thursday with Khara Cole, so be sure to join us in Smith Hall Room 205 at 6:30 pm!

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Khara earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and Public Relations in 2013 at the University of Alabama. Since graduating, Khara has taken a job as an associate product manager with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee while also pursuing an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She’ll be talking about how the critical thinking skills she learned from Religious Studies are helping her in the business world.

To learn more about Khara or the event, you can view the flyer here.

You can also read a blog post by Khara here, or another one here.