RPAA

Alumni Spotlight

The Riordan Programs has over 1,800 graduates of the Riordan Scholars, Fellows and Healthcare Programs combined. Our alumni are spread all over the world and represent many careers. In this section, you will find features that represent our alumni and their accomplishments.

King Adjei-Frimpong Riordan Board Director 2013

The Riordan Programs Association has a unique ability to bring together some of the best and brightest individuals southern California has to offer, and over the past five years I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of that group. While studying as an undergraduate at UCLA, I participated in the Riordan Healthcare Management Program. Initially, I had no experience or interest in business or healthcare, but I did enter the program with an open mind and the desire to learn. The program opened my eyes to the significance of understanding business through the amazing series of speakers, compelling breakout sessions, and challenging case competition.

Read More About King
After completing the program, I decided that volunteering on the board would be a good start to give back to the organization for all it has given me. My contributions to the organization culminated in an Outstanding Service Award in 2013. However, that would not have been possible without the faith placed in me by our then-president, Logan Blake. Because of him I have been able to serve on the board in multiple capacities: Director of Marketing, Director of Technology, and Senior Advisor to the board.

Although I now work on the east coast, the RPAA continues to remain influential in my life. The friends that I made have become invaluable. They have guided me throughout my career and with the process of searching for graduate programs. Even as I explore new endeavors, I know that the work is never done. I look forward to taking all the experience I gained from my time with the RPAA to continue professional and personal progression. I am grateful for everyone I met and for all that I learned and experienced. I am now better positioned to fight for impoverished communities and work improve their plight.

Aleks Logvinsky Riordan Scholar 2004

My participation with the Riordan Programs began in 2004 when I was accepted to be in the Riordan Scholars during my junior year in high school. At the time, I was excited to be a Scholar and to take the opportunity to learn about analyzing companies and their corresponding stock performance. In addition, the Scholars program provided me with a mentor who helped me with my college applications and essays and provided me with valuable insight into various undergraduate programs. During my second year as a Scholar, I was honored to be assigned a management role during which I learned leadership skills in helping two teams analyze their assigned hotel companies as well as manage a mock investment portfolio. During my 2 years in the Scholars program, I gained knowledge about the business world, built relationships with like-minded individuals, and became inspired by the various guest speakers

Read More About Aleks
I maintained my connections with the Riordan Programs post being a Scholar and volunteered at events such as the Stock Market Competition and a resume writing workshop for the College to Careers participants. In keeping contact with Alex Lawrence, the leader of the Scholars program at the time I was a scholar, I was able to reconnect and learn more about the Fellows program that had grown and evolved over the years. Being accepted as a Fellow has brought new light to my career and my life. It has allowed me to be more active in the community by mentoring high school students, hosting fundraisers, and learning about MBA programs across the country. As a Fellow, I have learned many GMAT techniques that have spearheaded my success on the exam. The case study portion of the program has allowed me to gain first-hand exposure to a common teaching technique in MBA schools. Lastly, the community service projects have given me the chance to give back to the Scholars Program by streaming to attain the fundraising goal which will go to fund the Scholars.

It is hard to express the impact and opportunity that the Riordan Programs have contributed to my success in education, in my career, and in giving others what was once given to me. One of the most inspirational factors of the Fellows Program is being surrounded by successful individuals who are ambitious to attain an MBA and become leaders in the future. In completing the program this year, I hope to begin the application process in the fall and attend a top MBA program. Furthermore, given my deep gratitude and involvement with the Programs over the years, I will make it a priority to maintain my relationship with the organization and continue to give back where possible.

Jon Lemmens Riordan Fellow 2011

I credit one of my close friends with encouraging me to apply to the Riordan Fellows Program. I remember thinking that I would not fit into the program but my time with the Riordan Programs proved otherwise.

I fulfilled my personal Riordan Fellows Program goal to do three things during the fellowship that “scared the wits out of me.” I co-chaired the fundraising committee and shared with my fellows class a bit of my personal struggles to help them understand the source of my intensity and drive to excel. When I received the Linda Baldwin Award for distinguished leadership, I felt honored and overwhelmed that my peers had advocated for me.

