Author: Guest Blogger


About Guest Blogger

From time to time we have professors, students, staff, alumni, or friends who are not regular contributors, but want to share something with the community. Be sure to look at the bottom of the post to see the author.

Christina Xue, BSBA ’21, was the student speaker at the virtual undergraduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 21, 2021, selected by her peers. Here is what she had to say to her fellow graduates.

Thank you, Dean Taylor, for the kind introduction. Students, faculty, family and friends: I am incredibly honored to be the student speaker for our graduating class of 2021 and to share a bit of my story and reflections with all of you.

When I first came to WashU— I was definitely apprehensive. Being born and raised in New Jersey, I was convinced I wanted to stay in my Northeast bubble forever. Coming to the Midwest, which seemed like the great unknown, had never been part of my life plans. I honestly couldn’t even place Missouri or St. Louis on a map. But—I learned to adapt, as we all did.

Now, after reflecting upon the past four years at WashU, I’m glad that I left comfort zone. This university has taught me a multitude of lessons, but one of the most important ones is to expect and embrace change. Change can be big or small. For example, change is realizing that College Hall is now called Risa Commons. Change is declaring a history minor and realizing I have to do hundreds of pages of reading every week. Change is when, at the age of 4, my mom told me I would be a big sister and I didn’t quite understand what that meant. Change is watching my older sister get married this past year. Change is immigrating to a new country, as my parents did when they were only a few years older than I am now. Change is graduating.

‘The vitality of my support network’

People often say that one’s college years are some of the formative in their life, a platitude I find to hold true. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all evolved in some regard during the past few years— in the way we think, our beliefs and values, the knowledge we hold. For some of us, our sense of fashion and hairstyles have definitely changed for the better.

And of course, this past year alone has been the most transformative that our generation has and probably will ever, witness during our lifetimes. In a time where the unthinkable became reality, I realized the vitality of my support network during these moments of change and unpredictability. My family, roommates, and close friends have served not only as a pillar of stability, but as a motivating force in encouraging me to pursue my dreams and having the courage to step outside my comfort zone. They are the ones I laugh with about nothing and everything, the ones I cry to when a MEC exam didn’t go too well, and the ones I go to when I need brutally honest advice.

I hope that you all have found your support network during these past four years, and that you have a deeper appreciation for those people after the tragedies and hardships this past year has brought us. I hope that this support network follows you after we graduate, because while the grades and assignments we have may fade in our memories, the experiences and relationships we’ve made can be everlasting.

‘Resilience, courage and strength’

As we graduate and begin our journey as real adults, I hope that change takes us in exciting directions, be it grad school, jobs, or new locations. I also know, that after this past year, we are uniquely equipped to handle change however it may manifest itself. We have shown resilience, displayed courage, and have become stronger as a WashU community through the hardships and pandemic that have plagued our country and world at large.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” As this new dawn approaches, I hope that WashU has prepared you with the strength and intellectual curiosity you need to embrace change and leave your own mark on the world. I hope that life is full of change for you in the best ways possible.

Thank you.

Kendra Kelly, MBA ’21, was the student speaker at the virtual graduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 21, 2021, selected by her peers. Here is what she had to say to her fellow graduates.

Friends, family, faculty, staff, and class of 2021 graduates—hello. My name is Kendra Kelly, and I am proud to be speaking to you today as a 2021 graduate of our full-time MBA program and elected student speaker for today’s graduation.

Driven by a desire to catapult our careers, we came to Olin as strangers. For my class in particular, a six-week trip around the world forever changed our MBA, transforming us from strangers to so much more.

Together, we tackled strategic challenges for Raventos ii Blanc, Gramona and Para Ventura, which are incredible wineries in Barcelona—all the while becoming Cava connoisseurs. In Shanghai, we grappled with issues facing global supply chains for beloved brands like Zara and Nike, and we even created market-entry plans for St. Louis-based Strange Donuts in Shanghai.

Throughout our six weeks we worked hard and played harder. We learned Susie Bonwich gives a killer karaoke performance, Tyler Edwards will do anything to protect his friends, Flora Fahng, Gina Wang, Alex Yang, Aurora Chen, Karen Chen, Lin Chen, Yuki Goah, Zach Frantz, Kate Veronezi, Alex Ignatius make incredible tour guides and interpreters, Dean Ashley Macrander will ALWAYS have electrolytes and Tylenol available at the first sign of illness, and Lori Witherspoon, Ray Wagner and Tim Brandt can answer almost any questions you bring to them.

