In designing this MA the REL faculty kept in mind not just how we practice the study of religion at Alabama but also future trends in both higher education and throughout the economy. And that’s where competencies in what many now call the digital humanities come into our program. But our hope is that the scholars we train will not just employ digital tools in their own research — whether that entails working with databases and big data, video and podcast production, blogging and online curation, to name but a few — but will also find ways to use these platforms to convey their work to far wider audiences, well outside the academy, or even to find any number of careers in which the combination of analytic and digital skills are now sought. That’s why we’ve opted to describe this part of the program as the public humanities, for we know that, although not all students will aim to pursue further graduate education after leaving Alabama, they all will need to communicate effectively and creatively, in whatever field they enter, after graduating from this degree.
One of two required foundations courses, taken in a student’s first Fall semester, is therefore REL 502 Public Humanities and Religious Studies. Here, students receive a crash course in a variety of tools currently of use to scholars, both to enhance their work and also to assist in communicating it to others, both in and outside of the university. By the end of the course students will be proficient in using a variety of programs; some may decide that their final thesis will take full advantage of their digital skills while others, aiming to produce a traditional research paper, will put their digital skills to work in creating an engaging and professional online profile for themselves.