Read More About Jon
After the Riordan Fellows Program I joined the Riordan Programs Alumni Association (RPAA) to serve as a Program Manager for the Saturday Business Academy (SBA). I wanted to give back to my community because I am grateful to those who helped me when I was younger — my family, teachers, and friends. I believe that knowledge, education, and mentoring provide young people with fundamental tools to survive in today’s faced paced world. I know this to be true because I had the misfortune of not starting school until I was 11-years-old and struggled just to survive until I graduated high school.

After two years of service to SBA I have decided to step down from my role as a program manager. I was deeply touched to receive the 2013 RPAA Outstanding Service Award and grateful to the RPAA board and my fellow program managers who have built a stronger organization over the past two years.

I cannot tell you the details of the next leg of my journey. Only that I know that it will take me halfway around the world and requires me to take action instead of pondering “what if.”

Spotlight on Previous RPAA Alumni:

James Huang, Former RPAA Board Member

My experience with the Riordan Programs Alumni Association has been nothing short of extraordinary. The quality of its members and the drive behind the organization has given me a strong sense of fulfillment in both my professional and personal achievements. Acting as the 2012 Director of Programming, RPAA set their faith in me to quarterback one of its hallmark events, the Los Angeles Diversity Mixer (LADM). The amount of trust and team oriented mentality in planning and executing LADM led to record breaking results and the most successful event since its inception. Additionally, as a Saturday Business Academy (SBA) mentor at Gertz-Ressler High School, I had the opportunity to take part in guiding and educating high school students from low socioeconomic households about the advantages of pursuing higher education.

I graduated from University of California, Berkeley in 2009 with a major in Molecular Cell Biology and Economics. From there I joined Wedbush Opportunity Partners, LLC, an investment fund that takes a fundamental approach to analyzing investment opportunities, as an Analyst. I wish to pursue an in the near future MBA in order to carry the financial knowledge and investigative skill sets I acquired as an Analyst into the healthcare industry with a focus on healthcare globalization, a field I am tremendously passionate about. Outside of work, I currently serve as an Advisor to the RPAA Board.

Ijeoma Arum, Riordan Fellow 2007

The Riordan Programs has helped me greatly over the past 5 years. I sought out the Riordan Fellows program because I wanted to learn how an MBA would enhance my candidacy given my desired career path. I was able to do just that. In fact, the Riordan Fellows program educated me on the value of an MBA and how it could help me in my career pursuits.

Since 2007 Alex Lawrence has been a mentor to me. He has supported me over the years and provided me with guidance as I embarked on different professional endeavors. I remember him giving me feedback on my resume and helping me weigh my options when I received my first post-undergrad offers back in 2009. His guidance has persisted into 2012 as he recently helped me narrow down my list of business schools and decide whether to pursue a JD/MBA.

The Riordan Programs has given me the opportunity to meet influential people, such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, and has provided access to key networking events. The support I have received over the years compels me to give back through volunteering and playing an active role in the RPAA. As an RPAA board member, I have networked with many dedicated people committed to strengthening and furthering the Riordan brand. As I reflect on my experience, I think of the support the Riordan family has given me and remember how Logan Blake went over my MBA application strategy and gave me advice on my next steps.

Through my participation in the Riordan Programs, I have made many friends and developed key relationships that I will maintain for a lifetime. As I prepare to matriculate to business school, I am reminded of how I am indebted to the Riordan Programs for helping me establish the foundation of knowledge and skills that I use today.

Mesbah Ahmad, Riordan Fellow 2010

I’m Mesbah Ahmad, and was a Riordan Fellow in the Class of 2010 (aka the best class). I graduated from USC as a Business Administration major in 2007. From there, I joined DaVita, a Fortune 500 healthcare provider, as part of the inaugural class of the Redwoods Leadership Development Program and worked across a number of strategic initiatives for two years. Realizing my passion for using business to help people, I left DaVita to work for a start-up social enterprise in rural Kenya called KOMAZA, where I spent the past year working on operational improvements and co-managing the organization’s first harvest and sales process.

