Leah Koch - Student Success

Graceland student Leah Koch

Meet Leah Koch, a senior honors student from St. Louis, Missouri, majoring in elementary education. She is the editor for the Graceland Tower student newspaper, she just had an undergraduate research paper published, and is a peer editor for a new national student journal. Leah knows firsthand what a difference good teachers can make in the lives of their students. Professors Jane Chaillie and Brian White have opened doors of opportunity for Leah. 

“These relationships with professors are uniquely Graceland; like I have with Jane, where she is looking out for me, and she knows that I’m writing for another class, and wants to promote my work. I remember I was in Brian White’s class my freshman year, and I was pretty homesick. Brian talked to me after class and asked how I was. He could tell that something was wrong, and that’s when I realized — Graceland is the right place for me — the professors really care.”

Professor Jane Chaillie was helping Leah with her honors presentation and encouraged her to enter the undergraduate student research paper competition in Las Vegas at the National Social Sciences Association conference. “I chose to write on a link between movement and learning, and how more activity in the classroom is beneficial for students. Jane accompanied me to the conference in Las Vegas where I presented
my paper and got runner up in the student competition.” Leah's paper was published in the National Social Science proceedings journal, a collection of all of the papers presented at the conference.

The Honors program has had a huge influence on Leah, and last summer another writing/editing opportunity was presented during a two-week remote classroom in Bryce Canyon, Utah. The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) has scholarly, peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Brian White is one of three founding editors of a new, online peer-reviewed journal sponsored by the NCHC that publishes honors undergraduate research and creative activity. It is called UReCA – undergraduate research and creativity journal. Part of the mission of the journal is to involve honors students in the editorial process (selecting articles, editing articles, etc.). Leah was one of the inaugural 10 student editors from across the nation for this debut year. 

“These students met in Bryce Canyon for several days to build from the ground up, literally, the editorial process for the journal,” explained White. I was humbled watching Leah and the other students create the process for this peer-reviewed journal. I was even more humbled knowing that, as a team, they were building something far better than the faculty editors could have done.”

The journal’s first issue went live in October and debuted at the annual NCHC conference in Seattle.

“There really isn’t any place for undergraduate students to publish their work, so this will be a great opportunity,” commented Leah. “Our job was to create a rubric, which I really liked from an education standpoint, with which to judge our submissions. We received 40 submissions, had to norm ourselves using the rubric and then grade the submissions. We are peer reviewers of this year’s journal.” 


“After I teach for a few years, I plan to get my master’s degree in special education or to become a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst). Over the summer, I had a job as an assistant teacher at Action for Autism Academy, a private school for students with severe and profound developmental delays. I was in the Elementary Intensive Behavior Intervention room, and the lead teacher in this room was a BCBA.”