Three Alumni Named 2016 Outstanding Recent Graduates

May 23, 2016

On the heels of Emporia State’s spring commencement ceremonies, the alumni association is pleased to announce that three Emporia State alumni have been named as 2016 Outstanding Recent Graduates. 

Jason Baker of Scott City, Lindsey Razafsky of Leawood and Yaokun “Angel” Yang of Dalian, China will be honored by Emporia State University this fall. Baker and Razafsky will be recognized during Homecoming weekend on Oct. 14 on 15 while Yang will be the featured performer at this year’s Music Gala Concert on Sept. 24. 

The award, conferred within 10 years of graduation, recognizes career achievement, community service and dedication to Emporia State. The alumni association partners with academic affairs to coordinate these annual awards. Recipients are nominated by current faculty members and selected by the college or school from which they graduated.

“Once again, we are blown away by the caliber of this year’s recipients of the Outstanding Recent Graduate Awards,” said Tyler Curtis, executive director of Alumni Relations. “In less than 10 years, these graduates have demonstrated excellence in their chosen professions.  We are very proud of these three Hornets.” 

Jason Baker (BSB—Accounting 2008, MBA—Accounting 2009) is this year’s Outstanding Recent Graduate from the School of Business. In just six years, Baker’s career has already seen him advance from staff accountant to chief executive officer. Baker currently serves as the CEO of Scott Cooperative Association in Scott City. Prior to becoming chief executive officer, Baker served as Scott Cooperative Association’s controller for three and a half years.

As the controller, Baker managed the daily accounting and financial operations for the company. Baker began his career as a staff accountant/auditor for Lindsborg, Vogel, Pierce, Faris, Chartered in Hutchinson. Before joining Scott Cooperative Association, Baker served as a staff auditor/assistant vice president at Western State Bank in Garden City. Baker is also a CPA, earning the highest score on the CPA examination in the State of Kansas for the January-February examination period in 2011.

“Baker is an example of the exceptional students from small-town Kansas who come to Emporia State University and thrive,” said Dr. John Rich, interim dean of the School of Business. “Jason excelled at all aspects of college life — academics and leadership — and made an exceptional contribution to the university community. 

“He has continued his high level of achievement and leadership since graduating. His career potential is unlimited. We are very proud of Jason as he is truly an outstanding recent alum.”

Lindsey Razafsky (BSE—Elementary Education 2008) is this year’s Outstanding Recent Graduate from The Teachers College. Currently, Razafsky is a second-grade teacher at John Diemer Elementary School in Overland Park. From 2014-16, she collaborated with faculty from Emporia State to conduct research over new teacher application procedures, data of application numbers and reeducation rates of new teacher applications that have occurred in the State of Kansas. Razafsky also served as a lead trainer on multiple teacher training projects to help teachers in her district find innovative ways to increase pedagogical impacts they can provide to all learners in their classrooms.

Razafsky successfully used the Shawnee Mission Schools’ recent one-to-one iPad initiative and has integrated innovative new strategies in all of her content areas to improve her students’ technology capabilities as future thinkers and learners using new technology pathways. Furthermore, Razafsky is the leader of John Diemer Elementary School’s Just Say No Club and rewrote the Shawnee Mission School District daily math program for second-grade to align with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

“Razafsky is a teacher of teachers within her district and an up and coming expert in mindsets,” said Early Education, Early Childhood and Special Education Associate Professor Dr. Matt Seimears. “She currently serves as a teacher trainer for the program Mindset Works and has utilized Mindsets to improve her Pedagogical teaching philosophies.”

Mindset Works is a system discovered by psychologist Carol Dweck that seeks to increase motivation and productivity by teaching people how to develop a growth-focused mindset.

“Additionally, Razafsky uses student-based heutagogical learning strategies, modeling many of the mindset ideologies that help many in the field of education to help others become successful thinkers,” Dr. Seimears said. 

Dr. Yaokun “Angel” Yang (MM—Piano Performance 2009) is this year’s Outstanding Recent Graduate from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She currently serves as a piano professor for Liaoning Normal University in Dalian, China. In her role as piano professor, Dr. Yang instructs 20 piano-major undergraduate and graduate students per semester in applied piano; and teaches a Western culture music (bilingual education) course on the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Yang has won numerous awards during her professional career, including first place in the Fifth Music College Teachers National Competition supported by the National Music Education Department of China.

During her time in the United States, Dr. Yang won seven major performance awards. Since 2014, Dr. Yang has also had several published articles in major music journals. She continues to be a powerful advocate for female musicians and academics in China and has been responsible for many talented Chinese students attending school at Emporia State.

“Dr. Yang was one of the most gifted students we’ve ever had the delight of working with in the music department,” said Dr. Allan Comstock, Department of Music chair. “From the moment she arrived in Emporia, we knew she was destined for great things.

“She has been wildly successful in her career, both as a pianist and in her role of international development with Liaoning Normal University. Best of all, she is a delightful human being. We could not be more thrilled that she was chosen for this incredible honor.”

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