I’m fortunate to be attending the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan this fall, where I plan to focus on Social Entrepreneurship and General Management. I give the Riordan Program a large part of the credit not only for helping me decide to pursue an MBA, but also for identifying a school that was a good fit and having a more defined vision of what I hope to get out of my time there. Even more valuable are the relationships I built with my peers and various alumni. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from these talented individuals, and aspire to give back to them even a fraction of what they have given to me.

I am incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to be part of the Riordan Programs, and look forward to helping others have the same experience. I am incredibly grateful to the Riordan Programs for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the Fellowship and connect with such a wonderful group of peers and alumni.

Fight On, and Go Blue!

Jeff Ho, Riordan Fellow 2010

Experience with the Riordan Programs: My experience with the Riordan Program has been phenomenal and continues to be both rewarding and fulfilling to this day. I started off as a Riordan Fellow in 2009 when I was still unsure about pursuing an MBA. After multiple case studies, negotiation exercises, and listening to alumni speak about the MBA journey, I was convinced that pursuing graduate education in business was right for me. However, it was the service aspect of the program that pushed me outside my comfort zone and exposed me to the rewards of being an active member of the community. Raising money for underserved high school students and bringing more awareness to financial opportunities for parents was very gratifying.

I enjoyed fellowship so much that I ended up pursuing a Technology Project Manager position with the RPAA. For the past 2 years, I have enjoyed helping on the technology front by assisting in the revamp of our alumni web page. This was crucial in spreading the word for our flagship initiatives including the LADM, SBA, and DMAC.

These experiences with the Riordan Program helped me realize what I wanted to do and stay on track with my goals. Because I was able to draw upon these experiences, my story to the MBA admissions committee across various schools was much more focused and unique. I am extremely happy to have been accepted as an MBA candidate for the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In addition, I will be joining the Consortium family to continue the mission of promoting diversity in business. I wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities if it wasn’t for the Riordan Programs, it has truly been a vital factor in helping me successfully get into a top MBA program.

Mohamed Kargo, Riordan Fellow 2010
 

Current Employer: Mattel, Inc.
Title: Senior Financial Analyst
Education: UCLA ’07 Economics

On the Riordan Programs:
The mission of the Riordan Programs was something that spoke to me and compelled me to join the organization.  As a first generation college graduate and no stranger to adversity, I believe that the program builds awareness of the post graduate application process and creates links to informal networks that individuals such as myself have traditionally been left out of.  The low representation of minorities in positions of influence in the business world is something that the Riordan Programs has made addressable and the lift this program has given me is undeniable.  The Riordan Programs has helped me build friendships with individuals who have the same drive and ambitions, and united we can help each other to reach our dreams and impact our communities.  My hope is only to be able to pay it forward when ever I can, because I know that others before me have set an example and unlocked doors. The Riordan Programs has helped me, a kid from South Central Los Angeles and humble beginnings, believe that if given a lever and a place to stand I can move the world.

On Saturday Business Academy:
As a program manager for the Saturday Business Academy I have been responsible for coordinating mentors and mentees and curriculum planning.  Presenting topics related to college and personal finance to high school students has helped me build my confidence in communicating to a large group.  I think that the SBA is instrumental in providing high school students at Gertz and Ouchi High with advice on college and personal finance.  I can remember back to my high school days and we weren’t taught any personal finance fundamentals, other than how to balance a check book.  I think financial illiteracy in the inner city is a major problem and reason for the hardships that are endured in those neighborhoods. The SBA is a vehicle for encouraging students to go to college and start watching their budgets.  Concepts such as setting goals and planning are reinforced so the students realize how important it is to have ideas of where they want to go and also have the plan on how to get there.  I’ve been able to work with an awesome group and together we only hope that we have been able to spark some potential, and I think we have been successful in doing so.

Benny Du, Riordan Fellow 2009

Having been in management consulting for the public sector during the last 4 years, I’d like to challenge myself and get out of the comfort zone a bit upon completing my MBA at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. I’d like to go work in strategic planning and operations for a corporation that has strong ties to Haas’ core values of “Student Always,” “Beyond Yourself,” “Confidence Without Attitude,” and “Question the Status Quo.”

