Author: Emma Vogel


About Emma Vogel

Emma Vogel is a student video intern for Olin Marketing and Communications. She is a Digital Film Production major at Missouri State University.

Aimee Wittman and Jim Beirne from the WashU Career Center and adjunct professor Robert Portnoy began the Business Fundamentals and Professional Competencies for Non-Business Students course as a career education opportunity and a way WashU Olin can provide non-business students with a better understanding of the business mindset and business vocabulary.

The course is centered on three areas of professional competency that are universal across all fields: leadership, interpersonal communication skills and business mindset.

Students who take the course are exposed to strategic and tactical perspectives and explore topics including strategic decision-making, accounting, data analytics and marketing.

“The course is composed of an overarching framework of building a business mindset coupled with a career exploration journey,” Wittman said. It is then divided into topical areas led by various faculty through the use of case studies and assignments designed by the faculty for their specific fields of expertise.

Specific coursework allows students to gain an understanding of what companies are looking for and identify their own skills in the process. This includes resume building, learning how to use LinkedIn, practicing informational interviews and career assessment activities.

Students also participate in a business simulation in which they are divided into competing teams and must create they own companies. The simulation allows the students to incorporate business decision-making and business mindsets.  

Going into its sixth year, the course is open to 40 students per semester.

According to Wittman, students have responded well to the course and have gotten a lot out of it by developing an appreciation of the vocabulary and mindset. In addition to this, they gain confidence in skills and an immersion into new thinking.

Brinda Gupta, MBA ’20 nabbed a second-place award for her research on earned income tax credits at the university-wide Graduate Research Symposium. At the symposium on March 19, 2019, Gupta presented work she supports through Washington University’s Social Policy Institute.

The study, in partnership with Intuit Inc. and Duke University, posed the hypothetical probability that earned income tax credit recipients would postpone use of their tax refund for six months if offered modest savings bonuses. The EITC is a refundable tax credit and is an opportunity for recipients to increase savings in low- and moderate-households. However, refunds are often used for other purposes such as making large purchases and reducing unsecured debt.

Individuals are likely to save part of their tax refund if they are offered modest bonuses. This has significant policy implications because it suggests that people will save their refund at a much lower rate than what is proposed in a senate bill.”

This work has been done through the Social Policy Institute under the guidance of professors Michal Grinstein-Weiss and Mat Despard. This work is also timely given Olin’s focus on business and policy, such as coursework MBA students take in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the Brookings Institution.

“My role at the Social Policy Institute has magnified my classroom experiences in unique ways such as applying lessons about cross-sector collaboration, industry’s impact in policymaking, and behavioral economics,” Gupta said.

Washington University’s Social Policy Institute will be formally launched in September 2019. Dean Taylor, Kurt Dirks, and Bart Hamilton serve on its faculty steering committee.

Judges, students, faculty, and staff were excited by the study and research presented. Gupta was the only Olin student who presented at the symposium.

“Winning second place alongside PhD students from across campus was extremely humbling and inspired me to continue to take on more responsibilities with the institute team next year,” Gupta said.

The St. Louis Business Journal released its 2019 “30 Under 30” list featuring five Olin alumni: Daphne Benzaquen, Breona Butler, Brian Chao, Joseph McDonald and Phillip Sangokoya. Here’s a summary with links to each honoree’s full write-up on the Business Journal website.

Daphne Benzaquen, PMBA ’17, at 29 years old is the creative designer and CEO of daph., a lifestyle brand in which high-quality baby alpaca fur and llama leather pieces are created and 20% of sales are donated to Peruvian and St. Louis communities. In addition to daph., Benzaquen founded The Chomp blog and Daphne Benzaquen Consulting. She also serves as community director of ThriveCo.

Breona Butler, PMBA ’18, at 27 years old is an IT portfolio manager at Keefe Commissary Network. Butler pursued her MBA to bridge the gap between business and technology. Through her ability to understand business and technology, she has helped reduce her department’s costs by 15%.

Brian Chao, BSBA ’12, MBA ’13, at 29 years old is the chief financial officer at the Starkloff Disability Institute. Prior to accepting this position, Chao had been a passionate supporter of the Institute. Through his position at Starkloff Disability Institute, Chao has helped to raise more the $1 million in a year for the first time.

Joseph McDonald, EN ’15, MBA ’15, at 27 years old is the co-founder and COO at Epharmix, a digital health care company. Epharmix, which McDonald launched following graduating WashU, “simplifies proactive patient engagement for providers, payers and employers.”

Phillip Sangokoya, BSBA ’11, at 29 years old is the specialty finance relationship manager and the assistant vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation. In three months, Sangokoya has “underwritten and/or closed over $10 million in investments to organizations advancing social impact, small business growth and real estate.” In addition, he also is the co-founder of BRAND of St. Louis.