Mike Breen

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Mike Breen is further proof that life experience is one of the most valuable currencies a student can bring to UNLV’s Executive MBA program. A father of three, husband, former 12-year member of the United States Air Force and current member of the Air National Guard, Mike brings a perspective unlike any other to Cohort 22.

During his tenure with the Air Force, Mike served as a Tactical Air Control Party Craftsman (TACP), responsible for coordinating and planning airstrikes against various ground targets. With deployments to Afghanistan and participation in training exercises across the globe, he gained invaluable leadership skills and a deep appreciation for teamwork and adaptability – traits needed to succeed in the EMBA program.

Since joining the Air Force straight out of high school, Mike has earned degrees in Information Systems Technology and Criminal Justice. Motivated by a desire to challenge himself and expand his knowledge in the business realm, Mike recognized the EMBA as an ideal opportunity to combine personal growth with the “professional proof” that comes with a college education.

“I am really looking forward to all the material to be honest,” Mike says. I don’t know a whole lot about business, so I am excited to learn how to start your own business and how to be competitive in the market.”

UNLV was a natural choice for Mike, and not just because he already lives in Las Vegas. A colleague who had recently completed the EMBA program spoke highly of the courses, encouraging Mike to take on the challenge. Having successfully secured a place in Cohort 22, Mike is the first in his family to attend graduate school, and he is eager to develop and expand organizational skills, effective scheduling, and networking abilities, while collaborating with a group that brings diverse perspectives and experience to the classroom setting.

Mike firmly believes that hard work and perseverance can lead to remarkable accomplishment, and he hopes that his EMBA experience will inspire his own family and show them that it is never too late to pursue your education and achieve long-held personal goals.

Jameson Chan

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Born to first-generation immigrants who instilled in him a relentless work ethic and a determination to achieve the American dream, Jameson Chan's journey to UNLV’s EMBA Cohort 22 stands as a testament to his unwavering resilience and unyielding ambition.

From an early age, Jameson's unwavering focus has always been on academic excellence. Guided by the values of his traditional Chinese upbringing, his mother employed a "Tiger Mom" approach, employing strict parenting techniques to drive her children's achievements. Jameson's exceptional abilities became evident when, at the age of six, he emerged victorious in his first school spelling bee, surpassing contestants eight years his senior. Encouraged by his mother, he deviated from the conventional educational path and leveraged his musical talents to earn a Bachelor's degree by the age of 18.

While his mother envisioned a career as a world-renowned pianist, Jameson chose to forge his own path, attending the University of Oregon and Portland State University. Fueled by his professional accomplishments and ignited by the limitless possibilities for growth, he has now set his sights on the EMBA as his next remarkable achievement.

Similar to his fellow EMBA students, Jameson has already achieved great success in his professional life. Currently serving as the Director of Business Development for Lifeline Vascular Care, he has also ventured into the realm of real estate, amassing an impressive portfolio of rental properties. Though the prospect of balancing school, work, and a family that includes a wife, 4-year-old daughter and one-year-old son can be daunting, Jameson discovered that the EMBA schedule perfectly accommodates his educational pursuits while allowing him to fulfill his other responsibilities. Undoubtedly, he firmly believes that the rewards will far outweigh the efforts invested.

Through his pursuit of the EMBA, Jameson aspires to inspire those around him, both personally and professionally. The decision to enroll has already sparked inspiration within his network, and he eagerly anticipates sharing his journey and accomplishments as he progresses through the program.

Tim Dunn

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Tim Dunn’s journey to the EMBA program is a testament to unwavering determination. He simply refuses to accept the possibility of things not working out, and if one step doesn’t get him to his goal, he’ll take the next step, and there’s no sign of him stopping. At least not yet.

After graduating from high school, Tim began a career as a personal trainer before transitioning to a steel fabrication job. Seeking further education, he moved to Florida and obtained a bachelor's degree from Trinity Baptist College. After graduation, he became the Athletic Director of a private high school in Georgia while simultaneously starting his own small businesses. Despite finding early fulfillment in these roles, Tim felt a calling to serve his country and joined the United States Air Force, becoming a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) member.

“Becoming a TACP was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life,” he says. “After multiple deployments and many jobs within the TACP community, I felt I was groomed to do bigger and better things. So, I decided to explore those things.”

Tim’s Air Force experience exposed him to various government agencies and leadership roles, ultimately leading him to his current position as a course manager, overseeing the training of Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) – a role that holds deep personal significance.

Still, he wasn’t finished. Though he’d started an online MBA program at a different school, he “didn’t feel a sense of purpose.”

