Pagan Rites in Space

Yes, cosmonauts apparently all pee on the back right tire of the bus that carries them to the launch pad, before they take off.

At least the guys do; but the ladies are said to bring a vial of urine to pour on the tire.

It’s a ritual. Continue reading

Meet our Peer Mentors

This semester the Department of Religious Studies is proud to announce that we have teamed up with several students from various departments across campus to form our inaugural Peer Mentor Program (coordinated by Professor Touna). Because these students excelled in their REL Core course last semester, they will be available to help students in two of our survey courses this semester: REL 100 (sections 001 and 002) and REL 102. Continue reading

REL Peer Mentor Program Launched

This semester we’re trying something new in REL — we’ve developed a peer mentoring program whereby a small number of students who excelled last semester in a 100-level course are being invited to stay involved in the same course this semester, as a peer mentor.

For we tend to think that studying by yourself, especially when you find the course challenging, isn’t the most effective strategy. Continue reading

The #GradTales Audience: Reflections From Current Students


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.

“This evening, students and professors alike gathered to hear the remarkable story of a young lady’s academic tale…. From hearing Lexis story, I was able to see just what a student in the Religious studies field was able to gain, first hand. I am now much more interested in furthering my exploration in religious studies because I see that it helps shape you into a well rounded, well educated student. Being able to understand different cultures, and religions can help you with your communication skills, understanding people as well as social behaviors. With my current major being criminal justice, I think that adding a religious studies minor could be beneficial to my future as an employee.”

“One thing I learned by attending the Grad’s Tales event is that religious studies can give you a skill in critical thinking and analysis. I’m not saying that other classes or other majors on campus are not going to teach us that, but in religious studies you have to brainstorm not only about how you think about one subject, but also how other people may think about the same subject.”


“During the conversation the graduate student talked about her successes at UofA. This opened my eyes to many opportunities here at Alabama. I realized that if you set your mind to your goals they are possible to achieve. She had some very good insight on many different religion classes that sounded very interesting. Maybe I will pursue my minor in Religion here at Alabama. I learned a lot at the grad talk about how religious studies can help you in your everyday life and with your future work. She said that majoring in religious studies has made her a more well rounded person and able to communicate with other people on different levels. I enjoyed meeting other professors from the department, and the way the speaker talked about them made me want to take more classes in religious studies. We will see what the future holds for me. Maybe one day I will be the graduate at the “Grad’s Tales” event.”

“The presentation given in the Anderson Room of the Ferg was very insightful to how religious studies assists you in studying in the different majors here at UA. The Grad student speaking triple majored and triple minored in fields including criminal justice and Hebrew studies. Her passion for Religious Studies was evident when she talked about her past reading books on it, as well as taking the skills the courses [in religious studies] has taught her and applying it to criminology…I even learned that some Religious Studies majors even go on to Law School and Med School, which I never would have thought you could do. Overall, the presentation was insightful as to how Religious Studies assists in other fields.”

“She also mentioned how unlike any other program at the University, the professors in religious studies are supportive like a family, and that is how she made it through her 24 credit semesters and multiple majors. Her advice and experiences were really inspiring to me because she worked so hard to get where she is at now, and is using her education to succeed in life”

“Lexi is a great and smart woman. She tripled majored in REL, Criminal Justice, and International Studies. She was very kind to answer each of the audience’s questions. For me, I am an international student from China, Religious studies is very hard and I was worried whether I could do well. But now after going to the event I feel more confident. Because I trust myself and I will study hard and do a wonderful job in REL just like Ms. Lexi.”

“I hope one day to read some things that the speaker publishes. Also, I found the conversation between professors to be very thought provoking and interesting. I would be very interested in hearing any of them speak on the topics discussed during the event.”

“I was very interested in the responses the speaker had for the question I asked, regarding the relation between religious studies and the field of math and science in general. One response was that in international settings, where an engineer may find himself employed, understanding the delicate social and cultural customs of different religious groups helps one’s ability to communicate.”

Stay tuned for an announcement about our next Grad Tales event later this semester!

Getting to Know RSSA


The REL film crew just caught up with the officers of the Religious Studies Student Association to learn what the club is all about. Watch the video to see what they had to say–trust us, you don’t want to miss out on the fun events going on around here!

RSSA Student Video from UA Religious Studies.

A Brief Chat with Prof. Touna

tounapicThe Department recently hired Vaia Touna as a new tenure-track faculty member. As has become our tradition with new hires, the REL film crew sat down for a brief interview with her. Give it a watch to learn about Prof. Touna, and be sure to say hello when you see her around Manly Hall.

Have You Met Prof. Touna? from UA Religious Studies.

“Welcome Back…”

welcomeback2015snipIt’s become a bit of a tradition here in REL to have a Welcome Back video at the beginning of each new school year. You’ve probably seen past years’ videos recently making the rounds on our social media sites; but now the wait for this year’s video is finally over.

So, as everyone settles in for another year, the REL faculty have just one thing to say:

Welcome Back 2015 from UA Religious Studies.

P.S. You’ll surely notice some new faces…be sure to say “hello” to new faculty members Matt Bagger and Vaia Touna.

REL Announces a New Hire

Picture 10The Department of Religious Studies is very pleased to announce that it has now finalized another new hire: Vaia Touna, who works on ancient and modern Greek identity, as examples of wider issues in identity studies, will begin as a tenure-track Assistant Professor, in August 2015.

Vaia is currently completing her dissertation in the academic study of religion at the University of Alberta, entitled “The Politics of ‘Greek Identity’: Discourses on the Religious Self and Tradition”; she has also earned degrees in the study of religion at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. She assisted with REL’s past study abroad courses in Greece, worked in the Department for a semester in 2010 (as part of the College of Arts & Sciences’ Greece Initiative),and will bring to REL a wealth of new language and primary source expertise, focused on the ancient Greek/Hellenistic period.

Complementing the research emphases of other REL faculty, she will offer courses that use social theory to situate the ancient data as examples of wider processes also taking place in a variety of other cultural and historical settings.

With this new hire the Department’s full-time tenure-track and tenured faculty will now number 9 — twice as large as the Department was in 2001 and the largest it has been since its founding in the mid- to late-1960s.