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.


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)




Paige LaRose working with an Olin undergraduate student.

Economists often characterize events that rock financial markets as either “heat waves” or “meteor showers.” The former is regional—a weather event that disrupts trade or slows commerce in a confined area.

In contrast, “meteor showers” are wide-spread, global events, creating long-term disruptions for international supply chains and economic systems. Now, a dozen weeks into the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, we are all perhaps more familiar with metaphorical meteor showers than any of us would like to be.

As I noted in my previous Desk of the Dean column, the effects of this crisis have brought into stark relief the ways we will need to approach business education going forward. The need for a global perspective on business is more imperative than ever. The way we provide that global perspective for our students will likely change—and that change is reflected in a new approach we’ll soon introduce for Olin undergraduates.

A global school—in the heart of the US

Since arriving at Olin, I’ve been keen to ensure 100% of WashU Olin students have a global experience. We took an extraordinary step forward for MBAs in 2019 by launching our three-continent global immersion.

Undergraduates starting in the fall of 2021 will benefit from our latest innovation: a “global mindset” degree requirement for Olin BSBA students, a framework designed to ensure every undergraduate can gain international business experience—whether or not they travel abroad.

Paige LaRose, associate dean and director of undergraduate programs, spent more than a year spearheading the planning for this new degree requirement, which faculty approved on February 10. She has been tremendously skilled at navigating the barriers to implementing such a requirement.

To be sure, a high percentage of our undergraduate students already participate in global experiences through Olin’s comprehensive menu of more than 20 programs including study abroad, international internships and experiential learning projects. More than 60% of BSBA students go abroad as part of their business school experience.

Accommodating various needs

For many students, traveling abroad is not an easy task. Health concerns, student athletics and other issues present challenges, we must acknowledge, that some students cannot overcome. Indeed, our approach perhaps anticipates concerns the pandemic has wrought, while still stressing the importance of that global perspective.

“It’s really about the difference between having a global experience and gaining a global mindset,” Paige explains. “What’s the learning outcome? At graduation time, what sort of competency do we hope our BSBA grads have?”

Focusing on forging a global mindset for our students opened opportunities for us to accommodate students for whom traveling abroad was impossible or inadvisable. Options include independent study coursework focused on global business issues, credit-bearing independent research, and a second major or a minor in a foreign language.

The variety of options fall into two categories: One focuses on academic and professional exposure to global business issues. The other exposes students to global cultures, people or philosophies through volunteerism with immigrant communities, experiential learning projects or new courses still in development.

“There was a recognition that we had to do more,” Paige said. “We had to do more to promote a global mindset. We’re just doing it in some innovative ways.”




The definition of a face-to-face meeting will never be the same.

In just six weeks, the world has changed forever, and with that global change, so has the means and meaning of business education. In a post-pandemic world, will we ever return to where we were before spring break?

I don’t think so. I said as much recently in Poets & Quants’ story on the subject. In fact, the change was already happening. COVID-19 just accelerated the pace.

The changes for business schools fall largely into two categories: first, what we mean by international, and second, how we deliver content and experiences going forward. Paradoxically, business education will become increasingly more global, while the need for international travel will contract. Meanwhile, the pace at which both faculty and students adapt to and adopt new tools for teaching and learning will hasten.

WashU Olin Business School is ready.

What ‘global’ now means for business schools

Others have opined more broadly about the future of higher education. As the authors of a Harvard Business Review article wrote just 36 days ago, “Both teachers and students are readjusting and recalibrating in the middle of teaching semesters. The syllabus and course contents are being revised as the courses are being taught.”

And indeed, in a recent Olin faculty meeting, my colleagues acknowledge a steep learning curve—but one they’ve scaled quickly as they employed tools such as video conferencing, break-out rooms and asynchronous discussions. The work is difficult, but manageable. The key, most agree, is maintaining the personal connection with students.

“I just refused to accept that virtual meant impersonal,” Konstantina Kiousis, senior lecturer in business management, told her colleagues. “We thought about how to make the personal connection in this space. This is part of the world we work in. You’re going to be working with people in other countries.”

That is so true. As a fund manager a decade ago, I worked with a team spread among offices in London, San Francisco and Sydney—long before anyone had heard of Zoom and just as the iPhone had gained a foothold. Understanding how to lead a team spanning 18 time zones and two hemispheres was an important skill then and even more so today.

Today, through our MBA global immersion, overseas residencies and numerous study-abroad opportunities, we’ve clearly established Olin as the kind of global business school that equips students to lead across borders and time zones. That won’t change.

Enhancing education, not substituting our value

Yet we’ve clearly crossed a threshold in the past six weeks. The meaning of “face to face” has changed. We’ll continue to find value in overseas travel, experiencing different cultures first hand, seeing plants and machinery, processes and staff with our own eyes. But increasingly, we’ll complement those experiences with virtual engagements that provide global context and hands-on experience—without the jet lag.

Because of the changes wrought so quickly by the pandemic, digital learning has become table stakes. We’re not substituting the expertise and personal contact experienced professors bring. With digital learning, we’ll maintain our edge and our excellence.

In only a few weeks, our faculty has adapted to that way of thinking. Nick Argyres, Olin’s Vernon W. & Marion K. Piper Professor of Strategy, teaches many of our professional and executive MBA courses and shared his previous reluctance to demand outside projects of these working professionals.

“Arranging to get together physically with multiple teammates can be challenging,” Nick said. “Now that I’ve used Zoom, I can see that you can collaborate pretty well on it. I would now consider asking them to meet for half an hour over Zoom to cover basics so we can get to the more advanced material in class.”

More than Zoom

In short order, business education without a digital component will be viewed as second-rate. Ray Irving, director of our Center for Digital Education, sees those signs already.

“Some of the world’s leading universities are frightened about the change,” he said. “Institutions you would never have thought would offer an online MBA are strongly considering it.”

Our investment in the CDE, which only launched in October, was prescient in positioning us to respond to this crisis. But as Ray notes, we had already taken steps to move well beyond Zoom lectures before the crisis overcame us.

He envisions asynchronous content delivery using videos, recording and animations. He foresees a rich range of high-quality resources for students. And he also foresees opening the opportunity to world-class business education to students who might not otherwise be able to access it such as professionals working abroad for NGOs or active-duty military.

“We can cast our net to the world,” he said. “We never want to get away from what we’re about. We’re about education. With this faculty, we can be one of the best in the world.”

In the midst of this pandemic, we have quickly shown faculty and students not only that they can teach and learn in virtual classrooms, collaborating in digital breakout rooms across time zones and cultures—but that they can learn (and practice) valuable skills that will serve them in their 21st century careers.

Students have already said as much. Here’s how Mac Farrell, class of 2023 in Arts & Sciences, described the virtual case competition in Konstantina’s Management 100 course.

“Thank you for providing me with the most unbelievable learning experience I can say I have ever had in my academic career,” he wrote. “This project was the most intellectually stimulating and difficult task I have had to do, but I have learned both individual and team skills that I believe will be valuable not just in college, but for the rest of my life.”