Meet Our Team
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As you consider an Executive MBA program, we will work with you one-on-one during your decision and admissions process. Please contact us with your individual questions or to discuss your interest in an Executive MBA.
MBA for Executives Program Office
4293 Pereira Drive, SB1 Suite 4200
Irvine, CA 92697-3125
Sylvia Haas brings over 30 years of university and corporate experience to the Merage School. Her corporate titles have included Senior Vice President, Managing Director, Consultant Manager. As an active member in the Executive MBA Council, she has served on the EMBAC Board of Trustees, Conference Planning Committee Co-Chair.
Sylvia spent nine years at UCI Merage serving as Senior Associate Director where she led EMBA Admissions & Recruiting, then was recruited in 2008 to UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA programs. In those ten years at Anderson as Executive Director of Admissions for both the Executive MBA and the UCLA-NUS Executive MBA programs, she led a period of impressive growth and accomplishments, including a long string of top-10 rankings and a doubling in size of both applications and enrollment for their EMBA program. Sylvia was something of a “cultural touchstone” for the students and the staff at Anderson, as she and her team built a collaborative culture.
Sylvia returned to UCI Merage as the Executive Director of the MBA for Executives (EMBA) Program and oversees admissions, marketing, program services, executive career services and planning & logistics for the program. She has built a team of results-oriented leaders who have helped her create innovation throughout the MBA for Executives Program.
Sylvia has a MS Higher Education Administration and a BS Education. She was married to the late COL John Haas and they have three sons, two who live in Washington, D.C. and one who lives in Canberra, ACT Australia.
Stephanie Leonard oversees Program Services for both the MBA for Executives Program, as well as the Fully Employed MBA Program. She is responsible for the organization, delivery, and management of the EMBA and FEMBA Program Service Offices, leading students from orientation, through graduation. Stephanie has been with UCI for over 10 years, previously serving as the Director of Student Affairs for the Program in Public Health, where she oversaw 1500+ students in the undergraduate, MPH and PhD programs. In this role she oversaw everything from admissions, to program services, to alumni and corporate engagement.
Prior to joining UCI, Stephanie worked at Bow River Capital, a private equity company located in Denver, as a Financial Analyst and as a Customer Service Manager for Chase Bank. Stephanie earned an MBA from the University of Denver, and a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Jennifer Risner is the Director of Admission for the MBA for Executives Program. As a Merage MBA herself, Jennifer enjoys assisting potential students with the next step in their business career, an MBA. Her expertise lies in providing a personal and responsive enrollment experience for admission candidates from diverse professional backgrounds.
To the Merage School, Jennifer brings over 10 years of experience in admission. She has overseen strategic planning, process improvement and new program implementation, as well as the daily operation of all aspects of enrollment. Jennifer has implemented program improvements that resulted in increased enrollment through strategic communications, engagement of current students and alumni in admission processes, improving operational efficiencies and redeveloping admission committee procedures to include appropriate decision makers according to established best practices.
Outside of education, Jennifer’s background includes over 10 years with The Walt Disney Company, working in aspects of management from guest relations to park operations. Together, her education and corporate knowledge provide her with the tools to assist executives along the journey of selecting Merage for their MBA.
Jennifer is a forever Anteater, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Civilizations from UCI followed one year later by another BA in Classics, then later an MBA from the Merage School. All were earned with honors, a standard to which Jennifer holds herself each and every day as she serves the Merage community.
Dr. Deena C. Brown is a certified John Maxwell speaker, teacher, and DiSC behavioral consultant with a purpose and passion for helping individuals, leaders, and organizations connect the dots between their core values and transformative leadership for the 21st century and beyond.
She has been working in the areas of Organizational Development, Executive Coaching, Organizational Change & Transformation and Leadership Development for over 20 years. Dr. Brown knows first-hand how strengths and leadership are keys to business effectiveness and growth. Her skills were honed through over two decades as an educator and school administrator with the Department of Defense. In that senior leadership capacity, Dr. Brown worked throughout the world to create and develop managers and to seed and nurture high performance teams. Dr. Brown has added value to others speaking on her powerful message of diverse and inclusive practices to spark innovation.
