UCLA Alumni Mentor Program Distinguished Mentor Award Recipients
Selected from an exceptional group of nominees, based on testimonials from their mentorship partners, these undergraduate and graduate alumni mentors went above and beyond during the program year, exemplifying the True Bruin spirit of achievement, service and gratitude.
Wilson Cheung ’91
Bachelor of Arts, Economics-Business
Chief Financial Officer at Tessa Therapeutics Ltd
Student mentee Alice Yang, fourth-year economics major, shared, “As his mentee, I have had the privilege of experiencing his exceptional dedication and support throughout our mentoring relationship.
"Wilson and I have held regular monthly meetings over the past year, during which he has gone above and beyond to provide guidance and insights regarding my future decisions. His commitment to my personal and professional growth is truly commendable.
“Wilson's support has been invaluable in helping me navigate important life choices and career paths. He has taken the time to listen attentively to my aspirations, concerns and goals, and has offered thoughtful advice and perspective. With his vast experience and expertise in the field, he has provided me with valuable industry insights and practical strategies to achieve success.
“What sets Wilson apart is his genuine care and investment in my development. He consistently demonstrates a deep understanding of my strengths, weaknesses and potential, and tailors his mentorship to meet my individual needs. He has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, encouraging me to explore new opportunities and push my boundaries."
Cliff Frieden ’71
Bachelor of Arts, Economics
Retired Attorney and Former Partner at Rutan & Tucker, LLP
Student mentee Xinyue Luo, master of laws, class of '23, shared, “He regularly provides experience sharing to mentee, shares work experience without reservation, answers all questions of mentee in a timely manner and actively provides new contacts for mentee in areas of interest to her. He also specially came to Los Angeles from Irvine to meet with the mentee in person, answering the student's confusion in job hunting and providing help.”
Nicole Bramstedt, M.P.P. ’01
Master of Public Policy
Senior Staff Counsel at NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
Student mentee Sydney Smanpongse, master of public policy class of '24, shared, “I felt a connection to Nicole before even meeting her when I first came across her UCLA ONE profile. We had a lot in common — we both were UC Irvine undergraduates, UCLA Luskin master of public policy students, and had an interest in housing and homelessness policy. Nicole is kind, supportive, and has given me so much wisdom and guidance that has had a huge contribution to my success during my first year as a master of public policy student.
“She has given me advice on a wide range of topics, such as searching for internships, interviewing, interacting with faculty, and project management. Because of Nicole's guidance, I have now successfully secured two internships and a GSR position; I know for a fact that I could not have done that without her help. Beyond her professional mentorship, Nicole is a great conversationalist and I have genuinely enjoyed getting to know her over this past year. I feel very lucky to have met Nicole, and I believe that she deserves to be recognized for her selflessness and kindness.”
Connie Lew-Corbridge ’98
Bachelor of Arts, Communication
Associate Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School
Student mentee Sophia Hua, third-year political science major, shared, “Connie is like the older sister I never had. She has been such an incredible mentor and source of support. As the first in her family to pursue a career in the legal field, Connie has shared invaluable experience and insight with me, clearing away much of the confusion that I once had as I pursue this goal myself.
“She has helped me connect with others in the legal field, given me a very helpful book about law school and offered encouragement throughout the school year. On top of career and educational guidance, Connie has also supported me in many other areas of my life and encouraged me to do things that will help me discover more about myself. I feel so much more confident about my law school aspirations now that I've been Connie's mentee, and I am so grateful that I met her.”
Don Thompson ’81, M.A. ’84
Bachelor of Arts, Motion Picture-Television
Master of Arts, Theater Arts
President at NextPix Productions, LLC
Student mentee Jack Weertz, fourth-year public affairs major, shared, “Don helped me develop what was a rough 120-page screenplay into a competitive 110-page story that I'm now sending out for coverage and feedback at a few top Hollywood production companies. He's given me multiple hour-long sessions over the past six months to read my scripts, talk story and strategize how I can best prepare myself for post-college life as a screenwriter. I am so appreciative of the encouragement and knowledge he has passed on to me!”
Justin Park ’12, MBA
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science
Senior Manager Sales Operations at FLO EV Charging
Student mentee Gavin McPherson, MBA class of '24, shared, “Justin has been an incredible mentor, both in his ability to provide guidance and advice, as well as in his interest in providing relevant information, industry connections and educational content. He recently helped me revise content for a pitch competition through UCLA Anderson called the Knapp Competition, in which my team ended up taking home the first place prize of $40,000.”
Brandon Koretz, EMBA ’13
Master of Business Administration
Professor at Division of Geriatric Medicine at UCLA Health
Student mentee Len Li, doctor or medicine class of '23, “When I enrolled in the elective course Living and Dying during my first semester at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, I hadn’t a clue that one of its professors would end up becoming the Jewish uncle I never had.
“In the seminar, Dr. Koretz would expertly weave delicate conversations alongside the wonderful Dr. Alan Robinson regarding culturally embedded philosophies of death; the importance of caring for the families of terminally ill patients in addition to the patients themselves; the internal strife surrounding identity, love and values at the end of life; and much more.
“I finished the course much more aware, and intrigued by not only the knowledge Dr. Koretz bestowed, but also by his infinite collection of colorful bowties — so much so that I asked to shadow him in his geriatric clinic.
“Observing Dr. Koretz at his practice rewarded me with elegant demonstrations on how to express paternalistic confidence as appropriate, as well as uncertainty — followed by a vow to delve further — when stumped. He exemplified various approaches for fostering healthy physician-patient rapport, all while managing time efficiently and showing appreciation for all the members of the clinic that are vital to a productive and welcoming healthcare experience. And not once did Dr. Koretz waver from introducing his tremulous trainee to his beloved patients as an apt colleague — as an equal.
“Dr. Koretz’s impact on my first year of medical school played such an important role; however, it did not stop there. Conducting my longitudinal preceptorship under his guidance as a second-year student helped me hone my confidence, clinical and interpersonal skills. When a patient left with him a Christmas card to give to me, Dr. Koretz seemed not to share my surprise at the kind gesture. Instead, he emphasized the deed as a nod to my empathetic approach to providing care. And he continued to refer to that kind gesture time and time again, as the next two years of my schooling yielded challenges that he unflaggingly supporting me through.
“I did not ask for a trusted mentor to check in with me monthly throughout nearly my entire medical school career; I did not know I needed it until Dr. Koretz served that role so graciously, of his own accord.
“I arrived at UCLA stepping foot on the West Coast for the first time in my life, leaving my close-knit family at a sizable ~3,000-mile distance and not knowing a soul in the vicinity. I am still unsure as to why Dr. Koretz chose a random, bumbling, Taiwan-born first-generation student to whom to devote his time and energy. But what I am absolutely certain of is that Dr. Koretz helped UCLA feel safe and supportive. He made sure I didn’t fall through the cracks. And he helped me feel seen and feel worthy. For the reasons above and more, I can think of no other individual more deserving of such an award than Dr. Brandon Koretz.”