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.


Seth Carnahan, Ashley Hardin and Durai Sundaramoorthi presented at a faculty idea exchange for online teaching on October 26, 2020.

One month after fall classes began, my colleagues surveyed students for their first impressions of hybrid learning—the course structure for most of our classes. With strong survey participation across all our programmes, student reaction was positive.

Nearly 99% were happy with our public health measures. Nearly 95% agreed their instructors were prepared. Nearly three-quarters said learning today was the same or better than it was in spring. “Olin has been successful in making this transition easy, and professors have been very accommodating,” one student commented.

Encouraging, indeed. I’m proud of Olin’s staff and faculty for their tireless work toward a world-class experience in the midst of world-crushing circumstances. I’m equally proud of our students, who have shown extraordinary resilience and agility—traits that will serve them well throughout their careers.

But our faculty gathering on October 26 is really what excites me. With members of Olin’s Center for Digital Education, more than 100 instructors met over Zoom to share best practices and swap ideas for teaching techniques and software tools. Everyone in the virtual meeting was determined to raise their game even higher with how they were teaching their hybrid classes.

Everyone wanted to get better.

Heading toward the third horizon

I’ve written before of the three horizons of this crisis. Today, we’re in the midst of the second horizon as we raise our game to provide the gold-standard experience everyone expects—students, staff and faculty.

Certainly, there are challenges. Keeping students in the classroom connected with students online is difficult. Students require extra time to prepare for a class period, which is extra difficult when classes run back-to-back. A student’s situation outside the classroom affects their ability to participate inside the classroom. Instructors such as Ashley Hardin are working hard to build a community among students—whether they’re online or in a classroom.

While sharing a number of concrete, group-oriented teaching techniques, Hardin also said she began the semester by asking students about their favorite musical artists. She created a Spotify playlist for the class reflecting their preferences. “It’s a fun, playful way for them to get to know each other,” said Hardin, assistant professor in organizational behavior.

She was one of three professors—with Seth Carnahan, associate professor of strategy, and Durai Sundaramoorthi, senior lecturer in management—who presented to the group of colleagues.

A robust exchange of ideas

The presenters shared their techniques for doing group work and keeping students engaged in their work. Carnahan, for example, shared how he uses PickRandom.com to “cold-call” on a student when he wants someone to engage more deeply in the discussion.

Throughout the presentations, two dozen instructors and three staffers contributed in the Zoom chatroom, answered each other’s questions, offered ideas about teaching apps and hardware solutions, and reinforced points the presenters made.

They wrote about how they’ve given space for students to confront the social isolation and inconvenience so common in our lives today, how they’ve structured classes to maintain cohesive teams and what new features Zoom has introduced.

For now, we continue to traverse the second horizon of this crisis. And here we likely will remain, at least through the spring semester, given the trajectory of the pandemic thus far.

But meetings like the one on October 26, gatherings that showcase the innovation and vision and creativity of our colleagues—this prepares us to traverse that third horizon. To cross that horizon, we must consider the definition of excellence in a post-pandemic world.

And I can see we’ve already begun that work.

Pictured at top: Seth Carnahan, Ashley Hardin and Durai Sundaramoorthi presented at a faculty idea exchange for online teaching on October 26, 2020.




Zoom mockup with new faculty members hired in 2020.

When you’re privileged to serve as the dean of a school with top-notch faculty, finding the means to show continuous growth among instructors and researchers becomes more and more difficult. I’m pleased to say, however, this year’s crop of new instructors has shown it is possible.

Our incoming cohort of new instructors demonstrates that the strategy we have deployed for recruiting new faculty is paying dividends—and, indeed, it demonstrates our current faculty’s commitment to deploying that strategy.

Liberty Vittert

More than a year ago, I wrote in this space about that strategy: focusing on mid- and senior-level faculty members who already have a track record of producing impactful research. Experienced instructors who, as I wrote at the time, can bring “their cutting-edge business insights to the classroom” as well as professors of practice who can “prepare students for the world as it will be rather than the world as it is.”