Strangers, acquaintances—then family

We supported each other in our breakdowns and sicknesses and cheered each other on when we shined under the bright lights of everything from our presentations to our painfully elementary mastery of “sheih sheih”—thank you in Mandarin.

You see, we came to Olin as strangers, left the country as acquaintances, and returned as family. That trip solidified our class as pioneers of our revamped program and bonded us in ways difficult to articulate to those who did not have the privilege of traveling with us.

But the reality is, whether you were on this trip or not, the events of the last year have also bonded us in immeasurable ways. When we entered graduate school we had no idea we’d be doing so under one of the most challenging years of our lives. Some of us lost loved ones, felt the sting of rescinded job offers, were separated from family and friends for months and months on end, and grappled with trauma as this nation wondered whether or not to denounce hate targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and debated if Black Lives Matter. We wrestled these challenges and many more against the backdrop of the realization that the business school experience we thought we’d have would look quite different by the end of it.

Yet amazingly, amidst the challenges of this last year, our community is stronger than ever. In a year that could have easily broken us, we banded together, realizing that our collective strength could fortify any lack of weakness we felt individually. The things that could have easily divided us, ultimately brought us together. THIS is what makes Olin such a special place, and our class, the class of 2021, an incredible class.

Cultivate your community

Our class is assertive, self-assured yet humble, hard-working, ambitious, and primed to make good on our mission to be values-based, data-driven business leaders. As we go out into the world, I implore you all to remember that our tight-knit bond IS our superpower and that much of the greatness we have achieved in this program is the result of this village— a wonderfully diverse village comprised of nearly 50% women, over 40% international students, many races, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations. We have seen repeatedly that we are our best when we work together. As we enter our careers and become glass-ceiling shattering, game-changing leaders, I challenge you to do these two things:

First, remember to be intentional in seeking out diversity of thought, experiences and people. Cultivate a community as beautifully diverse—and even more diverse!—than the one we’ve had the privilege to grow personally and professionally in for these last two years.

Secondly, similar to how at WashU we are all known by name, face and story, be intentional in creating teams where your teammates know they belong to foster truly inclusive environments.

At a time when corporate and academic institutions alike are standing up to say Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights matter, Climate Change matters, the rights of the Differently Abled matter, Mental Health Matters, Science Matters, and so much more— I urge you to enter your roles thinking about the collective WE. As this incredible class will undoubtedly build, create, market and strategize for all across the world.

Class of 2021–TOGETHER as peers, colleagues, allies, friends and, ultimately, as a family, we did it. Congratulations on becoming esteemed alumni of WashU Olin Business School.

Itohan Enadeghe, MBA ’21, Lungile Tshuma, MBA ’21, Chinazar Okoro, MBA ’22, and Oluwakemi Adene, MBA ’22, wrote this for the Olin Blog. They are all executive board members of the Olin Africa Business Club.

Olin Africa Business Club’s 2021 Spring Event explored the topic “The Future of Africa,” which featured entrepreneurs and leaders with experience in the African business landscape. Sneha Shah, Simba Mhuriro, Francis A. Obirikorang and Bilha Ndirangu sat on the panel while Liz Grossman Kitoyi, cofounder of Baobab Consulting, moderated. 

Members of the OABC Board huddle around their laptops to watch the event

Critical lessons from the panel: 

Entrepreneurship in Africa 

Entrepreneurs are willing to overlook the challenges of doing business in Africa because they are eager to build sustainable solutions. By sponsoring African entrepreneurship, they can unleash the potential in the continent. 

Barriers to overcome

Business policies set by older generations pose a threat for start-ups. These policies shape finances, corporate governance and the regulatory landscape for startup companies. There are also barriers to access power, the internet and sustainable finances.

Factors critical to growth

As in many countries, networking with business owners can create an avenue for new business owners to learn. Experience is the best teacher. 

Trends in the fintech industry 

With Africa’s huge potential market, it is not surprising to see many foreign investments in the fintech space. Recently, some of the leading fintech companies in Africa (Paystack, Flutterwave, OKRA) received investments worth more than $370 million. Many other companies are raising money to provide peer-to-peer payments. With many viable players, Africa is moving closer to solving the challenges in the fintech industry. 

