Ragen has always emphasized her academic achievements as part of her self-promotion as an expert on obesity. She frequently describes herself as a “trained researcher” and talks about her time at UT Austin where she studied “administration and policy” or “research methods and statistical analysis”. Her Dances with Fat biography currently includes brags about high school athletics and how she was a National Merit Scholar and her class valedictorian. To an uninformed reader she gives the impression of an extremely successful academic scholar whose qualifications and expertise allow her to speak with authority on subjects like body weight and health, and the impossibility of weight loss.
Ragen the Elite High School Student
Ragen’s bizarre academic history goes back to her childhood. She claims she attended 18 different schools growing up because her father was so unpleasant he was constantly fired from jobs and had to move the family around. She skipped Grade 8 and “graduated” from Lyme Central high school in two years. Her family then moved moved to Three Forks, MT, and for some unknown reason Ragen was forced to complete another four years of high school. No explanation for this has ever been provided. In 2006, one of her major life accomplishments was having several teachers and administrators fired from her new high school.
By Ragen’s own account, she was the most successful high school student in the entire history of secondary education. She participated in so many activities she was at school from 7am to 8pm every day in addition to many hours of daily practice as a teenage professional-level clarinet soloist as well as working as a waitress in her last years and recovering from a devastating fractured patella.
Some of Ragen’s lesser school activities included choirs, bands, musical theatre, drill team, and so on. She was a member of her high school’s varsity volleyball team, an all-state athlete for all six years of high school, spent hours doing serious weight training and cardio every day, and even became a professional aerobics instructor before graduating. In fact, she was such a successful athlete and scholar that she was wildly popular and never teased for her weight or “shoved into lockers”. Every summer, Ragen was a lifeguard and “always won the annual lifeguard races” while making time for soccer, baseball, jazz dance, horse riding, and other athletic endeavours. In addition to being a clarinet virtuoso, Ragen was an all-state band member with her clarinet, and played flute, piccolo, saxophone, and piano at the state competition level. She was a trained opera singer and sang the lead role in Carmen, but gave it up to become her school’s cheerleading captain. As her school’s most accomplished musician, she apparently even taught elementary school music classes to make up for a teaching staff shortfall.
On the academic side, Ragen was was a mathlete, in Science Olympiad, Odyssey of the Mind, Trig-star, and won national Scholastic writing contests. She graduated with a perfect GPA as a National Merit Scholar and her class valedictorian.
Ragen the Musician
Heading into college, Ragen was on course to continue her wildly successful academic career by fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a professional clarinet player and playing Carnegie Hall. She claims she received a full scholarship to attend the UT Austin music performance major program, where she was again incredibly successful in her studies, playing at Carnegie Hall with the University of Texas Wind Ensemble at their 1998 New York debut, a performance actually available on CD. It is not possible to verify this claim, and as usual Ragen supplies no details or evidence to support it, simply a vague description. She recently wrote an “inspirational” story about how she gave up on playing the clarinet. After having misgivings about her upcoming career as a professional musician, she completed her junior recital, received top marks and was showered with flowers and praise, then packed up her clarinet and never played it again, giving up on her degree a year short of graduation.
During Ragen’s initial years in the UT Austin music program starting in Fall 1995, she claims she was at her lowest adult weight of 135 lbs and 7% body fat, in the throes of her eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and compulsive exercise. For years she somehow managed to maintain her professional bodybuilder physique while taking a full course load, participating in ensembles, practicing her clarinet for several hours, and spending 8-10 hours at the gym every single day, all while eating only 1100 calories. As usual, Ragen’s accounting of her time management defies all logic and reason, and again brings into question the true details of her “eating disorder” and all her various exaggerated accomplishments. Ragen appears to have acknowledged this, and no longer supplies any specific details of her eating disorder in interviews.
Ragen the Social Worker
By Fall 2001, Ragen was a senior in Social Work. At this point it becomes easier to verify her claims through her own writing and secondary sources, and the contrast between her true “success” before and after is quite apparent. In 2006 she claimed she chose the “administration and policy track” for the social work program. In a recent interview she instead claimed it was the “community and policy” track. As usual she is unable to maintain a consistent narrative, but additionally, the Bachelor of Social Work major program has no academic tracks. Only the Master of Science in Social Work program has degree tracks, now called “Administration and Social Policy Practice” and “Clinical Studies”. These have historically gone under other names, but it would appear that Ragen simply made up the “administration and policy” claim in 2006 to promote her administrative skills for Total Administrative Solutions, her office organization business. Examining the undergraduate degree requirements, it’s clear where Ragen’s claims about expertise in “research methods” and the like come from: she was required to take basic social work research methods and statistics courses.
Ragen the Passionless
Despite apparently being in her last year of studies in the social work program in Fall 2001, UT Austin records show Ragen’s last term was Spring 2002, when she failed to graduate and did not receive a degree. In 2003, she wrote a blog post about re-enrolling in college to complete her degree. By this time she was a “government major with minors in Music Performance, Social Work and Nutrition”, and was still a full year of credit hours away from graduating, despite attending college for 7 years. She had a conversation with an advisor where she explained that she had no passion for any academic field whatsoever, and didn’t care what she studied as long as she received a degree. UT Austin records show Ragen never actually re-enrolled.
“Went to see the Advisor today, O* is very nice man, really wanted to help me find a major that I was passionate about. One problem, I don’t give a crap what my major is, I want to graduate. The following is what ensued:
o-what are your goals?
s-I want to graduate as soon as possible
O*=what do you want to study
S=whatever will get me out of here the fastest
O=right, but what are you passionate about
O-but what do you want to learn
S-I know this must be frustrating for you, but I’m not interested in studying something that I’m passionate about, I just want to get my bachelors and move on.
Ragen the Dance Major
In late 2008, Ragen again mentioned re-enrolling in college, this time to pursue a dance degree. She didn’t meet the height and weight requirements for the program, but was confident she would have no trouble being accepted once she received multiple “world championship” titles. Records show Ragen did not win any remotely meaningful dance awards after 2005, and she eventually gave up on competitive dancing because her weight made it impossible to continue. She never mentioned going back to college again, and both posts were carefully removed when she transferred her blog to WordPress, then deleted when her old LiveJournal accounts were discovered by “trolls”.
Ragen the Trained Researcher
In 2011, Ragen started referring to herself as a “trained researcher”, then quickly added it to her official biography. She makes every effort to conceal the fact she has no degree, like calling herself a “UT Austin alum” and frequently referencing college experiences and classes she took while studying “administration and policy” or “statistics”. In an interview last March, the host specifically asked her about her degree, and Ragen avoided the question.
After 7 years of college, Ragen has nothing real to show for herself. She brags about high school achievements and does everything possible short of outright lying to give the impression of having received a degree. She is a college dropout who dabbled in several degrees and never finished anything she started, a habit she has demonstrated over and over again in both her employment and “activism”. By the time she finally gave up for good, Ragen Chastain the “trained researcher” was proud of not having a single real passion in higher education.