Each month, the Program for Community-Based Learning would like to highlight a faculty or staff member who is currently utilizing Community-Based Learning or Community-Based Research in their classroom. This month, we are highlighting Dr. Jonah Ralston for the research he is involved in with the Fort Atkinson School District.
In describing his involvement with community based learning, Dr. Jonah Ralston referred to a proverb describing children as being born with closed fists. As the children grow, their hands unfold to release their gifts to the world. "I would like to think that what gifts we have we should share with others, and so to the extent that I can, I intend to use whatever talents and skills I possess for public service," Dr. Ralston expressed. Dr. Ralston, who is currently in his third year at UW-Whitewater, is an assistant professor in the Political Science department. In addition to teaching full time, he is also actively involved in community based research with the Fort Atkinson school district. "The superintendent of the district had identified a concern about the drop-off in student participation in the district's free and reduced-price lunch program from elementary school to high school. As part of the project, a literature review was prepared, a survey was conducted of high school seniors, and currently data is being collected for analysis about the free and reduced-price lunch program," he stated. Dr. Ralston has also employed the assistance of a student researcher, who is gaining valuable experience working on a grant, preparing a literature review, conducting interviews, and presenting the research results. While Dr. Ralston's community outreach is primarily through his research, he is extremely interested in incorporating community-based learning into his teaching, noting that "the university is in the process of developing its strategic plan and one of its priorities is almost certain to be forming partnerships with regional organizations. Community based learning is a high priority at UW-Whitewater." Dr. Ralston expressed how community-based learning can be a very rewarding experience for all involved and encouraged others to get involved. "You can always start with the School of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education, but odds are you have a colleague who has been involved with community based learning. I would suggest starting there."