Pitch competition 

The event also featured a pitch competition featuring a wide range of applicants. In the end, five finalists were selected. 

Onye, founded by Emmanuel Obasuyi, aims to improve patients healthcare services and reduce revenue loss by hospitals. They clinched first position, walking away with $9,000 in prize money. 

Renmo, founded by Patrick Pierson-Prah, eliminates the burden of upfront annual payments for tenants and provides financial freedom. Renmo emerged in second place and a $6,000 prize. 

Lastly, NaYa took home third place and $3,000. NaYa, founded by Marthe-Sandrine Mpollo, is a medical fintech company operating in Cameroon which provides funds to patients to access urgent healthcare without financial limitations.

All three winners will also receive personalized consulting services courtesy of Baobab Consulting.

Honorable mention was awarded to two other companies. Motorparts Nation, founded by Genera Moore, is tackling the auto industry in Ghana and Nigeria. The Naked Convos, founded by Olawale Adetula, creates an accessible, consistent and sustainable online platform to meet the demand for content generated by the Nigerian film industry.

Fashion show

Finally, the event wrapped up with a fashion show from designer Gamu Gandawa who showcased beautiful African print designs modeled by members of Olin’s MBA class. The filming of the fashion show was covered by Chinazar Okoro and Oluwakemi Adene, both MBA ’22, on Olin’s Instagram page

For coverage of the entire event, watch here. 

Ally Gerard, BSBA ’22, who was recently elected president of Olin’s Business of Sports Society, describes the origins of her interest in sports business and exciting plans for her upcoming term.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I was always intrigued by the sports and entertainment industry. I was never an athlete in the traditional sense (instead opting for a 12-year run at Irish dancing), but with nearly a dozen professional and collegiate teams in Southern California, there was never a night of sports-free television.

Soon enough, that avid fandom evolved into a profound passion for the business, at which point a top-notch Midwest university with a budding sports business program piqued my interest.

When I told people—even family and friends—I would be studying sports business at WashU, they questioned my academic and professional interests. “So … you just want to be on TV?” “Interviewing players after the game?” “Is your goal to be like Jerry Maguire? Moneyball?”

I heard it all. In an ecosystem so consumed by Hollywood and cinematic wanderlust, nobody really understood my ambitions or could envision a place for females in top front office roles, given popular cultures’ skewed representation of the industry at large.

Supported inside and outside the classroom

In just three years, my sports business acumen has developed exponentially, through the support of Patrick Rishe, director of Olin’s sports business program, and my peers in BOSS. The Business of Sports Society was founded in October 2019 to help WashU students learn about and gain real-world experience in the sports and entertainment industry.

While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted much of our initial goals for the organization, I am beyond proud of the way our club has pivoted and thrived in the virtual environment.

I was elected president in October 2020 with the intention of promoting experiential learning, mentoring and working opportunities. We were able to quickly form a strong and passionate executive board, and we spent weeks this winter reflecting on the original direction of BOSS and altering our objectives to cater to the remote setting.

Over the past eight months, BOSS has launched four pro-bono sports consulting projects, welcomed eight industry leaders as guest speakers at biweekly meetings, and sent six student representatives to the 2020 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the holy grail of sports business conventions.

Spreading their wings at the SSAC

As a first-year student, I had the privilege of attending the SSAC in person in Boston in 2019, and after assuming the role of president I was committed to providing this opportunity (albeit virtual) for more of my peers. After appealing for funding from the Olin BSBA office, we were able to secure six conference tickets for our members to attend this unforgettable two-day virtual learning experience.

Between panels, presentations and networking events with the likes of Jessica Gelman, Daryl Morey, Mark Cuban and more, SSAC celebrated the resiliency of the industry and its ability to innovate moving forward. Our very own Devlin Sullivan, BSBA ’22, even won the prestigious MLB Hackathon Event in the student category!

As we continue to grow and progress as an organization, I look forward to future BOSS leaders providing these unique and memorable experiences for our members. Though I will soon transition BOSS leadership to the next generation of sports business change-makers, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to serve this wildly passionate and genuine community.

