As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I'm also a U College adjunct faculty member in communications. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.
When wholesale changes on the supply side of the MBA marketplace converge with similar changes on the demand side, a new opportunity emerges—an opportunity WashU Olin is filling with its new online MBA program. That’s the message from Patrick Moreton, academic director for the program, which debuts in January.
Moreton delivered that message in a 24-minute video interview with Kristy Gray Bleizeffer, a business writer for Poets & Quants, on November 10.
On the demand side, “suddenly people had these supercharged sets of skills working in the virtual environment, which created an opportunity to rethink what you can do successfully in that environment,” said Moreton, who is also a professor of practice in strategy and management at Olin. Then, at the same time on the supply side, “our faculty obviously went through a huge, but really quite successful learning curve that gave them a very different set of tools than we’ve had in the past.”
These factors and more converged to inspire Olin’s new program—a full and robust MBA program that prepares students to lead an enterprise, but with a twist. It’s about preparing digitally enabled leaders who are prepared to strategically leverage technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and even emerging technologies in the future as they guide the enterprise.
“How does new technology change the kinds of solutions that emerge for those sets of problems?” Moreton noted in his conversation with P&Q.
At the same time, the program remains true to Olin’s four pillars of excellence: values-based, data-driven decision-making; entrepreneurship and innovation; experiential learning; and global outlook. Given the global opportunity for the online MBA, Moreton said, Olin is well-positioned the draw on its worldwide network of business school partners.
Longtime WashU benefactors Judy and Jerry Kent have again stepped up with a new challenge designed to raise $2 million toward new and increased scholarship pledges, multiyear pledges and endowed scholarships aimed at supporting WashU Olin students.
Dean Mark P. Taylor announced the Kent Scholarship Challenge on Thursday at the annual Scholars in Business event, designed to recognize students who have benefitted from scholarships—as well as the many benefactors who have contributed to support them.
“Judy and Jerry’s commitment to scholarships is evident in their ongoing generosity that dates back to 1998,” Taylor said at Thursday’s event. “They have personally impacted at least 75 Olin students through the Kent Scholars Program and hope to inspire others to give back and support the bright and deserving Olin students who are the next generation of business leaders.”
The Scholars in Business program was established in 1979 with 17 business scholarships at Washington University. In the ensuing 42 years, more than 6,000 students have benefitted from nearly 500 scholarships, including more than 45 Legacy Scholarships. These are scholarships given by donors who themselves received a named scholarship when they attended Olin.
Jerry Kent, BSBA ’78, MBA ’79, and Judy previously established the Kent Scholars Program at Olin in 2008 with a $3 million contribution. The program awards five four-year scholarships to first-year students in the bachelor’s in business administration program.
This new challenge will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for every new or increased annual fund gift up to $50,000. It will also provide up to a $100,000 match for new endowed scholarships. The challenge begins effective immediately and will remain in place until the $2 million goal is met.
Jerry Kent began his career as a CPA with Arthur Andersen and moved in 1983 to build a career in the cable television industry, starting with the upstart Cencom Cable Associates, where he eventually became CFO before it was sold in 1991. He co-founded Charter Communications in 1993, leading that firm to become one of the 10 largest cable operators in the US with 1.3 million customers.
For the third consecutive year, WashU Olin placed #1 on Poets & Quants ranking of MBA entrepreneurship programs. Indeed, “this year it wasn’t close at all. You all won by a lot,” according to one person connected with P&Q’s ranking process.
“I am beyond gratified—but not surprised—to learn that WashU Olin’s MBA entrepreneurship program has again topped the Poets & Quants ranking,” said Mark P. Taylor, dean of Olin Business School. “Our decisive claim on that ranking this year is a testament to the priority we place on sparking the entrepreneurial spirit in our students. We count entrepreneurship among Olin’s four pillars of excellence, and we take care to imbue that spirit throughout our course offerings and programs.”
