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Department: Alumni Relations

Emporia State honors 2014 Outstanding Recent Graduates

October 3, 2014

Emporia State University’s 2014 Homecoming celebration will carry special significance for four alumni who’ve launched distinguished careers soon after receiving their diplomas. Outstanding Recent Graduate awards will be presented to Sean Balke of Wichita, Heather Braum of Lawrence, Maggie Fletcher of Wichita, and Lea Gimenez-Duarte, Ph.D., of Washington, DC.

Emporia State’s Alumni Association will recognize the four at the Homecoming Kickoff Celebration Friday, Oct. 17. The event starts with a 5 p.m. reception in the Memorial Union’s Webb Hall, followed by dinner. Guests are also invited to attend a production of the Homecoming musical, “Working,” at 8 p.m. in Plumb Hall’s Albert Taylor Hall. The public is invited to attend. For more information, call 620-341-5440 or email

About the honorees

Sean Balke

MS-Psychology 2006

Wichita, Kan.

As president and chief operating officer of Craig HomeCare, Sean Balke leads a regional organization with 11 offices in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. His company provides pediatric nursing care in patients’ homes, allowing medically fragile children to thrive at home and providing much-needed relief and support to families.

Balke advanced from a career in human resource and operational support consulting to lead Craig HomeCare by putting to practical use the research skills and knowledge base he learned at Emporia State, finding ways to improve and advance the company’s operations to fulfill the mission and improve the quality of life for both their patients and their employees.

A lifelong Kansan, he maintains ties with Emporia State’s Student Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology by hiring students in the program to conduct mission critical projects such as client satisfaction surveys and statistical data analysis, along with offering internship opportunities in his business to students in the program. Additionally, he teaches classes at Friends University, mentoring those students and promoting ESU graduate programs as next steps in their academic careers.


Heather Braum

MLS-Technology Librarianship 2008

Lawrence, Kan.

While working on her Master of Library Science degree at Emporia State, Heather Braum started working for the Northeast Kansas Library System in 2007, serving in various technology-related roles including technology support and digital and technical services. Currently the NExpress Coordinator and Resource Sharing Librarian, she leads the NExpress regional shared catalog project, a library consortia of more than 40 public and school libraries in the Northeast Kansas region, sharing more than 1 million items with residents of Northeast Kansas.

With lifelong passions for learning and sharing, Braum has presented at numerous regional, state, and national workshops and conferences on a wide variety of topics including innovation, social media, open source software, lifelong learning, and open education resources.  She has taught the Information Technology for Library and Information Professionals course for Emporia State’s School of Library and Information Management.

A lifelong Kansan and a third-generation librarian, she was the 2010 Kansas Library Association New Professional of the Year.


Maggie Fletcher

BSB-Accounting 2005

Wichita, Kan.

After graduating from Emporia State University, Maggie Fletcher put her accounting degree to use at Flint Hills Resources, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc. Serving in various challenging roles as an accounting analyst, a project cost accountant and a tax accountant, Fletcher worked at a Flint Hills-owned facility in Corpus Christi, Tex.

In 2008, she transferred back to Flint Hills’ corporate headquarters in Wichita, and is now responsible for preparing and reviewing multiple types of tax returns ranging from new acquisitions to existing entities.

Fletcher and her family are members of NewSpring Church in Wichita, where she volunteers as a kindergarten teacher on weekends. She is also active in the Salvation Army Angel Tree project through Koch Industries.


Lea Gimenez-Duarte, Ph.D.

BS-Economics 2004

Washington, DC

Lea Gimenez-Duarte currently works as an economist in the Poverty Global Practice of the World Bank, the world’s leading international development organization. Her dissertation received the Elizabeth V. Stout Dissertation Award of Lehigh University, her degree granting institution.

Lea’s academic research has focused on the effect of family structure and shocks on wellbeing and long term outcomes. Her job market paper, “Parental Loss and Children’s Wellbeing,” was accepted for publication in the Journal of Human Resources, a top ranking field journal in economics.

She has also co-authored and contributed to several journal articles, policy notes and reports in the area of economic development for Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Colombia, Paraguay and the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States. 

Her research interests are in economic policy, poverty, health and human capital.

About the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award 

Recipients of the Outstanding Recent Graduate award are no more than 10 years past graduation from Emporia State University. The honor recognizes career achievements, community service and dedication to Emporia State. The university’s colleges and schools annually select the award recipients, and the ESU Alumni Association sponsors the award.

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