Author: Dean Mark Taylor

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About Dean Mark Taylor

Dean Mark Taylor joined Olin Business School on Dec. 1, 2016. He is one of the most frequently cited researchers in the areas of international finance and monetary economics in the world. He has served as an economist at the IMF and Bank of England; and as an investment fund manager for Barclays (now BlackRock). Previously, he was Dean at Warwick Business School, UK, and a professor of economics at Oxford among other European universities and a visiting professor at NYU. He is enjoying getting to know St. Louis (and its great restaurants). Follow Mark on Twitter at @DeanTaylorWashU.


Staci Thomas is one of the Olin faculty members who has grown accustomed to "flipping the classroom" — assigning "knowledge transfer" to the homework and spending classroom time on interactive projects and engagement.

We live in a world of change and disruption in all spheres of life. In particular, technology has had a largely positive effect on all aspects of our lives—personal and professional. Education is no exception.

While the pace of technological innovation appears to be accelerating, innovation itself is not altogether new. Over the centuries we’ve moved from scrolls to codex books and more recently toward digital reading technology such as the Kindle and the iPad, and most classroom instructors have replaced dusty chalkboards with more modern alternatives.

Yet the standard process of knowledge transfer in universities—the lecture—hasn’t changed much in around the last 1,000 years, since the rise of the university in the early European Renaissance. This is beginning to change around the world—and at Olin, in classrooms run by professors such as Andrew Knight and Staci Thomas, who adapted classes that used to rely on classroom lectures and projects that students worked on outside of class.

“I thought I needed to flip the classroom so the lectures become the homework,” said Staci, a lecturer in communication. “Class becomes more like a workshop. We do presentations or create communications plans collaboratively. I can see it. I can hear it. I can offer suggestions to improve.”

Now, basic knowledge transfer happens outside of class, through short video clips, video conferences and other technological tools. It’s important to note however, that this method of knowledge transfer is a complement to rather than a substitute for face-to-face interaction. First, we use behavioural science to fine tune knowledge transfer outside of class, based on known attention spans and the creative use of mental stimuli through technology.

Then we use the face-to-face classroom experience to assimilate that knowledge, taking it in more deeply and fully understanding its implications and uses in a range of contexts and collaborative situations, using real-time case studies, seminars and group discussions.

Creating tools to encourage change

At Olin Business School we are building a custom-made e-learning platform tailored to the school’s needs. Equipped to give instructors and classmates the tools to collaborate from around the world, it will seamlessly integrate course materials, online learning experiences, recorded materials and innovative assessment, in an online environment which is uniquely Olin.

Two months ago, three new colleagues joined the Olin team and have already spent time engaging business school stakeholders—students, faculty, staff and alumni—about how a new digital learning platform can best serve everyone. Our goal is to launch a world-leading platform by the time the next full-time MBA students begin their new global immersion just seven months from now (check out my earlier blog post for more about the new MBA programme).

“Our eyes lit up when we saw the focus on teamwork in the MBA redesign,” Simon Harper told me. He’s director of platform operations and service for Olin, part of the three-person team of developers, e-learning experts and information design specialists leading the work. “We see that the tools can easily support collaboration across geography.”

Andrew Knight, associate professor of organizational behaviour, is eager to have additional tools to carry on the transition he’s begun to make in his classroom, where he uses 60 to 80 percent of his classroom time with first- and second-year MBAs on interactive teamwork and leadership exercises.

“I try to use the classroom time to practice teamwork and leadership through experiential exercises to get experience and feedback from their peers,” Andrew said. “I’d like to use class time and technology to shift the one-way flow of information from me to multimedia content and use our time in the classroom in a 100 percent interactive fashion.”

Integrating students, alumni, staff, faculty

What we’re doing at Olin is exciting, but I want to be candid as well: It’s not the first time I’ve been involved with such an effort. It wouldn’t take much sleuthing to know I led a similar effort during my time as dean of Warwick Business School. And I will build on that experience.

The digital platform we will build at Olin will knit together all aspects of the school, tracking students through the whole programme from operations to registration, from class scheduling to faculty scheduling, from the classroom experience to our connections with Olin alumni. We will also build and equip state-of-the-art studios to capture online content.

“We are experienced in this,” Harper said. “It’s our expertise, but it goes beyond that. We’re keen to create new things once we learn the needs, unlocking the further potential of the faculty here.”

Might Olin eventually offer an online degree? Perhaps. Stay tuned. Right now, the plan is to build from the ground up a next generation virtual learning environment to support the new MBA, our professional MBA and, eventually, all our programmes, as well as a platform through which our alumni can better engage with one another.

It’s the right thing to do as we continue to enhance Olin’s global standing. And our students expect nothing less.

Pictured above: Staci Thomas is one of the Olin faculty members who has grown accustomed to “flipping the classroom” — assigning “knowledge transfer” to the homework and spending classroom time on interactive projects and engagement.




It sounds like the setup for a bad joke: An artist, an engineer and an economist walk up to a bridge. Instead of delivering a punch line, however, I’ll take this scenario a different direction: Let’s talk about the non-traditional ways Olin has structured business education—some of them in direct response to students.

