In each issue of this newsletter, we profile a faculty member who makes innovative use of the library and/or academic technology. This issue features Jim Ralph, Dean of Faculty Development & Research; Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Research; and Rehnquist Professor of American History & Culture in the History Department.
What are your research interests?
I focus on the modern civil rights movement, especially in the North. Long ago, I recognized that race has been central to the American experience, and I directed my energies to examining those Americans who sought to end racial discrimination and build a better America. I have been fortunate to meet a good number of individuals who committed themselves to promoting racial equality over the past 75 years. And so even in trying times, I have been inspired by their outlooks and efforts.
Why are library collections important to you? What role do they play in your teaching and research?
I could not do my research without the library collections and staff here at Middlebury and elsewhere. For example, in seeking to finish a project on the struggle for racial equality in the state of Illinois, I spent my last academic leave at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign in large measure because of the tremendous holdings of its libraries.
Do you incorporate much technology into your teaching?
I am not a trendsetter in using technology in my teaching, but I seek to offer opportunities for students to draw on cutting-edge technology, and I have been impressed by their inventiveness.
What did you do prior to working at Middlebury College? And where were you located before coming here?
I came to Middlebury in 1989 as a faculty member right out of graduate school. (And I am a graduate of the College.)
What is your fondest memory or experience that you’ve had at Middlebury so far?
I am continually amazed by what the students, faculty, and staff can do together. One real highlight for me was helping to organize the Middlebury Bicentennial Celebration from 1996 to 2000. More recently, it has been an honor to have worked with others to establish the framework for the development of digital projects as part of the DLA Initiative.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new employee at Middlebury, what would it be?
Extend your circle and meet more of your colleagues.
What are your hopes, dreams, and/or plans for the next few years at Middlebury?
We are doing great things, I feel, at the CTLR, and I hope to build on that progress over the next couple of years.
Is there anyone associated with Middlebury College who has mentored you or helped you to grow while here?
So many people have helped me along the way, but I will single out my former teacher and colleagues, Travis Jacobs, for his constant support and encouragement over nearly 40 years.
Do you have a favorite place on campus or in town?
I have benefited from the camaraderie and competition (and fun) of playing basketball in Pepin gym at noontime for more than 25 years.
What are the most significant things happening in your life outside of work?
Raising two young children — Owen (5 years old) and Chloe (3 years old) — has been an amazing adventure for my wife Ophelia and me.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about your time at Middlebury?
I came on a one-year contract, and I feel so fortunate that I’ve had an extended association with the College and, as a result, have had opportunities to stretch myself over the years and to become deeply acquainted with our state, its people, and its places.