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.


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.




Entrepreneurship professor Doug Villhard (top center), works with students in the CEL

Right now, Ally Gerard should be on the west coast working in the corporate partnerships department for the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team. A student in Olin’s business of sports program, Ally landed the internship after a very competitive recruiting process.

Coronavirus had other plans, however, and the internship was scrapped—a situation a great many of WashU Olin’s undergraduate and graduate students now face. Still, Ally’s chance to flex her Olin muscles, apply her skills and gain experience has not been lost.

That’s thanks to a new seven-week course Ally, BSBA ’22, and more than 300 of her fellow students are taking right now—a course Olin’s faculty and staff conceived and launched in a matter of weeks as the pandemic gutted internship opportunities for our students.

“Applied Problem Solving for Organizations” began as an idea in late April. By the time the course began June 1, more than 30 faculty members had volunteered to serve as project advisors. Dozens of companies—many with Olin alumni in leadership—had proposed projects offering real-world experience to our students.

Ultimately, the team at Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning had settled on 50 projects for teams of four or five students, many of which include both graduate and undergraduate students.

Preserving experiences for summer

“I wanted to help out the students who were confronted with internship challenges,” said John Horn, professor of practice in economics and advisor to Ally’s team. “It’s not a perfect substitute, but it’s really pretty good. I’ve heard from students who kept their internships that their virtual experiences were challenging. Their employer is also trying to figure out the program in real time.”

Another faculty advisor, Durai Sundaramoorthi, senior lecturer in management, expanded on Horn’s last point.

“This is an interesting alternative to a traditional internship,” he said.  “This project gives a broad perspective about the entire business of entrepreneurship. It is a great learning experience for students.”

Built with care—and haste

Enough cannot be said about the urgency with which the Olin community tackled this challenge—from the CEL, which organized the curriculum, to the staff that promoted the program and recruited students, to the Weston Career Center, which guided students toward the opportunity and worked with potential clients, to the alumni who recognized the need and offered project opportunities.

It’s worth noting that the opportunity worked in both directions.

“Honestly, we had to scrap existing plans to bring on summer interns due to the pandemic,” said Jay Li, BSBA ’16, and director of marketing for Regatta Craft Mixers. “When I received the email from Dean Taylor about the program, we rushed to pitch a strategic project we’ve been struggling with.”

Now, an Olin team is working with the New York-based beverage maker to gain insight from its consumer research to inform a grocery-store selling strategy.

Solving real-world problems

Ally’s team is working with St. Louis-based Insituform Technologies—a pipeline rehabilitation firm—to research industry best practices and conduct a competitive intelligence analysis to understand the regional differences in the firm’s operations. She’s leading the team, which includes graduate students.

“This is my first experience in ‘leading up’ to students much further along in their higher education journey,” she said. “The CEL has fostered a working environment that pushes us to grow as consulting professionals but also as empathetic leaders and teammates.”

In many ways, of course, this turn of events was disappointing. We have exceptional students who have worked hard. We have built a world-class career center, which has been knocking it out of the park with student placements and internships—then, a global crisis.

We can’t get the internships back, but we can make sure our students have a meaningful experience. We can make sure our students have a story to tell about the work they did this summer. We can—and we have.

Pictured above: Entrepreneurship professor Doug Villhard (top center), works with students in the CEL’s summer program.




Photo credit: David Brickner / Shutterstock.com

Over the past several weeks, I have heard powerfully and candidly from many in our alumni and student community about the need for a clear message—backed by action—concerning the shameful record of racial inequity in our community and beyond. I hear them and want to be clear about my response: I stand in solidarity with the Black members of our community and the community at large. Further, we state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter.

Serious issues of racial inequity—brought again to the fore by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery and many others—are deeply painful and there is urgency in putting action behind our conviction.

At Olin, we say we are better than this. We are committed to being a community of diversity, equity and inclusion. We will foster an environment where our staff, faculty, students and alumni uphold these principles. Our conviction is real. Conviction alone, however, is not enough. We must put action behind those convictions.

I am appointing a task force—which I will chair and which will include representatives from within Olin and across WashU—to guide us toward identifying unjust systems and practices, and offer sustainable strategies to infuse solutions throughout Olin, from recruiting students and faculty, to curriculum improvements, to research.

At the same time, I have appointed a team to begin work immediately with the Olin Diversity and Inclusion Team to develop a robust plan, with goals and measurable performance indicators, focused on strategies to uproot systems of racism within our community. This team has my direct support.

I am committed to following through on this work, communicating regularly about our progress and consulting with all members of our community. I am grateful for the valuable insights and strong counsel I have already received. I am also grateful for the ongoing work by our faculty, staff and students toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive Olin. I recognize there is far more work to do.

I will share further updates soon as our work begins to yield specific action steps.

Pictured above: May 30, 2020: Protestors raise their hands in solidarity outside of the Fifth Police Precinct in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd. (David Brickner/Shutterstock)