In the long term, I’d like to take the skills and experiences from the corporate world and transition to non-profit management, focusing on reforming public education systems in this country. As an immigrant from Taiwan, I’m grateful for all the opportunities that this country has afforded my family and me and I believe reforming under-performing urban school districts is a critical step in ensuring that America continues to lead the world in competitiveness and the production of talented and visionary leaders. Some of the organizations that I’d like to be involved with include the Broad Foundation, Education Pioneers, and the Bridgespan Group.

Even though attending a top-rated business school and earning an MBA have always been my goal, I didn’t get an “insider’s view” of what life is like as a full-time MBA student until I joined the Riordan Fellows Program in 2008-2009. The program opened my eyes to what it takes to be a successful candidate and the necessary soft skills that I’d need to have to get the most out of this 2-year experience. In terms of preparing for business school, I believe it’s important to develop an action plan–from GMAT prep to matriculation–and it’s even more important to stay disciplined and abide by each individual deadline.

The business school application process is one of the few opportunities in life where you get to really conduct a meaningful self-assessment and introspection, so it’s never too early to begin this process and start the brainstorming phase for your story. As for the pesky and not-so-fun GMAT, I’d recommend taking a prep course as it will help you stay focused and disciplined as you manage your arduous work schedule during the weekdays. I took the prep course that Charles Trent provided for the Riordan Fellows. Charles is a long-time supporter of the Riordan Programs and is a strategic partner. He helps students digest time-saving methods and he is very knowledgeable of the entire application process. Keep in mind, however, that taking the exam online (computer-adaptive) is very different from taking it on paper, so it’s important to use the free resources on mba.com shortly before test day to make sure that you are comfortable with reading from a screen and dealing with the layout of the questions.

When I decided on which schools I would submit applications, I felt it was important to understand the unique culture of each institution. There are many ways to accomplish. Visiting the schools is the most popular method, but believe me, it is really not necessary if you’re tight on budget and time. Schools stress fairness and usually don’t give out brownie points to folks who took the time to visit. The RPAA’s annual MBA Admissions Conference at UCLA during the summer is a great way to interact with admissions representatives from all of the top programs. When I was researching the schools, I also made a lot of contacts with current students and recent graduates. It’s important to be persistent and proactive–don’t be shy–the worst answer you can get is a no. The current students are almost always happy and willing to share their experiences and provide candid advice. For those of you who have done work in promoting people from minority groups in the ranks of business and management, applying to schools through the Consortium (www.cgsm.org) is a great option. The bottom line for the application process is be genuine and be true to yourself; make sure you take advantage of all of the leadership opportunities that you can get your hands on in and out of the workplace.

Vi Nguyen, Riordan Fellow 2009

My name is Vi Nguyen and I am a former Riordan Fellow with the class of 2010 and currently serve as a Project Manager on the Riordan Program Alumni Association.

I graduated from UC San Diego in 2007 with a degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Out of undergrad, I spent some time doing lab research at Genentech. While I was very passionate about drug development and healthcare, I wanted to see how else I would use my science degree to contribute to this industry. By speaking with my mentors and conducting informational meetings with my colleagues in marketing and finance, I became very interested in the business of biotech.

The Riordan Fellows Program was instrumental in helping me understand the value of an MBA. Aside from giving us exposure to the style/curriculum of business school, the program also gave us an opportunity to network with like-minded young professionals who were also committed to the success of their future and to give back to the community. The Riordan Fellows Program inspired me to dare to want more for myself. Prior to the program, I would not have dreamed of applying, much less attending, to a top 10 business school.

This fall, I will be attending Columbia Business School to study Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management. I am so excited for this opportunity to study at a leading business school that will both challenge and inspire me to reach my full potential as a professional. As I embark on this new MBA journey, I am so grateful for the experiences gained through the Riordan Program and in debt for all for the guidance and support of my friends and colleagues.

