Spring 2024 Cratis D. Williams Society inductees include six CAS graduates

BOONE, N.C. — In the Spring and Fall, Appalachian State University's Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies seeks nominations for the Cratis D. Williams Society. The Society is designed to recognize the top two percent of graduates from the School of Graduate Studies each year. Inductees are chosen from among the nominees based upon their academic performance, their engagement in their discipline, and their potential for leadership.

Keep reading to learn more about the six Spring 2024 Cratis D. Williams Society inductees from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).


Mia Altieri

Mia Altieri

Altieri, of Berkeley, California, graduated with a master's degree in political science with a concentration in environmental politics and policy analysis in May 2024.

Previously, Altieri earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a bachelor's degree in visual arts from Seattle University. 

Altieri's research explored the alignment of forest carbon programs with Indigenous values in the Southern United States. Her project was advised by Dr. Tatyana Ruseva, a professor in the Department of Government and Justice Studies and director of the department's master of arts program.

"Dr. Tatyana Ruseva has had a positive impact on my life. Dr. Ruseva helped me discover my area of interest in forest conservation policy research. She has always supported me personally and academically. She has helped me feed my passion for environmental policy research," shared Altieri.

Altieri chose to attend App State to be closer to her family. When asked about her favorite memory, Altieri wrote, "Being able to study environmental policy while living in the mountains has been very special. I will remember with special fondness being able to hike, climb and explore the natural beauty around App State's campus."

Altieri is currently pursuing a career in forest conservation with a special emphasis on policy compliance and research.


Jesse Barber '22

Jesse Barber '22

Barber, of Sawmills, graduated with a master's degree in Appalachian studies with a concentration in sustainability in Appalachia in May 2024.

Barber, who graduated from App State with his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2022, chose to continue his education at Appalachian because it is one of the only institutions offering a master's degree in Appalachian studies.

"My research is in folklife traditions and community history," explained Barber. "This past year I have been researching a Black consolidated school that was in Lenoir for a decade before integration. I have been reaching out and connecting with community members and doing oral history interviews."

When asked about a faculty or staff member who made an impact on his life, Barber recognized Dr. Sandra Ballard '79, who will retire this summer following a 24-year career as a faculty member in the Department of English and the editor of the Appalachian Journal in the Center for Appalachian Studies.

Barber shared that Ballard "has been a phenomenal help with anything from inspiration to writing to navigating connections in and around the Appalachian region. She's a wealth of knowledge and real privilege to get to know and talk with in her office to great lengths about any topic but Appalachia specifically."

Barber's favorite memory at App State is attending the annual Appalachian Studies Conference with his cohort. "We've traveled to West Virginia and Ohio with these conferences and it always feels like a good family reunion," wrote Barber.

Barber, an award-winning documentary photographer and videographer, plans to continue to do freelance photography and videography while also working part-time in App State's Special Collections Research Center conducting community research and oral history projects in Caldwell and Watauga counties.


Thom Dickson '22

Thom Dickson '22

Dickson, of Waxhaw, graduated with a master's degree in computer science with a concentration in theoretics in May 2024.

Dickson graduated from App State with his bachelor's degree in computer science in 2022 and decided to pursue his master's degree after an advising meeting with Department of Computer Science Assistant Professor Dr. Andrew Polonsky.

"Getting my graduate degree at App State seemed like the natural course of action...Dr. Polonsky recommended I pursue the 4+1 program. I thought to myself, 'Why not? I like the professors I've gotten to work with so far, so the graduate program would just be more of that,'" shared Dickson.

For the past three semesters, Dickson contributed to Appalachian Multipurpose Apiary Informatics Systems (AppMAIS), an interdisciplinary project that aims to investigate the health, development and genomic diversity of honeybee hives in North Carolina to better understand and optimally prevent the honeybee colony collapse disorder. He shared that there are 28 hives throughout Western North Carolina, and each hive has an array of sensors that record activity throughout the day.

"We have copious amounts of data and some fairly large infrastructure that has to be kept up with. Because of this, a large portion of my day-to-day work involved managing some of the infrastructure that allowed the team to continue to make research discoveries. While I would say my expertise focused on maintaining pieces of the AppMAIS infrastructure, I was also given the opportunity to dive into some of our research questions. More specifically, I put a lot of work into our systems that automatically calculate honey bee traffic at hive entrances using video recordings," explained Dickson, who presented the findings of his analysis on the efficacy of bee counting solutions at IEEE SoutheastCon 2024 in May.