With this year’s cohort of faculty members, we have two full professors joining us from the University of California–Berkeley’s Haas School of Business: David Ahn and Nicolae Gârleanu. They are among 15 new faculty members who joined this year (pictured above, listed below), along with Liberty Vittert, a veteran hire last year now joining us after serving as a visiting scholar at Harvard.

Increasing all-around bench strength

To be clear, we are not forsaking the need to recruit and cultivate promising junior faculty, and not all new instructors are research faculty.

“We added to our faculty bench at all levels—from the rookie market, to the seasoned market, to the senior (veteran) ranks,” said Todd Milbourn, vice dean of faculty and research and Hubert C. & Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance. “We are a research-driven institution, but we continue to add faculty among both research and teaching focused groups to continue to deliver the best possible faculty to our students across all programs.”

As pleased as I am that the strategy is working, I’m also gratified by the support it’s received from existing faculty. I’ve made it clear that any of Olin’s faculty groups— accounting, data analytics, economics, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, operations and manufacturing management, and strategy—can hire at any time. No waiting. And we are always on the lookout for outstanding individuals who will add to our diversity.

Committed to continuous improvement

If they have an opening, and they can find top people, I’m committed to finding a way to get them here. And, clearly, we’ve made that strategy work even in the midst of the pandemic. We cannot allow ourselves to be blown off course.

“It’s hard to welcome new folks to the Olin family only by Zoom,” Todd said, “but they are all great people with great attitudes, and they have managed the transitions seamlessly and with style.”

As we continue with this strategy, I am confident we will continue to see growth in our instruction and research productivity. Strength, after all, begets strength, and I am confident we will enjoy the snowballing effect of this approach for years to come.

2020-21 faculty hires

David Ahn, professor of economics PhD: economic analysis and policy, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2004 Prior to Olin: Haas School of Business, University of California-Berkeley.

John Barrios, assistant professor of accounting PhD: business administration, University of Miami, 2015 Prior to Olin: Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.

Jeremy Bertomeu, associate professor of accounting PhD: economics, Carnegie Mellon University, 2008 Prior to Olin: Rady School of Management, University of California-San Diego.

Naveed Chehrazi, assistant professor of operations and manufacturing management PhD: management science and engineering, Stanford University, 2013 Prior to Olin: McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin.

Edwige Cheynel, associate professor of accounting PhD: business administration, Carnegie Mellon University, 2010 Prior to Olin: Rady School of Management, University of California-San Diego.

Erik Dane, associate professor of organizational behavior PhD: business administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007 Prior to Olin: Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University.

Nicolae Gârleanu, professor of finance PhD: finance, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2002 Prior to Olin: Haas School of Business, University of California-Berkeley.

Maarten Meeuwis, assistant professor of finance PhD: finance, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2020 Prior to Olin: PhD candidate at MIT.

Andreas Neuhierl, assistant professor of finance PhD: finance, Northwestern University, 2015 Prior to Olin: Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

Oren Reshef, assistant professor of strategy PhD: business and public policy, Haas School of Business, University of California-Berkeley, 2020 Prior to Olin: PhD candidate at Haas.

Linda Schilling, assistant professor of finance PhD: economics, Bonn Graduate School of Economics, 2017 Prior to Olin: Utrecht University School of Economics.

Professor of practice

Trish Gorman, professor of practice in strategy PhD: strategy and economics, Case Western Reserve University, 1999 Prior to Olin: managing director at Goff Strategic Leadership Center in Salt Lake City, lecturer at the Eccles School of Business, University of Utah.

Lecturers

Gary Lin, senior lecturer in data analytics PhD: industrial and systems engineering, University of Florida, 1991 Prior to Olin: Retired full professor from Bradley University.

Salih Tutun, lecturer in data analytics PhD: systems science and industrial engineering, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2018 Prior to Olin: postdoc at SUNY-Binghamton.

Postdoc

Hugh Wu, strategy, PhD: Stanford Graduate School of Business.




