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Alumni Spotlight: Jason Rawls

Alumni Spotlight: Jason Rawls
Jason Rawls will be speaking at the Violet L. Patton Lecture Series on Nov. 7. It is open to the public.

The Patton College of Education is honored to recognize Dr. Jason Rawls, independent hip-hop and soul producer, DJ, author, and educator, as our October Alum of the Month. 

Rawls is revitalizing the education field through Hip-Hop Based Education (HHBE), the integration of hip-hop into academic curriculum.

“Because hip-hop is the dominant culture among youth, oftentimes it can be a great first place to start when building relationships with students,” said Rawls. “So, if teachers allow students to bring that culture into the classroom, both the teachers and students benefit from the interactions that can occur.”

In June, Rawls and his partner, John Robinson, released Youth Culture Power: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement. A book with an accompanying hip-hop album, Youth Culture Power lays out a foundation for educators seeking to use youth culture to build constructive relationships with their students.

As part of the Violet L. Patton Lecture Series, Rawls will speak in McCracken Hall 330 on Nov. 7, 11:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. The lecture is open to anyone interested in attending.

The Columbus native has been producing music for more than 25 years. In the late 1990s, his work with Black Star, a hip-hop group comprised of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, placed him on the map among independent hip-hop producers. 

Since then, Rawls has released over 20 albums and worked with artists like Doseone, Domo Genesis (Odd Future), Capital Steez (Pro Era), Beastie Boys and Aloe Blacc. 

“I was always fascinated with my dad’s record collection. I am still an avid record collector to this day,” said Rawls. “As I began digging in the crates, I started to make my own beats. When I went to undergraduate school in Cincinnati, I began making beats for people there. It grew from that.”

Rawls earned his Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Ohio University’s Patton College of Education in 2017. He also holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Ashland University   and a B.B.A. in Marketing and Management from University of Cincinnati.

Rawls is an instructor at the College of Education at Ohio University Zanesville and at Columbus College of Art and Design. He is also a Career and Community Resource Coordinator with Columbus City Schools.

“I realized I had a passion for teaching during my first teaching job. I was a computer business analyst before that. However, I did not enjoy my job. I had no passion for it,” said Rawls. “My cousin suggested that I try teaching. I finally tried it in 2002 at a charter school in Columbus, Ohio, and I have loved it ever since.”

With 15 years of teaching in Columbus City Schools under his belt, Rawls now oversees and coordinates internship opportunities for high school students. 

Alongside his teaching positions, Rawls owns Polar Entertainment, his own record label and production company.

Balancing music and teaching can be time consuming, but Rawls is passionate about both.

“There are many sleepless nights. But lately, I have been working hard to combine the two,” said Rawls. “As I have grown, I have realized that the two can mix together well.”