Author: Brooke Van Groningen


About Brooke Van Groningen

Brooke Van Groningen has been a part of the Olin Business School Alumni and Development team since 2016. She is constantly inspired by the alumni in the Olin community and all that they do to impact the business world. When she is not working, you can find her walking her labradoodle in Tower Grove Park with her husband, exploring new restaurants in the city, or taking a yoga class.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Elizabeth Liechti, BSBA ’18. After graduating, Elizabeth joined Bloomingdale’s in New York City where she now works as an assistant buyer for dresses.

What Olin course, “defining moment” or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

I have a lot of great memories from my time in Olin. I loved being at WashU and also having a smaller community within the business school to call home. However, one of my fondest memories was during the summer between my sophomore and junior year.

I was interning at a company in St. Louis and at the end of the internship, had a huge presentation to give to the company. Because I was in St. Louis, I invited a couple of my advisers (Yoon Groves and Konnie Henning) to come along to the presentation. I’d worked with them both closely the year prior through the Olin Peer Ambassadors Program, so I felt they might also enjoy getting to see students in action (there were other Olin students in the internship program as well).

Not only did they come to my presentation, they took me out for a meal afterwards. I was so grateful for the time they took out of their days to support me as a student and spend time with me away from the academic setting, and it gave me reassurance that the staff truly cares about their students.

When I was choosing colleges, that was a factor that I looked for, and that day solidified my confidence that I’d chosen the right school.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

So many of my friends also came to New York after college, which makes it so easy to stay in touch with and hang out with some of my closest friends from school. There’s several Olin alum at Bloomingdale’s as well, so I always feel like there’s a friendly face within and outside of work. For those friends who aren’t in New York, I try to keep in touch as much as possible in the obvious ways (social media, phone calls/texts, etc.).

Why is business education important?

I think business education is important because it places a huge emphasis on teaching tangible skills that have numerous applications. At Olin, I learned a ton about teamwork, time management, and communication.

Among all of my classes at WashU, it was my classes at Olin that valued these skills the most. I find that those lessons have allowed me to be both a better employee at my job and person in general.

Additionally, I felt confident from day one as a freshman that I would be ready to navigate the world of recruiting because I had so many people and resources at my fingertips to help me. Having seen so many graduating classes before me leave with such high job placement rates gave me a welcome sense of security and confidence.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

I would encourage any student to expand beyond their bubble, no matter what that bubble may be. Explore beyond the WashU campus, join clubs outside of Olin, and consider other career paths than what is most popular. You’ll never know until you try something else.

Additionally, try to meet new people across all schools at WashU. In turn, you’ll find new experiences and opportunities that you maybe would have never imagined, but they will become some of the best memories.

Marc Bernstein

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career? 

I launched a tech startup in January 2017 called Balto Software. Institutions like Olin have sown the seeds for a booming St. Louis tech scene that supports startups like Balto.

Perhaps, more importantly, though, Olin teaches you to do super high-quality work in pretty much every area of business, and that’s critical as a startup. I left Olin with strong foundations in operations, finance, marketing and even accounting (big shout out to Olin’s accounting department; I never could have anticipated how useful basic accounting skills would be in the startup world).

It also doesn’t hurt that my majors were marketing and entrepreneurship, which I apply in some form every single day.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

I can’t say I had a specific defining moment at Olin, really. Over the course of my four years at Olin, I tried to sponge up all of the information my professors had to offer. I operated a lifestyle business while I was in school called DoorStep Fitness, which was a direct-to-home personal training company in Washington, DC.

I would split my notebooks for every class into two sections, leaving the left side of the page for class notes and the right side for applications to my company. Then, class would let out, and I’d immediately go implement what I was learning. Doing that for all four years made my academics so much more meaningful.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I’ve done a few speaking events at Olin (it’s always fun to go back to your alma mater as a speaker), and I also volunteer as a mentor and judge for Olin’s Hatchery class. I think Olin’s Hatchery is the best way to test drive an entrepreneurial idea aside from actually jumping into it.

I love hearing students’ ideas and offering them the real-world perspective of someone who’s on the ground floor of a tech startup.

Why is business education important?

I’m a general believer in the power of specialization, meaning if you practice doing one thing super well, then you can quickly rise to become an expert in your field. I think business education gives you an important jump start on finding your area of specialization.

At Olin, you’re able to try out a number of different business fields and practice making smart business decisions in each one. You’ll naturally find yourself gravitating toward what you love.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

I’ll get a little humanist for a second. Every semester, every day, every class, you’re battling the forgetting curve. Forgetting information is hard-wired into our psychology; there’s no way around it.

If you can retain your Olin education after you graduate, your knowledge will put you in the top 1% of the population in easily half a dozen critical skill sets. So do everything you can to apply your business knowledge while you’re in school (internships and side-hustles are awesome ways to do this) and search for relevance in every subject.

If you dedicate yourself to staying curious, you’ll leave Olin feeling like you just got a PhD, and you’ll find yourself applying knowledge years later that you assumed you’d forgotten.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Sara Miller, BSBA ’17. Sara is putting her healthcare management studies to use in her role as process improvement analyst at Mount Sinai Health System. Additionally, she continues her work with Student Organ Donation Advocates, an organization she founded while a student at WashU.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

As a process improvement analyst at Mount Sinai Health System, I am part of a team that collaborates with both inpatient units and outpatient practices to improve their operations through both a data-focused and interpersonal approach.

Studying healthcare management at WashU provided me with a foundation to work in the healthcare sector and I often find myself referencing finance, operations and economic concepts learned through classroom discussions.

As a first-semester freshman at WashU, I founded an organization called SODA: Student Organ Donation Advocates. Since graduating in December 2017, I have been working with a team of passionate leaders to expand SODA to 13 campuses across the country.

