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Outstanding Recent Grads to be Honored

Individual photos of three people side by side, 2 women and 1 man.

Three alumni have been chosen as the Outstanding Recent Graduates for 2023. To qualify, nominees must have earned a degree from Emporia State University within the past 10 years. Awards will be presented to these recipients on Friday, Oct. 27, at the Black & Gold Gala during Homecoming weekend.

Lizeth Magaña, who received her bachelor of science with a major in physics and a minor in mathematics in 2016, is a planetary research scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. For more than 80 years, the lab has provided the government with innovative solutions for complex national security and space exploration challenges, according to the Johns Hopkins website.

She received the award from the Emporia State University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. During her studies at ESU, Magaña was involved in student service and outreach activities such as the Society of Physics Students, Enhancing Your Future and Si Se Puede, which translates to “Yes, it can be done.”

While conducting research at the Southwest Research Institute, she received master of science and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Texas at San Antonio while continuing public outreach engagement with Astronomy on Tap. As a graduate student, she was chosen for a prestigious Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science Technology fellowship to study potential ice at the Moon’s south pole as part of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission. This research contributes to finding suitable landing sites for future crewed/robotic missions to the Moon. She continues this research at APL, while also leading laboratory investigations of lunar soil analogs alongside high school interns, and leading research on liquid methane river channels on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Magaña shares her research findings with the public, which she has done since she was a student at ESU. Dr. Magaña is first author or contributing author for nine peer-reviewed publications and more are in development. She has also presented around 20 scientific presentations and received best student presentation awards.

“Dr. Lizeth Magaña’s research and professional service contributions are numerous, given the current stage of her career,” said Dr. Jorge Ballester, ESU professor of physics who nominated Magaña for the award.

Han Yan of Easton, Connecticut, has assembled an array of professional and personal achievements since receiving a master of arts in English and a master of business administration in accounting in 2013. Yan received her doctoral degree in accounting from Washington State University and holds a total of four master’s degrees.

At ESU, Yan was a graduate assistant and made presentations for Dr. John Rich’s Professional Development classes. After two Chinese students, Yawei Fan and Zheng Lin, died in a fire at their duplex apartment, Yan hosted their parents — who spoke no English — and assisted them through the paperwork and processes involved when they came to Emporia.

She has been a Dolan School of Business Ignatian Fellow at Fairfield University, an AAA/Deloitte Foundation J. Michael Cook Doctoral Consortium Fellow and received two Washington State University grants totaling $3,500 and a $500 ESU Graduate Student Research Award.

She has held positions as senior auditor at Myers and Stauffer LC, auditor at the University of Kansas, tax counselor for AARP and currently is assistant accounting professor at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. She is a certified internal auditor, a certified public accountant and a member of Beta Alpha Psi. Her research interests lie in internal audits, where she seeks to bridge the gap between academic and real-world practices.

She has published numerous articles and made presentations at workshops and other related gatherings, including faculty retreats and colloquia. Yan also is a member of the Fairfield University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Yan teaches Chinese language and culture classes at a Connecticut elementary school and is an instructor for group exercise classes.

Kevin Yarnell of Hyde Park, New York, who received his master’s degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation, is the physical educator at Chancellor Livingston Elementary School in Rhinebeck, New York.

The New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NYS AHPERD) awarded Yarnell the Joy of Effort Award in 2023 and the Amazing Person Award in 2022. In 2018, he received the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) National Jump Rope for Heart coordinator award and the American Heart Association’s Heroes of Heart Hall of Fame award. His school was named an American Heart Association “Top 25 School” in 2022 because they have raised over $93,000 in conjunction with the Kids Heart Challenge Program since Yarnell was hired in 2014.

He continues to be an annual presenter at New York State’s NYS AHPERD Southeastern Zone and NYS AHPERD statewide conferences. In addition, Yarnell is the social-media director for both the NYS AHPERD Southeastern Zone and state NYS AHPERD, mentor teacher for State University of New York Brockport student teaching, and student-teacher supervisor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.

Yarnell has raised more than $65,000 through local and national grants to benefit the students of his district and elementary school. One of the grants he received enabled Chancellor Livingston Elementary School to install a $25,000 above-ground fitness gym for students, staff and community members. Another grant financed an outdoor human engineering trip to Camp Ramapo that was an interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math educational experience.

The Physical Education Council that he created has developed several new leadership programs to assist students to be role models for their peers, ambassadors for their school, leaders in their community, and to promote fitness and wellness. Yarnell also has created numerous physical education programs to promote fitness and wellness while incorporating interdisciplinary learning for his elementary school students. His programs have been featured in more than 25 newspaper articles.

Gopher Sport invited Yarnell to be one of the physical activity specialists for its “ActiveHomeChallenge PE Daily Challenge.” He also is a PE, health, and fitness consultant, contributor, and presenter for Fit and Fun Playscapes. In addition, he was featured in the NYS AHPERD Advocacy Video, “15 Essential Keys – Health and Physical Education.”

ESU professor emeritus Dr. Joella Mehrhof of St. Joseph, Missouri, nominated Yarnell for The Teachers College Outstanding Recent Graduate award.