Peter Boumgarden teaches a class to incoming EMBA students ahead of the arrival of full-time MBA, SMP and BSBA students on September 14, 2020. The masks, face shields and physical distancing in this classroom setup is typical of how hybrid classes will be taught in the fall.

We are just days away from the start of a fall semester unlike any we’ve experienced. Yet in a world seemingly overrun with troubling news, I am filled with hopeful optimism about the return of our students and the commencement of classes.

Signs limit seating capacity in the atrium at Olin Business School.

We anticipate a strong student intake across all our programs—both in-person and virtually. Outfitted with carefully prepared signage, technology and sanitation equipment, our buildings are ready for students and faculty. We’ve assiduously assisted and supported faculty in enhancing their teaching in a hybrid environment—and scored high marks within the WashU community on that preparation.

Students are receiving welcome kits. Our specialized master’s students have the opportunity to be paired with mentors. Our fall planning website—dedicated to information about fall instruction in the age of COVID-19—is up, running and up-to-date.

The start of classes on September 14 marks the culmination of thousands of hours of forethought, planning and preparation. The Olin team has been focused on one simple goal: Providing world-class education during a world-changing crisis.

A massive effort

There is scarcely a person among our faculty or staff who cannot take part of the credit for pulling off the herculean task that confronted us over the summer. Everyone has pulled together to create the best Olin experience possible. That includes our faculty members, the Center for Digital Education, graduate program recruiting and student services staff, the undergraduate programs office, the Weston Career Center and corporate development teams, building operations teams, marketing and communications, the Center for Experiential Learning, accounting and other behind-the-scenes departments.

By one mode or another, the students are joining our community, and we’re excited. Many will be on campus. Some could not secure visas in time but decided nevertheless to commence their WashU Olin education online.

“We don’t have fewer students,” Ohad Kadan, vice dean for education and globalization, told his faculty colleagues recently. “We just have students in different time zones. We will have to work to cater to them. It’s a change of mindset.”

Some classes will start a little earlier or end a little later than typical so we can accommodate students across as many as six time zones around the globe. Likewise, we’ve asked professors to make themselves available for office hours at unusual times.

Instructors will teach courses with more than 60 students online. Those with fewer than 25 will be in person. In between, instructors will use one of two hybrid formats.

The new Olin experience

From the start, we have aimed high. Not to achieve the minimum required to teach students in the fall, but to do the very best.

I’m looking forward to addressing the incoming undergraduate class as usual—only online instead of from the Emerson Auditorium stage. Each student will receive a welcome kit with a combination of PPE and keepsakes. Career coaching and networking will happen. Student clubs will meet, create events and enrich their members’ preparation.

When I speak to the students as the semester begins, I plan to share what I know about where we stand as a business school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, how it has affected us and how we hope to come out. I’ll remind them that we’ve not just played the hand we were dealt, but we’ve striven to turn these circumstances into opportunities.

I hope as they engage with classmates, staff, faculty and alumni over the course of this semester, students think that way, too.

The three horizons

I have been fond of saying that the trajectory of this crisis, this pandemic, is carrying us over three horizons.

The first I refer to as firefighting. Confronted with an instant conflagration in mid-March, we pivoted quickly, adapted and delivered results for our students through the spring semester.

The second horizon is about raising our game. We’re still in the midst of the crisis, but with reflection and the benefit of more time, we’re prepared to deliver gold-standard instruction to students in multiple formats. We’re poised to sail over that horizon now. And the third horizon? That’s about scanning beyond where we can see, anticipating what we must do in this new version of normal to be leaders in teaching and research. And we’re already doing that work.

Pictured above: Peter Boumgarden teaches a class to incoming EMBA students ahead of the arrival of full-time MBA, SMP and BSBA students on September 14, 2020. The masks, face shields and physical distancing in this classroom setup is typical of how hybrid classes will be taught in the fall.




Stuart Bunderson teaching an Olin EMBA course.

