Three Reich College of Education (RCOE) students have been inducted into the Cratis D. Williams Society of Outstanding Graduates: Jordan Dennison, Dr. Mel Falck, and Elia Lopez Grahl.
The society is designed to include each year’s top graduates of the Cratis D. Williams Graduate School at Appalachian State University – approximately the top 2%. Students are chosen based on their academic performance, their engagement in their discipline, and their potential for leadership.
Jordan Dennison, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, graduated in December 2022 with a Master of Arts in reading education and a graduate certificate in teaching emergent bilingual populations. She completed her Bachelor of Science in elementary education in December 2021 from App State.
"Receiving this award is affirming and encouraging for me to continue with the momentum I have behind me,” said Dennison. “I feel like I have such an incredible amount of skills to apply and take into the field of teaching.”
She added, “Being connected to the graduate school in this way reminds me of the great work that has been done, and the work that still needs attention."
Dennison began her pursuit of a graduate degree through the accelerated master’s program, which allowed her to take graduate courses as an undergraduate student.
“It was intimidating to think about doing edTPA (initial licensure portfolio), student teaching, and graduate courses all at once, but it was because of the professors and support of the RCOE administration that I was successful,” she noted. “This is one of the biggest reasons why I chose the reading education masters program.”
She also chose her program because she “saw a need for rich literacy instruction, especially in the elementary grades.”
“Laying and designing instruction through the lens of reading means students will build strong connections across content areas,” she continued.
“Being master readers and writers means students will rely on a foundation filled with equity and diversity,” she added. “This, in turn, will level the playing field for students with diverse needs, and students who speak another language other than English.”
Dennison is currently a K-3 reading teacher at X. She hopes to gain full-time employment as an elementary teacher in her district.
Dr. Mel Falck
Dr. Mel Falck, originally from Wheeling, West Virginia, graduated in August 2022 with his Ed.D. in educational leadership. He completed his Master of Arts in clinical mental health counseling from App State and his Bachelor of Science in sociology from West Liberty State College.
“Advanced degrees weren't really 'on my radar' coming up in West Virginia as a kid,” he noted. “In my youth, I would have never expected to obtain a doctorate!”
“I was raised by a hard-working single mother and loving, present grandparents,” he continued. “I owe all of my accomplishments, including this, to them and the other friends and family who have supported and loved me throughout my life!”
In addition to his family, Falck is grateful to his students in WRC 3203 - 'Why Art? - Ways of Responding to the World Around Us'. “I couldn't have received this without their engagement, authenticity, and passion!”
Falck was “drawn to the doctoral program because of the expressive arts concentration and the space that the program has created for ‘non-traditional’ arts-based approaches to teaching, learning, and research.”
His doctoral research was rooted in an arts-based approach to understanding. “I'm just really excited to see that this type of work is valued!”
Currently an academic advisor in the RCOE’s James Center for Student Success and Advising, Falck is “very excited to be teaching art again and further developing my counseling practice!”
Elia Lopez Grahl
Elia Lopez Grahl, originally from Edinburg, Texas, graduated in August 2022 with her Master of Arts in higher education. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in education from Brown University.
“As the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, I make every effort to reflect their honest, humble, and unwavering work ethic,” said Grahl. “Receiving this award is truly the fruit of their labor, and it means that their sacrifices have laid the strongest foundations.”
“I began pursuing my higher education degree because I did not see educational leaders who looked like my family,” noted Grahl. “Previously, the best leaders I worked with had the empathy, knowledge, and background of those they served. Having an intimate understanding of the collectivistic values of ‘mis comunidades’ (my communities) undoubtedly helped them tailor communication and instruction to best support families of learners.”
“After my time as an academic advisor at a community college, my passion for two-year student support was ignited, and I could not think of a better vocation than that of working with first-generation, community college students,” she continued. “The two-year domain is laden with unique potential, strengths, and barriers that I aim to tackle through my own praxis.”
Grahl chose App State because “I knew it brought together dedicated faculty, staff, and students whose common goal is to move the needle of higher education access in this country.”
After graduation, Grahl’s goal is to continue her education and “one day help lead a Hispanic Serving Institution, especially as it pertains to first-generation Latinx student academic advising.”