Introducing Olin’s MBA entrepreneurship fellowship—and the first five fellows

Ashley Macrander—senior associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and director of graduate program student services—wrote this for the Olin Blog.

This year, Olin enhanced its portfolio of entrepreneurship opportunities with the introduction of the Entrepreneurship Fellowship for full-time MBA students. Developing an entrepreneurial spirit is a pillar of the student experience at WashU Olin. Our courses, competition and capital funding opportunities, and our immersion in the entrepreneurial ecosystems in St. Louis, Silicon Valley, New York City—well as international locations—all contribute to the recognition of the our MBA entrepreneurship program as the #1 program in the US.

This has given us an opportunity to attract diverse, creative and forward-thinking students who are looking to grow an idea or discover their untapped potential. And it has led to the creation of the new fellowship. This year’s five fellows, all in the MBA class of 2024, are Cherise Brookes, Madeline DuCharme, Howard “Buddy” Foster, Steve Sedano and Vitaliy Sharlai.

In addition to receiving tuition support for their MBA, fellows will network and build relationships within our entrepreneurial ecosystem, be matched with an alumni mentor for support and coaching in the development of their entrepreneurship skills, and be housed within the Lewis Collaborative, which offers co-working and classroom space to facilitate opportunities for idea generation and creation and offers intentional collisions with other entrepreneurs.

“It’s another example of innovation that continues to happen every year within Olin’s highly ranked entrepreneurship program,” said Doug Villhard, academic director for Olin’s entrepreneurship program and a professor of practice in entrepreneurship. He said 40 MBA students—nearly half of the entire 2022 cohort—applied for the five fellowship spots this year. “Not only was it hard to narrow that down to just five, but the other 35 are also wonderful candidates and we look forward to working with all of them.”

Download an information sheet about the Entrepreneurship Fellowship.

The program is aimed at students seeking to influence business and society in areas including sustainability/environmentalism, social responsibility, global impact, and inclusion, diversity and equity.

Here is what our fellows had to say about the opportunity.

Madeline DuCharme

“I want to take the skills and knowledge I have developed while serving as an educator and use them to improve educational equity. In my graduate work, we talked about the many problems with our education system, but those problems often seemed immutable. I have realized that the way to make education more equitable is not to pursue incremental change, but to reimagine the system by looking at education through a new lens: with the disruption-oriented mindset of an entrepreneur. I know I am going to need help making this pivot, and so I am particularly excited about the mentoring and networking opportunities associated with the fellowship.”

Steve Sedano

“I was raised in south central Los Angeles and it wasn’t the best place for a kid. To give you an idea, I witnessed my first murder at the age of 3. South central was the way it was because it had a lack of employment opportunities that offered livable wages and clear paths for career growth. I will devote my life to ensuring that no one has to go through what I did by creating employment opportunities that offer livable wages and opportunities for professional growth. Secondly, I want to have enough money to fund all of the philanthropy projects I want. I’m in the position that I’m in because people went out of their way to show me a better life. Now, it is my responsibility to give back at a larger, more organized scale. The fellowship will provide me with the unique opportunity to see what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur at a larger, meaningful scale. I was able to build a seven-figure revenue company but I want to have a larger impact.”

Vitaliy Sharlai

“I aspire to make a social impact and help people to be heard, which has become an essential driver of my professional and volunteering activities. ‘What should I do?’ and ‘Where should I go?’ are the two questions I asked my mom when I was a 5-year-old child. These questions still resonate before I make major decisions, whether to address community issues as a council member, as a civic activist during Euromaidan protests, or as a researcher collecting data for decision-makers in the Ukrainian cities. I used to work with national and local officials on data-driven decision-making issues, which inspired me to take steps toward consulting. My goal is to join the consulting business as a public affairs expert and consultant for entities interested in improving people’s lives with technological solutions. I want to contribute to establishing a solid public-private partnership in my country to expand opportunities for people to benefit from innovative and effective business solutions. It may provide me with resources to learn from the experiences of mentors and other fellows and reflect on my path to identify ways to build empowering private-public partnerships in Ukraine.”

Cherise Brookes

“As a citizen of Antigua & Barbuda, I have a very unique culture that informs my entrepreneurial mindset. Being West Indian means that entrepreneurship is our way of life. In the Caribbean, everyone dabbles in entrepreneurship. Everyone has a ‘side hustle.’ If you walk through the city you will find people selling on every street. My father also owns a wholesale distribution business in Antigua and my grandmother previously sold in the market square. My brother sells patties while at work, and I previously sold health and wellness products and offered free health and wellness consultations as an incentive to boost sales and referrals. Furthermore, as a social worker, my passion has always been identifying and driving individual change and social change systematically. Therefore, I see myself as an entrepreneurship fellow for one distinct reason. I want to start my own social media platform to empower and support women globally.”

Howard “Buddy” Foster

“I learned early that entrepreneurs think in terms of solutions, not problems. For instance, in high school, I wanted to play lacrosse but soon discovered that there were no nearby teams because the sport wasn’t popular locally. Rather than be deterred, I decided to start a lacrosse team. The lessons and sense of accomplishment that came from this experience informed and inspired my approach to goal setting and entrepreneurship. Specifically, I learned that, whether starting a local lacrosse team or working to grow a dynamic tech company, success depends on one’s ability to cultivate the right culture, create a shared sense of mission, and position people to give their best and fullest talents. These factors are at the heart of effective entrepreneurship and venture capital. The added factor with VC, though, is that it depends heavily upon the capacity to build a deep, diverse, accomplished, and meaningful network. This fellowship will provide the opportunity to build a network by accessing a community of like-minded people.”

Among the fellows’ activities will include introducing speakers and moderating panels for the entrepreneurship platform, serving as a teaching assistant in entrepreneurship courses and potentially participating in research opportunities for the entrepreneurship faculty.

Pictured at top, clockwise from top left: Steve Sedano, Vitaliy Sharlai, Madeline DuCharme, Cherise Brookes and Howard “Buddy” Foster.

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