In recent weeks—even in the midst of a global pandemic—good news has abounded for WashU Olin’s Executive MBA program. In June, The Economist ranked the Olin EMBA 18th globally and seventh in the United States, highlighting our strong research faculty and career results for a 20-spot rise in the magazine’s lineup.

And in the past week, two members of our EMBA class of 2020 landed on Poets & Quants’ esteemed listing of the “best and brightest” executive MBA students in the country. My congratulations to Faye Prevedell Dixon and Jason Carter.

Yet more good news has only just begun to emerge after a yearlong effort that’s been humming quietly in the background. A reboot of Olin’s EMBA has now received faculty approval to move forward and will begin with the next class starting this fall.

Focus on leadership development

The new EMBA curriculum will provide a strong new focus on the core theory of leadership at WashU Olin—the drive toward values-based, data-driven leadership. It will guide students through a deep examination of how they view themselves as leaders, how they want to grow and what steps they must take to achieve their leadership goals.

“This is designed to be a transformational experience,” said Nick Argyres, Vernon W. & Marion K. Piper Professor of Strategy, who co-led the EMBA review committee with Ron King, senior lecturer in accounting.

“We want this to be very personal, very customized to each student, to match what each student is actually experiencing at that time and to reach them on an intellectual level and an emotional level,” Nick said.

In addition to the committee, I am grateful for the impetus provided for this initiative individuals such as Carl Casale, EMBA ’92, who was named an Olin distinguished alumnus in 2007. Carl—an ag industry veteran who serves on the board of Syngenta and is a senior investment partner with Ospraie Ag Science—was a major driving force on this initiative.

The reboot process also included a listening tour with leaders at major companies in the St. Louis region where we draw our students—firms such as Bayer, Centene, Express Scripts, Nestlé Purina and Schnucks. The effort guided the task force’s understanding of what our neighbours require as they mould experienced managers into the next generation of senior leaders.

So, while students run through a rigorous gauntlet of coursework in strategy, negotiation, accounting, finance, economics, marketing and operations, they’ll also be working with leadership coaches to refine their goals, engage in leadership development activities and draft their personal statements of higher purpose.

Familiarity with ‘big data’ concepts

“They’ll share their refined leadership statements with one another as they’re going out the door so they can see the kind of impact they’ll have individually and as a group as they go forward,” said Stuart Bunderson, director of Olin’s Bauer Leadership Center. “I’m convinced that this is something we have that’s unique and very contemporary.”

But that’s not all. We also heard from our neighbours in the business community that the next generation of top leaders must be conversant in concepts involving big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The new EMBA will provide experienced managers an understanding of data science and analytics and how they apply to business. It will guide them through societal issues data science raises and build an understanding of how to create and lead data science teams. In other words: How to make and manage a data-driven organization.

I’m delighted by the work we’ve undertaken, further reinforcing WashU Olin’s position as an indispensable resource.

The Olin Executive MBA program, like all of our work, is core to our mission: We produce research and disseminate it in the form of teaching and experience. A business school provides a service to the business community and society—around the world and in our own backyard.




The following is the text of a note I shared yesterday with current and incoming WashU Olin students.

Dear students,

We are aware of new requirements outlined this week by the federal government that could affect Olin students studying here on F-1 visas. Be assured: When such policy statements are released, we work with haste to understand the implications.

By now, students who may be affected should have received a detailed email outlining the university’s understanding of the policy update and steps being taken to address it. I would also refer you to the university’s statement on this new policy guidance.

We recognize this policy update raises questions about what it may mean for your studies here at WashU. I want you to know Olin values and supports all of you. We want to do everything possible to ensure your studies continue.

To reiterate what Chancellor Martin has already said, we have every intention of teaching courses in the classroom this semester, and indeed we have been working towards this since the outbreak of the COVID- 19 crisis.

We will review every international student’s schedule to ensure they have an in-person course experience, if returning to campus. We also will offer online learning for students who are unable to join us on campus. 

Please stay tuned for a university-hosted town hall meeting for students to address your questions as best as possible.