He added, "The AppMAIS research lab has been a great experience for me and many others. Not only have I been blessed with the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge academic research, but I was also able to participate on an engineering team filled with brilliant people. I believe these experiences will serve me well in the future and I will forever be grateful to Dr. Rahman Tashakkori and Chris Campell for providing me with the opportunity to be part of the team."

Dickson also recognized Timothy Tron, systems administrator in the Department of Computer Science, as a staff member who made an impact on his life. "Tim is an incredibly smart, hard working and creative individual who has acted as a mentor to me over the last couple years...Tim has been encouraging when I needed support, honest when I needed to hear the truth and wise when I was seeking advice. He deserves a huge thank you for being an integral part of my life here at App," wrote Dickson.

Dickson served as the president of App State's Mountain Linux Club, a computer science focused club for discussing "anything and everything Linux." "In reality, it was an opportunity for club members to show off something cool they discovered so we could pursue knowledge as a group. We were also able to frequently invite guest speakers from the industry to give presentations at our club meetings," Dickson shared.

Additionally, Dickson is a member of the Alpha Gamma Omega (AGO) fraternity. He explained, "AGO exists to provide a lifelong brotherhood that is rooted in Christ and promotes leadership and spiritual development. AGO gave me a place to get close with other Christians, but more importantly, to grow closer to Christ. Throughout my involvement in AGO, I've held the executive board positions of chapter vice president and chaplain."

Dickson plans to pursue a career in software engineering next. "We'll have to see where God places me," he wrote.


Tanner Landolt

Tanner Landolt

Landolt, of Gerald, Missouri, graduated with a master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management (IOHRM) and a master's degree in applied data analytics in May 2024.

Previously, Landolt earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Belmont University. "I choose Appalachian State University for the prestigious and multidisciplinary IOHRM program, the flexibility to also pursue an M.S. in Applied Data Analytics and the ability to enjoy many of my outdoor hobbies such as climbing, skiing and running," shared Landolt.

As co-founder and co-leader of the Organizational Culture Insights research team, Landolt examined how different elements of an organization's career page and workforce impacted the application intentions of various historically marginalized identities.

He also worked with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro to conduct research on how to use natural language processing and large language models to examine common recurring themes consistent with the positive impact of leadership trainings.

When asked about a faculty or staff member who made an impact on his life, Landolt recognized Director of Student Affairs Assessment Dr. Heather Strine-Patterson, who supervised his graduate assistantship. He wrote, "She taught me how to become a much more effective communicator by focusing on the individual and how everybody comes from a unique position and background, and with everybody's unique background and position comes a special perspective. She gave me countless opportunities to lead and mentor other students, try new things and work in a way that is best for me!"

Additionally, Landolt gave shoutouts to IOHRM Program Director Dr. Tim Huelsman, Department of Management Associate Professor Dr. Kristl Davison and Department of Management Assistant Professor Dr. Jessica Doll. "I came to them with just a small idea of starting a new research team focusing on individual differences in the Fall of 2022, and they were so quick to hop behind the idea and back me up. They supported me as my cofounder Kwani Taylor and I came up with new research ideas, grew our team to include graduate and undergraduate students from multiple colleges and presented our research at three different conferences by Spring of 2024," he explained. "Their expertise in the field and commitment to our research team was a huge contributing factor to our success."

Landolt's favorite memory at App State was becoming close friends with his cohort. "We had numerous birthday parties, movie nights, brewery trivia wins and even an incredible ski trip in Colorado," shared Landolt.

When asked about his post-graduate plans, Landolt responded, "The goal is to use analytics to improve organizational outcomes and, most importantly, the work lives of the people they are made up of. The reality is that I am heading to Costa Rica, and I'll figure it out from there!"


Kristen Lysne '13

Kristen Lysne '13

Lysne, of Charlotte, graduated with a master's degree in geography in May 2024.

Lysne is an alumna of CAS and the Reich College of Education, earning her bachelor's degree in middle grades education with a concentration in language arts and social studies in 2013.

"Geography was a central part of my sixth grade social studies curriculum and always one of my favorite subjects to teach. After eight years of teaching, I felt it was time for a change," shared Lysne about her decision to pursue a graduate degree at App State. "Since Boone is very much home for me, I had no desire to seek opportunities elsewhere. I met with Dr. [Derek] Martin to learn more information about the master's of geography and planning program, and I left the meeting feeling excited and inspired. The department at App State seemed student-focused, intentional and full of expertise. I have absolutely loved my experience!"