In this volunteer role, I have the opportunity to build partnerships, support student leaders across the country and encourage more organ donation education and registrations. Our organization has already educated more than 1,500 students and there are 75 chapter leaders across the country.

I can’t wait to see the impact these students will continue to make during the coming years. You can learn more about SODA by visiting

What Olin course, “defining moment” or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

During an elective called, “Women in Leadership,” I learned negotiation and conflict management skills and I developed close connections with other classmates and the professor. I loved learning about common challenges and opportunities within the workplace through case studies, discussions and self-reflective writing assignments. If you are a student at WashU now, I highly recommend that you take the course.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I am grateful for the many friends I made through my time at Olin and my favorite way to stay in touch with classmates is to visit them—which is what I’m actually doing this weekend. I’m also looking forward to attending our class reunion this spring and reconnecting with my classmates and brothers from my business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi.

Why is business education important?

I value business education because of the ability to learn a diverse set of technical, problem-solving and communication skills. For me, these skills were helpful in preparing for my work at Mount Sinai and in founding and leading the nonprofit, SODA: Student Organ Donation Advocates.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

I recommend writing handwritten thank-you notes. These notes can be especially meaningful when thanking an adviser who has given you a valuable piece of advice, a professor who went above and beyond to make her class engaging or a mentor who shared a job opportunity that steered you in a new direction.

In today’s technological age, people might no longer expect a thank-you note, but it’s an effective way to communicate your appreciation for how someone contributed to your life and it leaves a memorable and positive impression.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Teddy Freedman, BSBA ’17.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career? 

I am working in investment banking at Guggenheim Partners in NYC. Some of the courses I took at Olin were fundamental in helping me develop a strong foundation in finance. Given the technical nature of investment banking interviews, having relevant coursework was incredibly helpful.

Also, relative to some of my peers on Wall Street, it is evident that our education at Olin did a fantastic job preparing us for work in the real world as our coursework translates well into what I do on a day-to-day basis.

What Olin course, “defining moment” or faculty influenced your life most, and why? 

I was fortunate to have Steven Malter as my academic adviser given his proximity to what was going on with Olin as the dean of the business school. He showed a genuine interest in keeping up with what I was involved in on campus and my thoughts on the various programs and events at Olin. It was great to know that someone making decisions on behalf of the business program was actually listening to feedback from students.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

Having a strong network of friends and colleagues from Olin is a fantastic way to stay plugged in with what is happening in the markets and across industries.  Almost anywhere you travel in the country or world you can find an Olin alum doing something interesting. Making sure to grab a drink or catch up with your peers when you travel is a great way to stay engaged.

Why is business education important?

Regardless of what industry you work in, understanding why businesses make the decisions they do is educational. Asking why a new product or service exists and how it is different from existing offerings provides insight into what business leaders are focused on in the markets. Understanding these business decisions can help you stay in front of trends that may be relevant to your work product. 

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students? 

Meet and stay in touch with as many of your classmates as you can. In a few years, when everyone graduates and takes prestigious jobs around the world, that network will become very valuable.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17. Andrew founded GiftAMeal, a company that developed a mobile app that helps restaurants reach new audiences while empowering users to feed someone in need.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I am working on growing a startup I founded while I was a student at WashU called GiftAMeal. GiftAMeal is a mobile app that helps provide a meal to someone in need each time a user takes a photo at a partner restaurant.

Restaurants pay a monthly subscription to be on the app for marketing, and then we cover all the costs of donations to local food banks to feed the hungry. My Olin education has massively assisted GiftAMeal’s growth. From entrepreneurship courses like The Hatchery to marketing to negotiations to organizational behavior, I constantly pull from knowledge learned in Olin.

Additionally, the professors have been amazing advisors of mine, and we have actually been able to run some marketing experiments on GiftAMeal led by WashU professors to get their expert analysis!

In addition to the valuable course content and professors, my fellow classmates were majorly impactful. Olin has so many smart, driven students that are also incredibly unique. From conversations in the dorms, over lunch, or in the BSBA lounge, I was constantly learning from my peers and seeking their feedback.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

The course that influenced me the most was organizational behavior. I bounced around from finance to economics and strategy. After taking OB 360, I realized my passion laid at the intersection of business and psychology.

Learning how people and organizations operate fascinated me and directed how I formed my team, negotiated contracts, built sales pitches, secured investment and built sustainable practices for my business.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I stay engaged with Olin in a variety of ways. I serve as an associate member of the Alumni Board of Governors, a member of the Olin LEAD Committee, and as a member of the Skandalaris Center Eliot Society Committee.

I also occasionally guest lecture at WashU, hire WashU interns, conduct research with WashU professors, work with students who do class projects on GiftAMeal and mentor WashU student entrepreneurs. I stay in touch with my friends who graduated alongside me through Facebook, LinkedIn, phone calls, texts and occasional visits to one another.

Why is business education important?

Business education is crucial to build a solid foundation for how to think through problem solving and the fundamental components of what is needed for an organization to succeed.

Regardless of the organization, knowledge of finance, accounting, marketing, organizational behavior and strategy is just so necessary in order to make yourself a value add and to be able to see the bigger picture.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Looking back, I would advise Olin students to write down a few key takeaways at the end of each semester that they had about each of their courses. Then, when you have graduated, you can occasionally look back to remind yourself of those learnings and have them act as sparks to help you remember important things you learned in your courses.

I would also say to enjoy college, balance having fun and academics and get involved doing something you are passionate about. Olin presents so many opportunities for students, and this is the time to experiment and learn what you like and don’t like and find out who you want to be as a person in your future career.