FEMBA student Brian Briskey (far left) and mentor Denise Hopkins (second from the right), vice president of strategy for Global Credit Services at Experian, were selected as the Protégé of the Year and Mentor of the Year for the Executive Mentoring Program.

2018 Mentor and Protégé of the Year selected for Executive Mentoring Program

September 27, 2018 • By Christine Byrd

One of the most meaningful aspects of many students’ educational experience takes place outside of the classroom and away from their peers. It’s the one-on-one relationship they develop with a mentor from the business world.

The Executive Mentoring Program at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business pairs Full-Time and Fully Employed MBA students with a local business leader for seven months of mentoring.

Last year, nearly 100 students were selected for the program, which kicks off each November. They were carefully matched with a mentor based on their career interests, industry or background the Merage School’s alumni relations team.

Barbra Marangell, the director of alumni relations and an alum herself, encourages the students to identify areas they need to grow and to work proactively with their mentors to develop specific skills.

But it’s far from a one-sided relationship. “So often I hear from the mentors that they get as much out of it as the students,” says Marangell. “It’s about the opportunity to give back and to help guide a student’s future.”

At the end of the program, both an outstanding mentor and protege are selected for special recognition.

Mentor of the Year

The Mentor of the Year honor went to Denise Hopkins, vice president of strategy for Global Credit Services at Experian,, thanks to a nomination by protégé and full-time MBA student Joy Mina. Hopkins provided guidance and advice to Mina throughout the year with a distinct emphasis on the unique challenges and opportunities encountered by women in leadership.

“Denise is not only excellent at providing support, but she also encourages me to do more and reach my potential,” says Mina. For example, Mina is the incoming president of the Merage Student Association ‒ the first woman to hold the position in 18 years ‒ and she says Hopkins is one of the reasons she ran for the office.

“She has shared how she navigated being a woman in leadership, and I have found that to be very inspiring and encouraging,” says Mina.

Hopkins also made her own extensive network available to Mina while encouraging her protégé to aggressively grow her network “up, down and out.”

“I literally could not have asked for a better mentor,” adds Mina. “I firmly believe my MBA experience has been enriched by her guidance.”

Protégé of the Year

The Protégé of the Year award went to FEMBA student Brian Briskey.. “Brian is like a sponge and has a thirst to learn from others,” says Briskey’s mentor, Joey Benadretti, president at SYSPRO USA, who nominated him. “He had a unique way of absorbing and putting into action what we discussed at each session.”

Briskey’s commitment to maximizing the impact of the mentorship experience impressed Benadretti. Briskey even developed a feedback form to measure the outcomes of each of their meetings to ensure that he was getting the most out of their sessions.

At one of their meetings, Briskey, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of the marketing analysis startup Firmitive, made a presentation to Benadretti and his colleagues. “Not only were he and his team very receptive to the advice given by my peers, but because of the feedback they got, they were able to make significant changes to their operations,” says Benadretti.

Briskey exhibits “a flair for unique thought,” says his mentor, and is well on his way to becoming a leader in the business community.

And that’s the type of success that would represent the ultimate success of the Executive Mentorship Program: for today’s protégés to become tomorrow’s leaders and mentors.

For more information or to get involved with the Executive Mentoring Program at the Merage School, contact Barbra Marangell,