“I was just taking classes to get another degree,” he says.

On the advice of a friend and co-worker, Tim decided to enroll in the EMBA program, choosing UNLV and embracing the moniker of being a "Rebel.”

“I like my job, but I can do so much more,” Tim says. “I feel that the EMBA will give me the tools and possibly even the connections to pursue a different path.

“I’m ready for that adventure. Leadership fascinates me, as well. The first two weeks lets you dive right in and get as much knowledge on the subject as one can handle.”

Bardia Eivazi

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Bardia Eivazi brings a diverse background in medicine, entrepreneurship, and sports to UNLV’s Executive MBA program. Choosing the university was an easy decision, as Bardia – the Chief Operating Officer of sports shoe startup Pivot Sports and host of the “Pivot Point” podcast – already manages intellectual property, manufacturing of samples, and product R&D with UNLV’s Sports Innovation professors. As sports is one of the biggest industries in Las Vegas, also known as Win City or Titletown, U.S.A., Bardia is in the right place, and he sees the EMBA as a way to elevate his business acumen and build on his five years of startup experience.

Bardia's academic journey began at UC Berkeley, where he embarked on a path to explore both healthcare and business, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical biology. He immersed himself in various aspects of the medical field, training as an EMT, volunteering in a hospital surgery center, and contributing to scientific articles as a UCSF PUP scholar. His curiosity extended beyond medicine, however, and he began to take business classes and engage with startups in the Bay Area.

Passionate about merging his love for sports and medicine, Bardia co-founded Pivot Sports with a vision to introduce innovative cleat designs that impact the world of soccer, football, and golf. Entering the EMBA program, Bardia is eager to cultivate executive-level thinking, refine his business analytics skills, strengthen his negotiation abilities, and establish lifelong connections with his peers and experienced entrepreneurs. These connections, he believes, will not only benefit his business, but also the community he calls home. “I enjoy new challenges and implementing plans of action to tackle them in an organized manner,” he says. “I’m beyond excited by the rise of sports in Las Vegas with Allegiant Stadium and the T-Mobile Arena, and our paramount goal is to contribute to the growing sports economy in Las Vegas.”

Angie Johnson

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One of the great benefits of UNLV’s Executive MBA program is that it allows leaders to meet leaders.

Angie Johnson should fit right in.

As the Executive Director of 3D Production Design at Freeman, Angie showcases her talent and leadership skills daily, overseeing design production and communicating with directors and business professionals to bring their visions to life. Since joining the company as an intern in 2007, she has risen through the ranks to her current role, becoming a subject matter expert consultant for the company’s assignment software and department system SOPs.

Motivated by a desire to expand her knowledge and improve her understanding of critical constructs such as massive P&Ls, margins, and deltas, Angie was inspired to pursue the EMBA program.

“[My goal is] to meet other like-minded local professionals in different industry sectors for the advancement of our local commerce,” she says.

Angie is particularly excited to explore Leadership and Team Effectiveness and Managerial Accounting – critical areas of study for every business professional. She sees value in enhancing her leadership skills and understanding the dynamics of effective teamwork. Additionally, developing a solid foundation in managerial accounting, she says, will not only make her more effective in her current position but also provide a baseline for future growth and advancement.

Angie's pursuit of the EMBA also holds a personal significance, as she aims to inspire her nieces, nephews, and members of her team at Freeman. Her success will surely elevate her reputation as a role model, motivating others to pursue higher education and unlock their full potential.

Rafat "RJ" Khalaf

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For Rafat "RJ" Khalaf, family comes first. Not only is he a dedicated father and husband, but he also serves as Director of Operations for his family business, KALIFANO, which specializes in the import and export of fossils, minerals, crystals, and metal art.

“I have grown up in my family's business learning tremendous things along the way,” RJ says. “But I recognize that there is much more I can formally learn in the classroom and through the EMBA.”

With a bachelor's degree in Global Liberal Studies from New York University, RJ brings a diverse educational background and a passion for community engagement to the EMBA program. Though he’s found success at every step of his career working within the family business, RJ recognizes the transformative potential of formal education and the value of expanding his network in the Las Vegas community.

“I think our business is at an inflection point, and I want to make sure that I have the skills and the resources necessary to lead my family’s business through that time,” RJ says. “Moreover, I am excited to develop a strong network of like-minded professionals afforded to me through the EMBA.”

RJ's commitment to his community extends beyond business. As the former President of the Muslim Students Association during his time at NYU, he has demonstrated leadership and a dedication to youth empowerment. He is also the founder of LEAD Palestine, an organization focused on inspiring and nurturing the leadership skills of Palestinian youth.