Consider the artist, whose eye focuses on the bridge’s aesthetic appeal. The engineer admires the integrity of a design that supports hundreds of tons of concrete, steel and people. The economist sees an investment that should yield returns by accelerating the transport of goods, services and labor.

Each has a unique perspective but each considers the other. All three want a sound, attractive, purposeful structure. In that vein, we recognize at Olin that every business student isn’t necessarily interested in a traditional business career. Even further still, every student seeking better business savvy is not destined for a business degree.

For example, we’ve reduced barriers for students approaching business courses from other disciplines, such as students from the Fox School who want to understand marketing better. These are typically rigorous, quantitative courses requiring advanced calculus as a prerequisite. While fully respecting the quantitative nature of our marketing curriculum, we’ve designed a “principles of marketing” course—without the deep quantitative background—for those who don’t need it.

Students themselves drove the introduction of our “business of social impact” minor, which only launched last year, combining faculty expertise from the Brown School and Olin. As BSBA curriculum director Bill Bottom told Student Life last year, “This is an initiative that began from student interest and student research—a group of students…really were quite enthusiastic about their business studies.”

That minor joins the minor in the business of sports, underway for several years, and the newly announced minor in the business of the arts, due to launch next year—along with a course in the economics of entertainment taught by Glenn MacDonald.

We’re even going deeper in the next year—beyond a few courses or a minor—with the introduction of WashU’s first truly joint degree within the university. In 2019, in collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science, we’ll welcome our first students working toward a bachelor’s degree in business and computer science.

“We’ve worked for a year to put this together, and we’ve validated our thinking off of other alumni and corporate partners,” said Steve Malter, Olin’s senior associate dean of undergraduate programs. “This is what the workforce is looking for. This is the future.”

Steve made those comments in the new edition of Olin Business magazine, out now, which dives more deeply into cross-disciplinary business programs than I can here.

As an economist and scholar of renaissance literature myself, you must imagine that I’m a firm believer in interdisciplinary work, combining a broad general curriculum with business education. Real-world problems don’t come neatly packaged. We must look across academic siloes to solve the toughest problems. As leaders, we must be comfortable moving from the highly qualitative to the highly quantitative, using our skills of persuasion, backing our viewpoints with hard-core analysis.

It’s in this context that we speak at Olin about a values-based, data-driven education. That’s why I’m excited by the work Olin has done to reach across disciplines and attract non-traditional business students.




Dean Taylor with Dean Colangelo and a selection of his works that will appear in various parts of Olin Business School.

Few figures in science have pierced the popular imagination or made more fundamental scientific contributions like renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. He wrangled with complex data about the construction of the universe and yielded mathematical models depicting its function. Yet he was also a musician, an artist and a lover of dance.

“The true sign of intelligence,” he once said, “is not knowledge, but imagination.”

At the business school, as part of a great university, we are in the knowledge business. We create it, we transmit it, we leverage it with our community partners. And I’d like to think we’re continuing to create a workplace that sparks the imagination of our colleagues.

Complementing the inspiring architecture of Olin Business School, we’ve begun to introduce new images to adorn its walls. I wanted to share a little about these works and the people behind them.

Thames and Bens II 2018 by Ann Wimsatt

They include the works of Ann Wimsatt, a St. Louis-based artist whose work I encountered at an exhibition soon after arriving at Olin. Her work now lines parts of the fourth and fifth floors of Knight Hall and Bauer Hall, as well as parts of the second floor in Simon Hall.

In Ann Wimsatt’s work, I was struck by three things. First, her images are extremely international, depicting significant architectural landmarks in locations such as Mumbai, Barcelona, London, Siena, Hong Kong and more—as well as St. Louis. Second, they are subjective interpretations of the buildings and landmarks they depict. And third, they are vibrant splashes of color that turn a corridor into an artist’s palette as we walk along, before stopping to look at the details of any particular one.

“Sometimes the most glorious endeavors of a civilization are what they create in their cities,” said Wimsatt, who is also an architect. “I’m quite interested not only in what meaning and importance they might have to me as I paint them, but also, as I manipulate them digitally, what kind of meaning I can draw out of them.”

G.R. (GRE.EK) 2011 by Carmon Colangelo

Olin visitors will also notice a new series of works by my friend and colleague Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Carmon graciously showed me around and introduced me to the art scene in St. Louis soon after my arrival and we spent a lot of time discussing art in his studio and in galleries around the area.

Several of Dean Colangelo’s works hang in and immediately outside my office—and there will soon be several new ones displayed prominently in the Kiefer Foyer in Simon Hall. Those closer to my office tend toward the symmetrical and orderly, but the farther from my office they get, the more the works take on their own character and depart in subtle but significant ways from the central works. I view it as something of a metaphor for the academic freedom we enjoy on the WashU campus.

“I made a new series that was inspired by the concepts in the first versions of the stretched colorfield images,” Colangelo said. “I like the analogy Dean Taylor has made about innovation and faculty research responding with more radical variations on this theme.”