Dr. Brown serves on the Advisory Board for Executives Next Practices (ENP) and is regularly featured as a diversity, inclusion, and career strategist. She served on the Economic Vitality Council for the Irvine Chamber of Commerce for three years. Dr. Brown has published three books and is currently researching the intersectionality of imposter syndrome with race, class, and trauma amongst African American women and other minority ethnic groups.
Dr. Brown holds a PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi in Educational Leadership and Research, MA in Education from Old Dominion University, and a BA in Economics from San Diego State University.
Family is the secret sauce to Dr. Brown’s success. She have held several titles and was bestowed many awards; however, she believes that her greatest achievement is being Xavier’s mom.
Rebecca Hillman joined the EMBA team for The Paul Merage School of Business after working at UCI for 7 years. Rebecca helps to manage the overall EMBA Program Services Office, actively advising and supporting students through the program, from orientation through graduation. She brings years of experience in higher education as she began her career with the School of Medicine in the Department of Plastic Surgery where she worked and assisted Faculty Surgeons as well as students completing the 6-year long residency program. After that, Rebecca joined the Program in Public Health where she served as an Academic Advisor, mentoring, and advising both undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to advising, Rebecca also served as the Course Scheduler where she helped to create and plan the academic teaching plan for all Public Health undergraduate and graduate programs.
Rebecca earned her B.A. in Psychology in 2012 from UCI (Go Anteaters!) as she has always been passionate about helping others (and now specifically students) reach their goals as well as realize their full potential.
Rebecca is married to one of our FEMBA alum, Josh! Together, they share one boxer named Enza and spend much of their time trying to tire her out! Rebecca and Josh have lived in south Orange County for about 11 years now (but are both California natives) and love being close to hiking/biking trails and the ocean. They enjoy doing almost anything outdoors, even if just sipping their morning coffee.
Kristin Dalton has been with the Merage School since 2012, beginning her career as the Admissions Coordinator for the Executive MBA Programs office. She has worked as Program Manager for our Executive MBA students and currently is working as an Assistant Director in Admissions and Recruitment assisting the FEMBA and EMBA students throughout their admissions process. She has over 10 years work experience in private enterprise as well as the non-profit sector in entertainment and healthcare. She managed her family's graphic design business until 2008 when she decided to return to school to complete her studies and earned her bachelor's degree in 2011. She currently serves as the President in her Toastmasters Club. Kristin is an organizer by heart and is actively involved in planning events and is the Chairman over a nation-wide conference for her church.
She is blessed to be the eldest of 5 children, and family is her everything, they are her biggest cheerleaders through thick and thin. She is the proud momma of a daughter now married, so now she has the added blessing of having an amazing son-in-law.
Amber Tadokoro is the Recruiting and Marketing Coordinator for EMBA and FEMBA programs. Amber joined UCI Merage School in November 2019. She works closely with the EMBA/FEMBA admissions teams to coordinate and execute the marketing initiatives, streamlines recruiting efforts, organizes admissions events and manages various projects. Amber is the ‘Rock’ of the office and she will be the first person that people will see when they walk into EMBA/FEMBA office. She uses high-touch engagement with prospective and current students.
Amber is also an Anteater and earned her BA in Sociology from UCI. Amber has over 13 years of experience in banking and technology companies, with her most recent positions held at Quest Software and Dell as Data Analyst, Marketing Operations Analyst, and Social Media Marketing Specialist. As a Korean American, Amber is bilingual and fluent in English and Korean.
Outside of work, Amber is passionate about helping women in need by helping them to get back to workforce or to schools and taking donations for professional clothing. But what she values the most is her family. To Amber, being a wife and a mother of two daughters are the most significant and paramount roles that she has ever had. She finds these roles as the most rewarding and gratifying.