Although she insists that growing up in suburban Anchorage, Alaska was no different than growing up in the suburbs of New York City or Denver, Kelcie Ralph—who was was named an Assistant Professor in Transportation Policy and Planning at the Bloustein School earlier this summer—will admit that having a mini-horse as a pet is not something that most people get to experience. Mini-horses became the tinder for what developed into the bonfire that continues to light her stroll through academia.
In her short career that has included academic stops in Alaska, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, London, Los Angeles and now New Brunswick, NJ, Kelcie has consumed knowledge like a tapir eating berries—and has racked up a collection of academic accolades faster than a charging rhino (moving at over 30 mph, she will be quick to tell you!). Witnessing the sprawl and petroleum-driven economy of Alaska inspired Kelcie to study the effects of climate change. After learning about the massive impact transportation has on climate change and the environment, her interests moved in that direction. And she has been walking down that road ever since.
She graduated from Alaska-Anchorage with a BA in economics and received a Marshall Scholarship to study at two UK universities, Cambridge and the London School of Economics. Returning to the United States with an MSc in city design and social science and an MPhil in environmental policy in hand, Kelcie completed her PhD in just four years as the Martin Wachs Fellow at UCLA before coming to the Bloustein School. Just a month after her arrival in New Jersey, she was named the recipient of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s top Ph.D. award, the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award for Best Dissertation in Planning for her thesis, “Stalled on the Road to Adulthood? Assessing the nature of recent travel changes for young adults in America, 1995-2009.”
Upon her arrival in New Brunswick, she discovered that her personal philosophies and ideals are sometimes at odds with the realities of life in New Jersey. She hadn’t owned a car since high school, relying instead on her own legs, public transportation and, in certain situations, “Don” the donkey. Don helped move her around New Mexico, Utah, and Virginia, but was fiercely against settling in central New Jersey. With much disappointment Kelcie relented, and allowed Don to join family and friends on a ranch near Pocatello, Idaho.
New Jersey has certainly been a change of pace—the rough practicalities of central Jersey living have encouraged her to purchase a car. She still prefers to walk or bike to work whenever weather permits and despite her new reliance on an automobile, Kelcie is enjoying the multicultural setting and high energy offered by life in Middlesex County.
To celebrate this new stage of her life she thought about getting a tattoo but was advised against it by friends. She ruminated for several weeks before deciding to form a one-woman band, “Tickling the Ivories,” featuring her own talents at keyboard, triangle, harmonica and vocals. Kelcie is hoping to release the tentatively-titled “My Parakeet Jonathan is Singing Flat and I Don’t Know What to do About It” before the end of her first spring break in New Brunswick.
Currently residing across the Raritan River from the Bloustein School in Highland Park with her husband and her parakeet, Jonathan (the inspiration for her first single), Kelcie is eager to share her research, knowledge, and experiences to shape the planners of tomorrow. There is no doubt that with her zeal, creativity, and know-how, students will thrive for years to come and continue to help the Bloustein School become one of the most dynamic and pre-eminent planning schools.