Our very existence as a highly ranked business school depends on the ways we foster collaboration and imagination in the service of the knowledge we create. How do we infuse creativity into a business school? Perhaps by osmosis? I’m rather hopeful that we’ll see our students, visitors and faculty members take time to pause and appreciate the new works adorning the halls and to become inspired by their environment.

Pictured above: Dean Taylor with Dean Colangelo and a selection of his works that will appear in various parts of Olin Business School.




More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman poet Virgil famously said, “Fortune favours the bold.” In today’s vernacular, he would have said, “Go big or go home.” At Olin, we’re going big. And we’re going bold.

We’re doing it by launching a sweeping renovation of the full-time WashU Olin MBA. Students who arrive in mid-2019 will be the first to embark on what is arguably the most global MBA programme anywhere in the world.

Two weeks after they arrive for orientation and introductory classwork in late June—yes, that early—every first-year MBA student will depart for an around-the-world immersion in global business. And I’m not speaking metaphorically. The summer semester continues with a week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Then two weeks in Barcelona. Then 17 days in Shanghai.

Students will dive deeply into the fundamental principles of business management in the context of each country’s local economy. Morning classes move to afternoon projects as students roll up their sleeves and apply their knowledge, doing research and analyzing real-world business problems with local executives. This isn’t academic tourism. It’s not a St. Louis class transferred to Spain or China. It’s serious work gaining cultural intelligence about global business and leadership issues.

When students return to St. Louis, they’ll be equipped to continue their core classes in strategy, economics, accounting, marketing, finance, and operations—but with global context and the perspective of several economic systems. Plus, they’ll have forged deep bonds with their classmates, a foundation to support, grow and advance one another throughout their Olin careers.

Additionally, students can accelerate their programme under our new model, moving more quickly to the job market, or pair their MBA with a specialized master’s degree.

Why embark on such a sweeping change to Olin’s flagship program? The answer, quite simply, is that we must practise what we preach. The world is shrinking. Leadership challenges are expanding. As we urge students to do, we must anticipate what the market will demand in the future—then think big and act boldly to confront the challenge. Tinkering around the margins won’t do.

We paired that principle with data. We informed our work with the help of Boston Consulting Group, which researched the needs of students and companies in the future. They interviewed current students, prospective students, faculty, corporate recruiters, and more, generating data about the requirements of a redesigned MBA programme.

In some ways, we’ve been building to this for a while. Recent MBA classes have had expanding global opportunities through the Center for Experiential Learning and the Brookings MBA capstone experience. This spring, we plan to pilot some of the global components of the redesigned curriculum, though details are yet to be ironed out.

On the Olin website now, there’s more detail available about our MBA renovation—designed with BCG, taught by world class experts on three continents, one truly global MBA. It is a renovation, I firmly believe, that will be favoured by fortune—for Olin and our students.




Recording a video to introduce the Olin brand campaign that accompanies our strategic plan. Building scholarship capacity is an important piece of our strategy.

Someone supposedly once complained that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is full of quotations, and indeed, many lines from that great work have become familiar phrases in the English language, from “To be or not to be,” to “Alas, poor Yorick.”

One of my personal favourite lines from the play is, “Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

Olin is a place that addresses the promise of that theme for students who may pass through our doors “knowing not what they may be.” With our world-class faculty, our dedicated staff and our alumni, we’re well able to help students know what they will be.

The trick, of course, is helping them pass through our doors in the first place.

That’s where scholarships come into play. WashU’s Olin Business School should be an elite institution, but never elitist. That means we want the best students in our community—regardless of their financial means. Anyone with the ability, talent and potential should be able to benefit from an Olin education.

A WashU education is by no means inexpensive, but this is not a new phenomenon. Even when National Council member Sidney Guller started earning his BSBA in 1943—and the average US income was $2,000 a year—Olin’s $250 annual tuition was a tough nut to crack.

At the time, scholarships were hard to come by. Guller worked at a local title company to make ends meet. That experience drove him to establish the Bobette and Sidney Guller Endowed Scholarship and many other gifts to the school.

Increasing scholarship support was an important component of Olin’s participation in the WashU Leading Together campaign, which closed in June. Building that support is vital to attracting talented and deserving students to our institution

Based on preliminary numbers from Olin’s campaign, I’m pleased to note that Olin supporters have contributed more than $31.8 million toward 94 new endowed scholarships—double the number from 2009, before Leading Together began. Additionally, benefactors have contributed to an additional 266 named scholarships since 2010.

I’m looking forward to meeting one of our newest scholarship recipients. One MBA student this fall will receive a new scholarship that I’ve established, the William Shakespeare Scholarship. Will was a great businessman as well as an artist, so I consider this a terrific nod to the way we think about approaching business problems from a variety of perspectives.

Now, I’ll be expecting our first recipient to join The Dean’s Players at our next “Shakespeare at Olin” event. Who knows what he or she may be?

Pictured above: Dean Taylor recording a video to introduce the Olin brand campaign that accompanies our strategic plan. Building scholarship capacity is an important piece of our strategy.