Renee Eng, Riordan Fellow 2008 & Entrepreneur

Company: Rocket Fist Industries

Industry: Retail Industry

Education: UCLA ’03

Business Info: Based at its launch pad in Los Angeles, California, Rocket Fist Industries carries designer toys, limited edition art toys, character brand apparel, and accessories from a variety of artists. Our goal is to create quality products in limited editions from artists in the entertainment, animation, and art industry and to build brand recognition of our characters and graphics for generations to come. The team at Rocket Fist leverages its ample storehouse of creative expertise, resources and contacts including 19 years of experience in providing creative television content design for various studios and networks (including Warner Bros. Walt Disney Feature/T.V., Nickelodeon, FOX, and many others). Rocket Fist also plans to expand its operations with the creation of its own projects integrated with online entertainment, digital publishing, novelty products, and wireless content provision while offering licensing opportunities. Check it out at www.rocketfist.com!

About The Riordan Programs: “The Riordan Programs have provided a wealth of information, resources, and contacts and aided my career and graduate school pursuits. It was great to meet and network with high achieving young professionals and learn about their different career paths and backgrounds.”

Iva Chiu, Riordan Fellow 2006
 

Iva graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Business Economics and an emphasis in accounting.  After college she took the traditional accounting route and joined Deloitte and Touche’s Audit practice in Los Angeles focusing on the manufacturing industry.  During her time at Deloitte, she served three years on the board of the Asian Professional Exchange, one of the largest Asian American nonprofits in California, assuming positions from Chair of Special Events to Director of Finance.  She also graduated with the Riordan Fellows Class of 2006 where she helped plan the Inaugural Silent Auction and Wine Tasting event and received the Mentor of the Year award for serving as a mentor with the Saturday Business Academy.  She still keeps in touch with her mentee who is now almost done with college.

With her strong involvement in the community, she decided to leave Deloitte as an Audit Senior to pursue an accounting position with a nonprofit agency focusing on early-childhood education. From there, she was recruited to work in corporate finance at CBS Television Distribution and then at Nestle USA.

During her time at Nestle, Iva served for two years on the board of the Riordan Programs Alumni Association (RPAA) as External Vice President, with her main focus on the MBA Admissions Conference that achieved record results year over year. She also assisted with the planning of the Los Angeles Diversity Mixer including developing its novel “Stoplight Recruiting” theme, and helped with the coordination and execution of the first ever RPAA board retreat.

Since leaving the board, Iva still stays very involved with the RPAA. She serves in an advisory capacity and facilitated the strategic planning session during the 2011 board retreat.

Her long involvement with the community has garnered her a wide network in southern California. With a love for networking and connecting people, she recently started her own matchmaking business, Asian Luxe Matchmaking, which has become very successful in a short time.  She also accepted a position on the Compensation Accounting & Finance team with The Capital Group Companies, the investment management firm that is home to the American Funds, one of the largest mutual funds in the world.

She strives daily to be all that she can be and hopes that she can inspire others to do so as well.  Her mission is life is to leave a legacy.  In her free time, she has served on 3 nonprofit boards, completed 2 half-marathons and 2 triathlons, graduated from US Army ROTC Boot-camp in Fort Knox, KY, traveled to over 20 different countries but still has a hand-full of things to knock off her bucket list including pursuing her MBA, getting married, and having kids.

Ramsey Jay, Riordan Fellow 2002 & Entrepreneur

Company: Ramsey Jay, Jr. Inc.

Industry: Professional Speaker, Speech Consultant, Life & Leadership Coach

Education: California State University, Fresno ’00, Tuck School at Dartmouth MBA ’05

Business Info: Driven by his mission in life to “discover dreamers, and empower dreamers to become achievers”, Ramsey is widely recognized as an expert on leadership and “a rising star” when it comes to motivating audiences with his words. He is an advisor to prominent business leaders, a nationally sought-after keynote speaker, an author of Weekly Life Lessons, an executive speech consultant, and a life and leadership coach.  Ramsey customizes his remarks according to the needs of his audience, but frequently shares insights on how to adopt strategies for success, implement proven leadership techniques, leverage valuable relationships, seize opportunities, and harness the power of diversity and inclusion. You can learn more about Ramsey at: www.ramseyjay.com.

