Penny Ralston, Ph.D.

Professor, Dean Emeritus, and Director of the Center on Better Health & Life for Underserved Populations

penny headshot

Get to know Dr. Ralston


My interests center around developing and evaluating programs to improve the health and well-being of youth and adults within the community setting.  While my earlier work focused on the development and use of programs for older adults, more recently I have focused on underserved improve health across the lifespan, with a particular interest in underserved populations.  My work incorporates community-based participatory research approaches where the community provides leadership in developing the ideas for interventions and provides input throughout all phases, including evaluation. At the end of the day, it is my view that the outcomes of research need to directly benefit the community in an immediate way.


  • B.S.  Family & Consumer Sciences Education; Social Studies Education (Ball State University)
  • M.Ed., Family & Consumer Sciences Education; Emphasis in Gerontology (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana)
  • Ph.D., Family & Consumer Sciences Education; Emphasis in Gerontology (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana)

Publications and Other Scholarly Activities

Over 65 articles, book chapters and reviews in major journals including:

  • The Gerontologist
  • Journal of Gerontology
  • Contemporary Clinical Trials
  • Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging
  • Journal of Health Psychology


  • 19 years in higher education administration (dean, College of Human Sciences, FSU; chair, Department of Consumer Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
  • 9 years of continuous National Institutes of Health funding (awarded R24MD002807, total of $3.25M)
  • Fellow, Gerontological Society of America and also the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education
  • Recipient of several awards including Distinguished Service Award, American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences; Lifetime Achievement Award, Board on Human Sciences, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award, Florida State University
  • Mentored over 150 undergraduate and graduate students
  • Worked with others to spearhead infrastructures to address health disparities, including establishment of the Florida Health Equity Research Institute, the Florida Alliance for Health Professions Diversity, and the Day of Dialogue on Minority Health