“I hope to inspire all those in my family, my wife, son, siblings, and parents. I am ever grateful to my wife, for without her constant support and effort, I wouldn't be able to take part in this program.”

Jack Anthony Vasconi Leavitt

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Jack Leavitt feels right at home in Executive MBA Cohort 22.

That’s because he’s born, raised, and educated in Las Vegas. The Faith Lutheran High School graduate earned a double degree in electrical engineering and business management from UNLV before deciding to return to school for his graduate degree.

But there’s much more to Jack’s story, as his life is defined by resilience, determination, and a thirst for knowledge. When he finished high school, he answered the call to serve his country and enlisted in the United States Navy, completing Nuclear Power School before being assigned to the U.S.S. Jacksonville submarine stationed in Pearl Harbor. For six years, he carried out vital missions and served two deployments essential to national security, gaining the respect and attention of his peers and superiors.

“Working my way up to Manager of Electrical Division, I had to raise my abilities as a subject matter expert, as a mentor, and as a leader to keep the submarine underway as she performed her mission,” Jack recalls.

His ongoing pursuit of learning led Jack back to Las Vegas after separating from the Navy, and after completing his bachelor’s degree at UNLV he took on his current role as a Facility Systems Engineer at the U1a Complex underground facility at the Nevada National Security Site. Today, Jack plays a pivotal role in upholding the safety, reliability, and security of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.

As he joins the ranks of Cohort 22, Jack is looking to broaden his knowledge of interpersonal dynamics, adaptability, and gain a deeper understanding of the broader scope of business within an organization. In an era where budget allocation plays a crucial role in decision-making, he aims to fill the gap in his professional background, enabling him to make informed and strategic choices on the job. In his spare time, Jack is an active volunteer with Boy Scouts of America Troop 129, exemplifying his commitment to making a positive impact on the Las Vegas community.

Courtney Moore

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As the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Supplier Diversity for Southwest Gas, Courtney Moore is at the forefront of DEI, with an influential role that positions the utility and its affiliates as leaders in the community and across industry.

Courtney's overarching objective is to mobilize public opinion leaders and strategic business partners, orchestrating global community reinvestment and intersectional social equity efforts. He spearheads companywide initiatives that align Southwest Gas' mission, vision and core values with the employees, communities and partners it serves.

Like others in the Executive MBA program, Courtney is joining Cohort 22 with a wealth of experience and education under his belt, having earned his bachelor’s degree from Temple University and coveted certifications in Strategic Human Resources Leadership and Global Hospitality Management from Cornell University.

The EMBA will build upon his leadership and business acumen, opening up new doors and allowing him to expand upon innovative, data-centric methodologies that are essential to his DEI efforts.

Embracing the values of service and community reinvestment, Courtney believes in a hands-on approach. He actively supports youth education programs, advocating for Teach for America, and has served on the board of directors for esteemed organizations such as Democracy Prep Charter School and The Uplift Foundation of Nevada. He has also held officer roles as president of Kelly-Parker Foundation, vice president of Disability:IN, Las Vegas Chapter, and treasurer of The Ogden Family Foundation.

Courtney’s dedication to community service even earned him a position on former Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak's Commission on Mentorship and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Citizen's Review Board.

Kimberly Murphy

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Kimberly Murphy didn’t have to look far to find the EMBA program that was right for her. She was already at UNLV, serving as Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Research. With a wealth of experience and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, she brings a unique skill set to Cohort 22, as she aims to enhance her skillset and open new doors of opportunity.

“I have always worked in the business arena for healthcare and higher education,” Kimberly explains. “In order to advance my education and career, I’ve decided to pursue my EMBA.

“I also have the privilege of working here [at UNLV], so it’s very convenient.”

In addition to the curriculum, notably course in leadership and management, one of the most significant benefits Kimberly hopes to derive from the EMBA experience lies in the diverse perspectives shared by her fellow cohort members. Learning from her peers, discovering new insights, and engaging in supportive relationships, she says, will allow her to learn things “that I never considered.”

At the same time, she aspires to be a source of encouragement for others, providing support to her cohort members who may face challenges while also seeking their guidance in her own areas of growth.

“I may be starting this program a little later than most, but I don’t think there’s an age limit on education and advancement,” Kimberly says. “I hope to have more control over the second half of my career with this EMBA.”

Divya Narala

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Born and raised in the small town of Proddatur in Andhra Pradesh, India, Divya Narala has overcome numerous challenges throughout her life, beginning with her family’s move to the United States when she was just 11.