Following publication of the site’s ranking, editors from Poets & Quants hosted a livestream event at 11 a.m. CT today (see video below) to formally unveil the results and interview Dean Taylor and Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director of the entrepreneurship platform.
“It’s hard for any one school to stay on top for three consecutive years, particularly in a field that has seen many schools double down on their commitments to entrepreneurship,” P&Q wrote in its ranking story. “But Olin pulled off a three-peat with little difficulty.”
The P&Q ranking was based on an analysis of 16 components of a school’s entrepreneurship program. They included dimensions such as the number of startups launched, available elective courses in entrepreneurship, students in entrepreneurship clubs, the percentage of MBAs taking related courses and the percentage of faculty teaching related courses.
WashU Olin placed first in only two of those dimensions. As P&Q wrote: “WashU won top honors for having the highest percentage of MBAs launching companies (2017-2020), and the highest percentage of MBA students involved in a startup this past year.” Given that showing, Olin’s first place overall suggests steadiness and consistency across the P&Q methodology, rather than significant ups and down across categories.
“We came in strong across the board because we have a culture of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit infused throughout the school,” Villhard said. “And our student body is diverse, thus our startup founders are also diverse. Which makes for really rich ideas and a really special place to advance one’s entrepreneurial pursuits.”
Innovating within innovation
WashU Olin topped the list with a total weighted score of 100. Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, took second with a score of 82.67. Rounding out the top five in P&Q’s ranking were Rice University in Houston; ESADE in Barcelona; and IE Business School in Madrid.
“I’m proud of and thankful for the leadership Doug, II and the entire Olin team provide in this area,” Taylor said.
That collaboration has led to innovations in the program, some implemented only in the past year. They include new courses such as Innovation for Healthcare, Innovation for Defense and Acquisition Entrepreneurship. Another new course, aimed at star student startup founders in the digital and tech space, is known colloquially as “The League,” an accelerator of ideas that features coaching from Olin’s “Mount Rushmore” of the most successful WashU graduates in the field.
Throughout the pandemic and into the launch of WashU Olin’s new exclusively online programs, the school’s faculty members have collaborated with Olin’s Center for Digital Education to reimagine their course curriculum to serve students in engaging, rigorous—and virtual—ways.
The CDE has created “trailers,” if you will, featuring the work of six faculty members who speak about their online classes. Their virtual coursework samples range from the power of text mining to interpreting financial statements, to estimating a mature company’s future stock growth.
New programs include Olin’s online specialized master’s programs, which focus for now on accounting, finance and business analytics. The programs launched this fall and provides students the chance to earn stackable certificates that culiminate in a degree. Olin is also launching an exclusively online MBA program in January that will be aimed specifically at empowering students to lead in a digital enabled world.
That said, the virtual coursework isn’t built exclusively for the online programs. Some professors “flip their classrooms,” providing virtual learning as a means of transferring knowledge—allowing students to do that work on their own time in their own place—while reserving in-person classroom time for engagement activities, discussion and team projects.
David Karandish’s Answers.com was a whopping success, but he was on the ropes 90 days after he began running it. How did his earlier startups teach him to take a punch?
Karandish is, by any standard, a massively successful entrepreneur. His most noteworthy transaction is the sale of Answers.com for $960 million—a “rounded unicorn,” he says, using startup shorthand for a billion-dollar deal.
But that success was hard-fought and made possible by a litany of failures and one unexpected disaster. Meanwhile, those failures—and that one big success—paved the way for what already promises to be another massive hit for Karandish, BSCS ’05. Capacity, his AI-driven customer support platform has been on a tear.
This is the story of what led to that moment, how David and his team responded, what in his history informed that response and how he’s carried those lessons into his next chapter with Capacity.
Along the way, we learn something about the difficulty of thinking in terms of failure—though failure was the fate of his first six startups. We learn about the danger of taking customer acquisition for granted. We learn how a successful entrepreneur can roll up the lessons into one more big win.
And we begin to understand why it’s so important to learn how to take a punch.