1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement

Senior Capstone Seminar

REL 490-001Spring 2020 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Nathan Loewen

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

This course is for you if: you are interested in religious studies, or, artificial intelligence. We will bridge the gap between those two.

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

A seminar offered spring semester of each year for seniors pursuing a major or minor in religious studies or minor in Judaic studies. The professor and subject of the seminar rotate through the four areas of the curriculum. Required of all majors and minors in the Department. May be repeated for a maximum of 9 hours for differing topics.

What are the applied intersections of religious studies and research on artificial intelligence? Our class will first review at how religious studies, as a discipline, understands the concept “data." What is the history of "data" in religious studies? We will learn the debates about "data" in the study of religion. We will use the required textbook to learn that field's key topics and ideas. Our approach to "artificial intelligence" will be through the applied aspects of computer sciences and the digital humanities. There, we will find that the conception and application of "data" are often something different than religious studies. Moreover, an investigation of how "artificial intelligence" is understood will uncover some new approaches to scholarly work with so-called religious data. Overall, the aim of this course is to work out how this topical intersection is useful to critically rework research and approaches in the study of religion.

Please note that our class will run more like a seminar, with a heavy emphasis upon discussion and collaboration.

Also note that, if our class is interested, I hope we will organize our course around a collaborative research project using computational approaches to religious studies.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • Leslie Dorrough Smith / Constructing Data in Religious Studies Examining the Architecture of the Acade (Required)

Readings on artificial intelligence will be made available online through our Slack channel.

Course Objectives

In this course we will:

1. Create a safe space for learning. Part of this will include our creation of a class constitution.

2. Discuss the use of "data" in the field of religious studies.

3. Discuss the uses of data in computer sciences and the digital humanities.

4. Consider a variety of approaches to computational research in the study of religion.

5. Organize a collaborative class research project on the course topic.

Student Learning Outcomes

Our class constitution will more clearly determine our expectations of each other.

With regard to the course content, I want you to be able to:

    1. Explain how religious studies scholars conceptualize and work with "data."

    2. Explain how computer sciences and digital humanities scholars conceptualize and work with "data."

    3. Determine analytically useful comparisons between #1 and #2.

    4. Apply some basic computational tools for textual analysis, possibly in service of #3.

    5. Collaborate with others to conceptualize, plan and complete a research project that applies AI tools to religious studies data. The project will make use of 1-4.

Other Course Materials

You will need regular access to a computer. If you experience difficulties with this, please contact me as soon as possible.

Outline of Topics

This area will be updated soon. Please contact me if you wish to inquire sooner about specifics.

Exams and Assignments

Our class will be focused on participation and collaboration. These criteria were subject to our class constitution process.

Assignments in this course will include:

  • Class participation tasks - Small, weekly tasks will be assigned to be completed either online or in-class (e.g. small tasks, reading prompts, etc.). They will be circulated through Blackboard. These are worth 25%.

  • Individual analyses of readings - assignments for summaries of textbook chapters and readings will be given on Blackboard. These are worth 30%

  • Contributions to the collaborative class projects - Class projects will involve documentation of contributions/participation. These will be evaluated individually, collectively and by the instructor. These are cumulatively worth 45%, with the following elements:

    • Prompt communication through email and Slack (24-hour response) 5%

    • Personal evaluation of your contributions to the projects - 10%

    • Collective evaluation of the projects - 10%

    • Instructor evaluation of your contributions to the projects - 10%

    • Instructor evaluation of the entire projects - 10%

The assignments for our course will be updated after the completion of the constitution.

Grading Policy

Grading in our class will be subject to our class constitution, mentioned in the course objectives above.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

If you think you will miss a coursework deadline, then please contact me by email or Slack as soon as possible. We can then figure out what to do next.

Attendance Policy

You are expected to attend all class sessions. If you are ill or unable to attend a class session, then please contact me by email or Slack as soon as possible.

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.