“I resided in Las Vegas for several years before relocating to Reno halfway through high school,” Divya recalls. “One of the most difficult times of my life was the transition period from my home country to an unknown world, especially given the fact English is not my first language.

“Despite the barriers, I successfully graduated from high school with an honors diploma and went on to receive my bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Nevada, Reno.”

Divya began her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, focusing on initiatives to assist homeless and low-income communities. That experience led her to work in the nonprofit sector, and eventually to a role as an attaché to Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson at the Nevada State Legislature. After moving to New York for a position with the South Asian Council for Social Services, she returned to Las Vegas and played instrumental roles in Vice-President Joe Biden's presidential campaign and Rep. Steven Horsford's successful primary campaign. She now serves as District Director for Congressman Horsford, developing strategic outreach plans, overseeing constituent services, and managing activities benefiting Nevada's 4th Congressional District.

Though she’s amassed exceptional credentials and experience, Divya’s journey has only just begun. The EMBA program, she says, will help her fulfill a personal dream of opening a Chai shop in Las Vegas.

“I feel the need to give myself every tool possible to succeed in life, both personally and professionally. I have dreams of being a successful businesswoman, but I know I lack some skills that are necessary to succeed in the business world,” she says. “There are obviously so many coffee shops in Las Vegas, but I don’t see any spaces that offer this authentic Indian Tea.

“And no, Chai Tea from Starbucks doesn’t even come close to it. This passion project brings together my love of cooking, my culture, and my interest in being an entrepreneur.” Complementing her professional achievements, Divya actively engages with the community as a Commissioner on the Clark County Asian American Pacific Islander Community Commission. Additionally, she co-founded the South-Asian Women's Alliance of Nevada (SWAN) to bridge the gap between the South-Asian communities and mainstream services, providing civic and volunteer opportunities to South-Asians.

Thinking about the commitments she makes to her career and community, as well as her husband, Vijay, and two sons, Advik and Shreyas, Divya says she’s “driven by a heart of service” and embraces any opportunity to make a difference in her adopted home state.

“Nevada is such a big part of my identity. I may not be ‘Battle Born’ but I am surely battle tested,” she says. “Home truly means Nevada to me.”

Ishtar Cassandra Noguera

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Cassie Noguera earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in Business Management at Stony Brook University. Upon graduation, she began her professional journey at a five-star hotel in her hometown of New York City. She quickly worked her way up from an entry-level front desk role, excelling at every step, to a Manager position continuing in her hospitality field.

Shortly after relocating to Las Vegas in 2007, she started working independently for Promotional Event agencies during busy conventions year round. She had worn many hats in her career, which prepared her for various jobs, before then taking on her current role as Director of Marketing in the aviation field.

Cassie is motivated by her love for learning, her desire to always push forward and be the best SHE can be.

“As the times change, so do business practices,” she states. “I am excited to tackle and navigate some of the most pressing issues faced by business leaders in today’s world, so I may then learn to better myself as a leader.”

Cassie didn’t have to do much research before choosing UNLV to pursue her EMBA. She had already taken a few graduate courses at the University, shortly after moving to Las Vegas, but the recession of the late 2000s – followed by the pandemic more than a decade later – kept pushing things back. Now, she knows nothing will stand in the way of her next great accomplishment.

“What I hope to gain from this program is new knowledge and a positive sense of the community we build,” she says. “I feel as I further engage with fellow cohort members, it will surely expose me to new experiences and ideas".

“This learning model expands perspectives and I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone really well during our academic journey together. I'm so glad to be a part of it.”

Cassie is also hoping that her educational achievements within her busy schedule inspire her 5-year-old son, and 1-year-old daughter. Though they may be too young right now to realize the magnitude of the EMBA and how it will impact their lives, they’ll see the fruits of Cassie’s dedication and hard work as they get older. Her favorite life quote is from Robert A. Heinlein "Everything is theoretically impossible...until it's done!"

“I want both my children to know they can accomplish whatever they want in this life,” she says. “When there is a passion, there is a drive to succeed."

“Success is different for everyone. I just pray they follow their heart and fulfill their life goals, to be the happiest version of themselves.”

Jose Orozco

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Jose Orozco’s journey from humble beginnings to UNLV’s Executive MBA program is inspirational. Born in Mexico into modest circumstances, Jose's life has been marked by resilience, determination, and a relentless pursuit of growth -- from overcoming language barriers and discrimination to ascending the ranks of education and professional success.