“BOSS has opened up endless doors for me,” said soon-to-be BOSS Vice President Eashan Kothari, BSBA ’24. “I have already learned endless amounts of information about this intricate industry, and I am grateful for the advice across a variety of topics that will help me succeed in life.”

This post was written for the Olin Blog by Joe Banstetter, Olin audio visual manager; Chris Hines, from Olin’s AV team; and Lara Harris, Olin’s director of operations.

At the close of the spring semester 2020, the university announced plans for the fall semester, committing to in-person learning for the opening of the 2020-2021 academic year. An unprecedented shift to online instruction left students, faculty and staff reeling, but also grateful to complete a successful spring semester.

With the realization that online instruction would not cease fully come fall—thanks to ongoing physical distancing requirements—an interdepartmental task force convened to analyze the existing audio-visual capabilities of Olin’s classroom spaces.

A collaborative effort toward the third horizon of the pandemic took place between Olin operations, the Center for Digital Education, the Olin AV team and a group of tech-savvy faculty members. With some discovery and research, guided by our AV integration partner, Olin developed a plan to enhance the online student experience in a hybrid learning environment.

Hybrid courses at Olin are taught in either “Hyflex” or “Hyflip” options—each distinguished by how students are scheduled in or out of the in-person classroom. Regardless of the teaching style, hybrid courses take place during regularly scheduled class times with faculty delivering content/instruction to both an in-person and online student population.

While Olin has the technology to deliver courses in this way, online participants are much less engaged and less satisfied with the experience. So we asked ourselves the question: How do we create an online space that enhances the student experience when attending classes via virtually?

Using tech to enhance engagement

There were some immediate upgrades that took place during summer 2020. All Olin classes had floor monitors installed to allow faculty to view their Zoom galleries on a separate monitor. Audio adjustments were made in approximately half of the classrooms to improve the online participants’ ability to hear instructors. Camera angles were adjusted and microphone settings improved.

And we also accounted for seemingly countless COVID operations protocols that had been established for the health and safety of our community. Still, an audio/visual project of the size and scope we needed would take a bit more time. …

A moving classroom camera

During winter break, three classrooms in Bauer Hall were upgraded as pilots for enhanced hybrid course delivery.  These upgrades include pan-tilt-zoom facial recognition and audio-responsive cameras, responsive microphone arrays, and full integration of both to allow for a more dynamic and immersive experience for our online students. In other words, the image will follow the speakers to help virtual learners.

Upgrades also included new touchscreen user interfaces and classroom lecterns. Faculty assigned to these rooms for spring 2021 were required to attend in-person training on the new UI’s and classroom controls.

Tech to track speakers

Our new ceiling microphone arrays look like ceiling tiles, but they have nearly a dozen microphones pointed strategically around the classroom. The microphone array is designed to receive audio more effectively, which allows for improved audio quality and clarity for our virtual students and attendees.

The ceiling microphone arrays integrate into the audiovisual system allowing the tracking cameras to find the current speaker and switch the camera view to whoever is speaking in the classroom.

Example of a microphone array

The new touch panel is combined with the computer monitor on the podium. Instructors can change how the tracking cameras react to the audio in the classroom. Three camera modes interact with the responsive microphones.

“Instructor-only mode” is similar to the standard across Olin classrooms.  Instructor mode stays on the individual delivering course content, typically at the front of the room. The new feature of this mode is that the camera will follow the instructor through facial recognition and audio-responsiveness wherever the instructor walks across the front of the room.

“Instructor/student mode” swaps back-and-forth between the instructor facing camera and student-facing cameras in response to the person speaking. Finally, “dynamic Q&A mode” shows the instructor and the student who is speaking in a side-by-side view. Dynamic Q&A mode is great for those instructors who have a lot of conversation or collaboration in the classroom.

In-the-classroom touchscreen display

These new additions help bring the virtual attendees closer to the in-classroom experience.

Surveys collected in early March indicated that, overall, faculty were pleased with the improvements, finding the tech easy to use. Students were likewise pleased with the upgrades, citing richer audio quality as the most important component.

More AV upgrades are planned for summer 2021 and will include many of the features included in our three pilot rooms. 

Any faculty interested in a one-on-one walkthrough of this new technology, please reach out to the Olin Audio Visual department at 314-935-8864 or