Justin Ralston

Justin Ralston
Ed.D. Student

What made you choose Marymount University for the pursuit of your Doctorate?

The MU program is local, it’s online, the innovation behind it, and the opportunity to share leadership strategies without limitation are all reasons that I chose MU. I also had an initial conversation with a professor who was very responsive to needs. I received a call within 30 minutes after submitting the interest form. Also, I appreciated the diversity of the program’s cohort, faculty, and MU community.


What do you hope to accomplish by earning an Ed.D. degree?

I hope to become an even better leader by earning an Ed.D. degree. I’m a firm believer in public education. Education is a social justice issue. Every stakeholder in the education system has to have the opportunity to institute positive change in the education process. Engagement from the family unit is also essential. My goal is to have Theodore Roosevelt High School, my current place of work, be a model comprehensive high school inclusive of every student and family in Washington, DC.


What are your long-term professional and personal goals? 

Personally, I have a long-term commitment to more self-care. For example, last year, I lost 100 lbs and ran a marathon. I’d like to institute a culture of self-care within the education system, as that is now a value of mine. Professionally, I am currently a High School Principal, which was a dream job of mine even when I was in high school myself. I would like to continue to lead schools that can serve as models of what public education can do when empowered by the community that it serves. This program has had a powerful impact on my vision and ability to do this.


Tell us a bit about your background up to this point – personal and/or professional.

I grew up in rural Indiana. I attended K-12 all within one building, one of the smallest public schools in the state! Both of my parents are high school graduates who did very well for themselves. My parents enrolled me into the 4-H program at age 9. This was a transformative experience for me as it offered a plethora of learning and networking opportunities. As a first-generation college graduate, I couldn’t be more thankful for the life-changing opportunities that I’ve had along my journey. I have done student teaching in rural Kenya, which fundamentally altered my world view. I’ve also taught middle school and high school social studies, math, and special education courses with large immigrant populations. Because of my experiences as an educator and social worker, I decided that public education administration was the next step for me to help institute positive change within our school systems.


What motivates you to complete an online program? 

I did an in-person master’s at Georgetown University and Howard University, so I spent a lot of time debating whether an online program would be a fit for me. It took the pandemic to really tell me that it was okay to take time to advance my education with a flexible, online program. An online program really works with my busy schedule and personal commitments like family, plus I still get to have the cohort experience. With an online program, I also have the flexibility to focus on self-care, which is a priority for me, too.


What do you think of the Ed.D. program so far now that you have completed your first year? Favorite topic or moment?

The Ed.D. program professors at MU are very responsive and supportive. I see my fellow cohort members as a group of leaders. We are all leaders in the Ed.D. program. The cohort experience has been hugely important to me. I also want to highlight the continual “push” in the MU Ed.D. program– this means that our professors’ agenda is not to have us doing busywork, but to push us to learn from the ways that the Ed.D. curriculum directly connects to our real-life work experiences.


What is the biggest highlight of your experience with the MU Ed.D. program? 

As someone who has led through a pandemic now, the biggest highlight has been the level of community engagement in the program. I have also enjoyed the application of core concepts, discussing papers with other cohort members, and discussions around my own real-life experiences with the challenges around reopening. Every assignment that I have done connects directly or indirectly to the work that I am doing now and envision doing in the future. 


Access Your Program Guide to Learn More