About The Riordan Programs: “The lessons I learned in the Riordan Programs are a cornerstone upon which I have continue to build my dreams. The guidance, instruction, and network of support provided by the Riordan Programs continue to provide me with opportunities to maximize my leadership potential and help others reach their dreams.”

Amir Tehrani, Riordan Fellow 1999 & Entrepreneur

Company: Conrad Asher

Industry: Licensed Sporting Goods

Education: UCLA MBA ’05

Business Info: Amir has partnered with The Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (FMF) which is the official governing body of the sport of soccer in Mexico. Amir’s company, Conrad Asher, exclusively markets and distributes various merchandise of the top FMF teams (Chivas, Club America, Pumas, Cruz Azul, ect.) to the fast growing US Hispanic market.

About The Riordan Programs: “The Riordan Programs left an indelible imprint on me and was the seminal moment in my career development. For the first time I was surrounded by an entire room of high achievers and this pushed me to excel and expect more from myself ”

Ja Marr Brown, Riordan Fellow 1998 & Entrepreneur

Company: The Kaizen  Way

Industry: Sales, management and leadership

Education: Whittier College 1995

Business Info: Ja Marr is a 15 year veteran in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.  Over the course of his career, he has been Sales Person and Area manager of the year and has held positions in  Corporate Sales Training, Marketing, and at age 31 was the youngest person ever to be named Regional Sales Director.  Ja Marr recently Authored and self-published a book titled, “What’s Your Sales Story?”  This book Chronicles his experience going from a 19 year old summer intern at a pharmaceutical company to becoming Sales person of the year.  It is an eye opening look into the behind the scenes struggles and challenges that sales people face everyday.  It is designed to help people uncover their “Story,” and use it to achieve perennial success in their personal and professional lives.  The book is available via his website, www.whatsyoursalesstory.com or directly through amazon.com.  Through his company, The Kaizen Way, Ja Marr conducts training and leadership programs and is a motivational speaker.

About The Riordan Programs: “The Riordan program connects talent and drive with opportunity!  The opportunity to learn what it takes to not only get into but to excel in an MBA program is tremendous.  Even for those of us that do not pursue an MBA, the Riordan program offers life changing experiences to learn and grow with other high achieving young professionals.  Some of my best friends today are individuals that I met while in the program.”

Bonique Edwards, Riordan Fellow 1995 & Entrepreneur

Company: Kaleidoscope Consulting Group

Industry: Internet Marketing

Education: UCLA ’94

Business Info: Kaleidoscope Consulting Group is a full service web development and graphic design firm. Kaleidoscope has helped clients across the world develop their ideas into compelling designs and websites that help create thriving businesses. Kaleidoscope recently made the Winners Circle when the Walt Disney Company nominated them for Supplier of the Year.

About The Riordan Programs: “While in the Riordan Program, I was able to develop life long friendships and connections that have helped me grow personally and professionally. The exposure that I received helped me to develop the courage and tenacity to run my own company.”

Selena Cuffe, Riordan Scholar 1993 & Entrepreneur

Company: Heritage Link Brands

Industry: Food & Beverage

Education: Stanford AB ‘97, Harvard MBA ‘03

Business Info: Selena is founder and CEO of Heritage Link Brands, the largest U.S. importer of indigenous wine from Africa.

Not many people realize that South Africa has a $3B wine industry; even fewer know that less than 2% is owned by blacks even though they represent 80% of the country’s population. Heritage Link Brands is changing this with every sip! Their vintners’ stories of turning hardship into opportunity inspire wine lovers unlike any other product currently in market. Not to mention, the wines taste great! Their portfolio has received industry accolades ranging from Decanter Magazine to Wine Spectator. With distribution in 40 states and clients that range from United Airlines to Disney, Heritage Link believes that consumers should have affordable wine that not only “tastes” good but “does” good! About The Riordan Programs: 

“The Riordan Scholars program exposed me to a whole new world: Business. It provided a platform to continue learning more! LEAD, INROADS, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity were all possible for because of the Riordan Program. I will be forever grateful!”

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