Calling WashU’s revamped, global, full-time MBA “one of the boldest and most innovative program changes any business school has made,” Poets & Quants has named Olin Business School its program of the year for 2019.
P&Q specifically cited WashU Olin’s 38-day global immersion as a break-from-the-pack innovation “at a time when most MBA experiences are frankly commoditized.”
The website acknowledged the importance of breaking away from the pack, citing Olin Dean Mark P. Taylor’s comments about the challenge.
“The MBA is a flagship program and a lot of schools are closing their programs,” Taylor told Poets & Quants. “My view is that we have to break into the top end, and we can’t do that by tinkering. We have to be bold and build a go-to program.”
Quick turnaround in planning
“For both the bold vision and successful execution of the radical revamp, Olin’s new MBA has been named Poets & Quants program of the year,” publisher John Byrne wrote in his piece announcing the honor on January 14, 2020.
A year and a day ago, P&Q placed WashU first in its annual list of its “Top 10 MBA programs to watch,” also citing Olin’s intention to summon first-year students a semester early and launch them on a ’round-the-world immersion into business in Washington, DC, Barcelona, Beijing and Shanghai.
“No less impressive, the school was able to get its innovation off the ground in record time,” Byrne wrote in Tuesday’s story. “The changes were approved by the faculty on May 23 of 2018, leading to a pilot program just 10 months later.”
Tuesday’s honor was only the third time P&Q has named a program of the year. Two years ago, the site recognized the University of Rochester and last year, Cornell University. Byrne called Olin’s revamp “a remarkable achievement, considering the enormous logistical challenge.”
Pillars of excellence
Byrne’s story also highlighted Olin’s five-year strategic plan and its four pillars of excellence, noting how the school’s focus on values-based, data-driven decision-making; entrepreneurship; globally minded learning; and experiential learning informed the design of the revamped program.
Ohad Kadan, one of the architects of the revamp and vice dean for education and globalization, told P&Q the pillars helped Olin create a program that was highly differentiated, appealing to a certain segment of prospective MBA students.
“We did not have an identity,” Kadan told P&Q. “We are now the number one choice for students who like this new approach.”
Poets & Quants noted that attitude was reflected in remarks from students: “Not only was student reaction highly positive, but many of the MBAs chose Olin because of the new experience,” P&Q wrote.
Byrne spoke to student Mike Haueisen, MBA ’21, who said, “The immersion tipped the scale for me toward Olin.”
P&Q also spoke to faculty members who were thrilled with the results—both in terms of the rapid growth in business savvy by the students and the collaborative teaching approach the revamped program demanded of the launch team.
“It was one of the most meaningful teaching experiences that I have ever had,” said Andrew Knight, professor of organizational behavior who traveled throughout the immersion to teach teamwork.
Pictured above: First-year MBA students from Olin Business School tour a vineyard near Barcelona, collecting data for a consulting project focused on entering new markets.