Longtime lawyer turned college professor, John Ragosta is returning to Randolph College as a visiting assistant professor in history for the 2016-17 academic year.
Ragosta is serving as a sabbatical replacement for John d’Entremont, the Theodore H. Jack Professor of History—a role he also filled during the 2009-10 academic year. This fall, he is teaching North American History and American History of Religious Freedom.
Prior to teaching at Randolph and other institutions in the region, Ragosta practiced law for more than 20 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Grove City College and attended law school at the University of Virginia. He later earned his master’s degree in American history from George Washington University and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
Ragosta is impressed by Randolph’s liberal arts curriculum as well as the engaging discussions he has with students. “I’m very Socratic, which means I ask a lot of questions and am engaging, and I view class time as a conversation rather than a lecture,” he said.
Small class sizes also make Randolph a unique learning environment, Ragosta added. When he began teaching at the College in 2009, just after earning his Ph.D., he referred to students by their last names as a sign of mutual respect. However, he quickly found that students preferred to be called by their first names.
“They were really put off by the fact that I wasn’t calling them by their first names,” Ragosta laughed. “But I think it’s a reflection of the small, intimate community we’re dealing with at Randolph.
“Also, because it’s a smaller community, on the first day of class I don’t introduce myself and I don’t introduce the class—I just stand up and ask a question, and that starts a discussion,” he added. “If you’re at a larger school, you tend to get an awful lot of silence. But you don’t get that at Randolph because students already know each other and are very engaged because they’re choosing to be at a place like this.”
In addition to teaching and his career as a lawyer, Ragosta is the author of several books. He is using his book, Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy and America’s Creed, in his History of Religious Freedom class. He also recently published a biography about Patrick Henry.
In his spare time, Ragosta and his wife, Liz, are avid beekeepers and enjoy other outdoor activities like kayaking and gardening.