Meet Our Team
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As you consider the MBA for Executives program, we 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.
Klara Farkas is the newest member of the EMBA team serving as the Senior Associate Director, EMBA Career Services. Her focus is providing tailored one-on-one coaching and delivering executive-level career management training. Providing expert guidance and empowerment necessary to assist EMBA students in attaining their professional career goals is her goal.
Klara came to UCI after founding and operating Klarity International, a communications consulting practice, working with leaders on sharpening their communication skills, a critical factor when advancing from managing to leading. She has worked with organizations such as Experian, Hyundai, Fluor, Prudential and others developing and leading seminars for mid to senior-level executives on honing Leadership Communication skills, Executive Presence and Leadership Influence. Previously, she spent over 10 years with Yum Brands as the former head of Global Marketing and Communications launching the Taco Bell brand in over a dozen countries worldwide.
Her passion for coaching people led her to become a Board Certified Coach (BCC) in 2015. Klara has coached both MBA and EMBA students at her alma mater, the Thunderbird School of Global Management and Cal State Fullerton. Klara has been a featured guest speaker at UCI’s Women’s Leadership Certificate program. She holds a Masters of Global Management from Thunderbird and a Bachelor of Arts in International Business from California State University. She is an avid world traveler (pre-Covid) and speaks both Hungarian and German.
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.
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.