Lysne recognized her thesis advisor, Department of Geography and Planning Associate Professor Dr. Maggie Sugg, as a faculty member who made an impact on her life: "She has been patient, encouraging and so supportive while completing my research. She worked with me to ensure that we were able to find a thesis topic that I was interested in while sharing her expertise about both content and approach."

Lysne's research is at the intersection of climate and health. For her thesis, she studied the spatial clustering of severe maternal morbidity following exposure to Hurricane Florence, which hit North Carolina in 2018. "My research involved both a spatial analysis to identify geographic clustering, as well as logistic regression to identify individual and community level drivers for high burden populations," Lysne explained.

Lysne also recognized Department of Geography and Planning Professor Dr. Baker Perry, writing, "He has invited me into so many incredible opportunities during graduate school and has also been a great support."

Her favorite memory at App State is participating in the 2024 Celebration of Student Research and Creative Endeavors event, where she earned first place in the graduate student poster competition. "It was so cool to see what amazing work other students are doing, and it made me feel very proud and accomplished to get to show the research that I have spent so much time working on," said Lysne, who recently accepted a planning technician job with local economic development firm Destination by Design.


Tucker Seifert

Tucker Seifert

Seifert, of Thousand Oaks, California, graduated with a master's degree in history with a concentration in teaching in May 2024.

Previously, Seifert earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology from Sonoma State University.

He later moved to Arkansas and became interested in the history of the Ozarks and Appalachia. "I looked for a program that would allow me to continue to explore this history, while also helping me to develop the educational skillset that I need to improve the way we talk and teach about the Upland South," explained Seifert. "I was so enamored with Appalachian State when I first found it, I couldn’t wait to move and start the program. I ultimately had to defer enrollment for a year, but that only increased my excitement. During this time, I met with professors and continued to read their work as I prepared for the program, which proved to sustain my interest and passion. This feeling of excitement and the knowledge that the history department offered the right path for me is why I chose App State. Additionally, the Blue Ridge Mountains are magical—I could not deny their call."

Seifert's research focuses on the Upland South, African environmental history and drug use. "I explored the experiences of Black survival and community in the Ozarks during the tumultuous turn of the 20th century. I also looked at the oral histories of people who lived in both the Interior Highlands and Appalachia," Seifert shared. "I assisted Dr. Jeremiah Kitunda with research for his articles and books pertaining to the intersections of culture and the environment across time in Africa. I also synthesized the historiography of American drug use in the 19th and 20th centuries and cataloged sources for the study of novel psychoactive substances, both of which illuminate new and important directions for research that will inform my applied social science inquiries moving forward."

When asked about a faculty or staff member who made an impact on his life, Seifert recognized Dr. Anatoly Isaenko, professor in the Department of History. "Through Dr. Anatoly Isaenko’s mentorship, I observed how he masterfully integrated history and social sciences to provide a unique approach that explores the foundations of ethnicity and conflict. I saw how he opened students’ minds, and I hope to do the same. His guidance has helped me get into a doctorate program and have the confidence to pursue the topics and disciplines I love."

Seifert has many fond memories of App State, including walking around campus with his wife. "My favorite is a time when I got to write and perform a 'malt shop'/doo-wop-inspired song about public history theory as an assignment! It was a blend of my love for music, research and learning!" he shared.

This summer, Seifert and his family will move to Morgantown, West Virginia, where Seifert will pursue a doctorate in sociology from West Virginia University. "I will bring my historical understanding to the applied social scientific study of drug use in the Upland South. I aim to ameliorate some of the destructive impacts that the opioid epidemic has inflicted on so many communities, while hopefully illuminating more of the human experience," wrote Seifert.

He added, "My wife and I want to start a family and travel the world. We also hope to make art and music and enjoy our great adventures!"


Each Cratis D. Williams Society inductee was honored with a medallion. For more information about the Society, visit graduate.appstate.edu/students/student-awards-and-honors/graduate-honor-societies.


About Graduate Education at App State
Appalachian State University’s Williams School of Graduate Studies helps individuals reach the next level in their career advancement and preparedness. The school offers 80 graduate degree and certificate programs — both in person and online — in a range of disciplines, including doctoral programs in education (Ed.D.) and psychology (Psy.D.). The graduate school enrolls nearly 2,000 students. Learn more at https://graduate.appstate.edu.

By Lauren Gibbs
May 15, 2024

Mia Altieri (upper left), Jesse Barber '22 (upper middle), Thom Dickson '22 (upper right), Tanner Landolt (lower left), Kristen Lysne '13 (lower middle) and Tucker Seifert (lower right) were inducted into the Spring 2024 Cratis D. Williams Society.
Published: May 15, 2024 4:50pm