After immigrating to the United States at the age of 6, Jose faced the challenges of a new language and a lack of familial support. Witnessing firsthand the disparities that affected Latino communities at the time, he navigated his formative years with determination and a tenacity that drove him to evolve from a below-average student to a top performer in high school, where he earned the rare and widely respected high honors diploma. He continued to push himself in college, mastering the violin through dedicated practice and earning a place in UNLV's Symphony Orchestra – after just three years of violin study -- while finishing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

In his professional life, Jose continues to break barriers. Climbing the corporate ladder, he transitioned from a sales representative to Operations Manager at The Shutter Store, and now in a new role at Tropical Shutters, collecting accolades for his record-breaking sales and positive reviews.

The EMBA program is symbolic of Jose’s determination to seize every opportunity within reach. He is a strong believer in gleaning wisdom from every encounter, and aspires to not only acquire knowledge but also build invaluable connections through his cohort.

“Being at UNLV was the most eye opening and rewarding experience of my life,” he says. “Now that I am in a different chapter of my life where I’ve grown into who I truly am, it’s a no brainer to come back to UNLV.”

Jose’s acceptance into the EMBA program is not just a personal achievement, but a testament to his commitment to inspire, uplift, and become a beacon of hope for those who face daunting odds. With every step, he carries the dreams of his family, his community, and himself, ready to illuminate the path to success and empowerment.

Cameron Ross

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For Cameron Ross, hospitality is in his heart. An executive casino host at Circa Las Vegas, Cameron sees the EMBA as a pathway toward larger leadership opportunities in Las Vegas’ hotel and gaming industries.

Born and raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Cameron earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality business from Michigan State University in 2019 before relocating to Las Vegas. Now, with the city rebounding from the pandemic and bolstered by the return of the convention industry and the arrival of grander, globally watched sports events, Cameron wants to expand his business acumen – notably in the areas of financial accounting and economics.

Beyond his personal ambitions, Cameron draws inspiration from his parents, who have encouraged him to pursue his master's degree. He aspires to not only achieve personal success but also to serve as an inspiration to those close to him. Cameron believes that through his dedication to lifelong learning and continuous improvement, he can make a positive impact on others and contribute to the success of his community.

Alex Sanchez

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Alex Sanchez’s career has taken him coast-to-coast: from Southern California to New Hampshire to Florida and now, Las Vegas since 2012.

Having spent more than 11 years as a Senior Clinical Analyst with the Hospital Corporation of America, Alex feels rooted in Southern Nevada community he now calls home. His daily routines includes 5am crossfit classes or cycling in the local trails. When not working out, you can also find Alex leading a book club or serving on the board of the local Las Vegas Region of Sports Club Car of America.

Despite a busy calendar, Alex’s pursuit of personal transformation hasn’t stopped. That’s why he decided to make the move with the Executive MBA. As he states: “The undertaking of the EMBA is an investment in me: a devotion to time, study, and action that I hope will produce a positive change in the world I live in”.

David Thompson

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David Thompson spends his workdays at a water park, which means he’s already having more fun than most people. The 15-year hospitality veteran serves as Regional Director of Revenue for Cowabunga Vegas, one of the city’s most popular family attractions.

David arrived in Southern Nevada in 2021, following nearly five years at Typhoon Texas, a water park brand with multiple locations throughout the Lone Star state. Beginning as a Food and Beverage Manager, he swiftly climbed the ranks, mastering each role, and assuming the responsibilities of Revenue Manager and later Director of Revenue before leaving for Las Vegas.

Like the rest of Cohort 22, David has a desire to push himself further, but his reasons for joining the EMBA program are deeply personal – exemplifying the value he places on continuous learning and self-improvement.

“I wasn’t trying to get a higher position or more money in my career,” he says. “I wanted to show myself I could do it.

“I have always loved learning and going to school, so an EMBA was the next step for me after my undergraduate degree.”

At the same time, he feels his graduate school experience could serve as an example to his Cowabunga Bay co-workers – teenagers and young adults getting their first taste of the working world.

“I hope to inspire all those employees and show them that education is important,” he says. “I am always an advocate of higher education, so I can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”

As he’s responsible for “making revenue for our company,” David was looking for an MBA program that would immerse him in the accounting and marketing areas of business.

Not only did UNLV offer David an accelerated EMBA format that aligns with his schedule, but it gave him what he wanted most: an in-person experience. Being able to work and learn from other professionals, he says, is the most valuable benefit.

“I am looking forward to knowing more of the business side of things. I am really good with the day-to-day operations of a business, but I want to know more of the behind-the-scenes aspects – specifically accounting and marketing,” he says. “I also know this program will be very challenging for me, so I look forward to overcoming this challenge and using it as a reminder for my future self of my perseverance and ability to overcome.”