The People

This site is maintained by the participants in the May 2011 “REL Goes to Greece” study abroad course run by the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama.

The contributors are:

Andie Alexander is a sophomore double-majoring in History and Religious Studies and minoring in Italian. She is a part of the Honors College and its International Honors Program at the University and is very actively involved in the Alabama International Relations Club and the Religious Studies Student Association. Her interests focus on how religion, gender, race, nationality, notions of “the past,” etc., have (throughout history and still today) affected people’s behaviors, notions of their identity, and mold and create the “cultures” we use to group these people.

See Andie’s posts here.


Emma Buchalter is a junior undergraduate student studying at the University of Alabama. She is a member and participant in the interdisciplinary New College program, with particular interests in religious, cultural, and linguistic anthropologies as well as community-based and environmental sustainability.

See Emma’s posts here.



Alyssa Lenox, a sophomore and Brickbreaker aficionado, is studying notions of myth and ritual. Outside of the Department of Religious Studies, Alyssa enjoys dunking Oreos in milk and lounging poolside with a good book.

See Alyssa’s posts here.



Susanna Payton is a junior double-majoring in Nursing and Religious Studies. She is actively involved in the Housing & Residential Communities on campus, the Religious Studies Student Association and the Million Dollar Band. She is interested in studying the construction and social implications of religious processions and rituals. Aside from spending too much time at Gorgas Library, Susanna enjoys time with her family–especially her three Boxers, Magnolia, Hondo and Noel.

See Susanna’s posts here.


Vaia Touna (Local Coordinator) is a native of Greece; she earned her BA and MA degrees, in the study of religion, from Aristotle University, and in the Spring 2010 semester worked as an Instructor at the University of Alabama. She is currently working on her Ph.D. at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada), studying how changing socio-political conditions in the Hellenistic world made possible differing conceptions of the self. REL Goes to Greece 2011 is her third year as local coordinator, making all local arrangements, accompanying and guiding the participants throughout their three week stay in Greece.

See Vaia’s posts here.


Dr. Merinda Simmons (Co-Director) has been a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies in 2008. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama’s Department of English, focusing on how narratives of migration and diaspora can be used to create and contest differing notions of authenticity. Her work therefore cuts across several traditional disciplines, focusing on how identity (whether gendered, racial, national/regional, or religious) is negotiated at a variety of cultural sites–from texts to museums. REL Goes to Greece 2011 is her first trip to Greece and is the first time she has led a study abroad.

See Merinda’s posts here.


Dr. Russell McCutcheon (Co-Director) has been a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama since 2001, having served as Department Chair from 2001-2009. He has published on the role of theory in scholarship on religion; his research interests currently revolve around the history and implications of classification systems (e.g., sacred/secular, private/public). This is the third time he has led the REL Goes to Greece study abroad trip and 2011 marks his fifth trip to Thessaloniki but the first time setting foot outside of the airport in Athens.

See Russell’s posts here.