Author: Olivia Hanford

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About Olivia Hanford

Olivia Hanford is the social media specialist for WashU Olin Business School, based in Olin's Marketing and Communication Department. She graduated in 2020 from Saint Louis University, where she studied communication on the journalism and media studies track, with minors in visual communication and marketing.


Established by former Olin professor Cliff Holekamp, the Holekamp Seed Fund provides $1,000 in funding to student entrepreneurs. The award helps students kickstart their business ventures without financial obligation.

Fund directors—Holekamp, Elise Miller Hoffman, BA ’11 and MBA ’16, and Doug Villard, Olin’s academic director for entrepreneurship—select deserving students. Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis until the funds run out.

This year’s awardees

Lloyd Yates, MBA ’22, founded Tylmen, a direct-to-consumer line of accessories includes ties, belts, scarves and even face masks that double as pocket squares.

Greenlight, co-founded by Evan O’Connor, BSBA ’20, is an online shopping extension that grades sustainability of brands and offers alternatives.

Arron Zheng, BSBA ‘22, co-founded EDUrain. EDUrain is an app that simplifies college financials by bringing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), scholarships and housing fees together in one place.

Made by BLU creates gourmet nut butters using natural, high-quality and traditional ingredients in the base product then adding exciting mix-ins. It was created by Fiona Blumin, BSBA ’21.

Elijah Olasunkanmi, BS ‘22, is the operating officer at Innovative Apollo Media. The service, RaiseMeFunds, is similar to GoFundMe, but is accessible to people in West African countries.

FreeEats, founded by Trey Rudolph, BSBA ‘23, seeks to reduce food waste. The mobile app provides information on leftover free food produced on college campuses.

Founded by Laife Fulk, MBA ‘21, Sherpa combines data and technology to guide event staff with real-time information.

Lumière is a streaming platform designed for short films aimed to revolutionize the way that short films are consumed worldwide. Trey Checkett, BSBA ‘22, is the founder.

Amanda Foley, MBA ’21, and Tom Dart, MBA ‘21 are co-founders of DRIPTEK. DRIPTEK automatically lubricates wires for cranes and elevators significantly reducing downtime.

Applications for the fund are open to current Washington University juniors, seniors and graduate students. Students must be US citizens or permanent residents. You must have at least 25 percent ownership of your startup venture. To apply, visit the Holekamp Seed Fund website




In March, Chinese students gathered in Beijing and Shanghai for two weeklong residency programs. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the residencies were the first time many of the students met in person.

Members of the Weston Career Center team in both the US and China designed the programs, and undergraduate, MBA and specialized masters students attended.

Each day’s activities centered on one of Olin’s pillars of excellence: values-based, data-driven decision making; global experiences; entrepreneurial spirit; and experiential learning. The week culminated with an experiential learning project to solve a real-world business problem for the athletic footwear company New Balance.

Throughout the week, students interacted with classmates, engaged with alumni, listened to industry leaders and met with their career coaches.

The human connection

The opportunity to meet her peers face to face stood out to Ruxin (Andrea) Zeng, MSBA ’22. She’d met her cohort through Zoom, but the residency gave her opportunities to interact with her peers in a casual environment.

Learning from industry leaders

Wenxin (Hugo) Xue, MSCA ’22, enjoyed the opportunity to listen to industry leaders. As a business analytics student, he was excited to learn more about the future of big data and how it could affect his career.

Endless opportunities in business

Similarly, Yang Shen, MSBA ’22, found it helpful to learn more about different opportunities in business, whether he networked with employers or listened to various distinguished alumni.

The WCC team planned excursions for students to enjoy during breaks from their coursework. The Beijing students took a day trip to the Great Wall of China, while the Shanghai students took a night cruise down the Huangpu River.


At this year’s virtual panel, the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award winners shared career advice to students and professionals through the lens of WashU Olin’s values-based, data-driven approach to leadership.

For more than 30 years, Olin has recognized a select group of alumni who have attained distinction in their respective fields and share strong leadership characteristics. This year’s honorees span a wide variety of areas, from investment to tech.

The honorees spoke of the values-based, data-driven approach instilled in them at Olin and how they have applied this approach in their careers. They answered theoretical questions tossed around in Olin classrooms: What do you do when there isn’t any data, and how should you react when data and values collide?

On the absence of data

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Vitale, PMBA ’94. As CEO and president of Post Holdings, he was forced to make decisions that would impact consumers without any data at hand.

“It was less about data than the absence of data,” he said. “Our very first value is to protect each other. We had to balance our primary value of protecting our employees against our obligation to keep supply chains running and food available to people. Then, we had to manage that with a significant absence of data.”

Andrew Rubin, BSBA ’98, CEO and co-founder of Illumio, struggled to provide answers to his employee’s “what ifs” during COVID-19.

“It became reassuring to stop trying to predict the future. We didn’t know. We didn’t have data, and it was OK to admit that. A lack of data is something we had to get comfortable with.”

On when to prioritize your values

When analyzing data isn’t an option, it’s imperative to lean back into your values. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd last summer, people are watching to see how companies would react.

“It’s incumbent to us as leaders to be fact-based, truthful, authentic and to take a stand appropriately,” says Eric Veiel, MBA ’99, co-head of global equity and head of US equity at T. Rowe Price. “That doesn’t come easy and everyone won’t completely agree. But if they believe you are doing it for the right reasons, it becomes a much more manageable and productive conversation.”

Kelli P. Washington, CFA, BSBA ’94, managing director of research and investment strategy at Cleveland Clinic Investment Office, shared her thoughts about the next generation of leaders, including Olin students.

“Today’s young adults are going to push for alignment with their values. Our ability to attract them to work for and with us is going to hinge on our ability to align with what they feel is important.”

Watch the full conversation, moderated by Olin’s Stuart Bunderson.


Olin’s Leadership Perspectives speaker series culminated in lessons on leadership with Dean Mark P. Taylor and General John R. Allen, president of the Brookings Institution. Covering leadership skills in business, government, military and academia, Taylor and Allen advocated for globalization, collaboration and a strong values system. Army veteran Vic Fields, EMBA ’22, moderated the discussion.

Here are five takeaways from the event:

Leaders must have a global outlook

The best leaders look beyond their environment and into the world.

“It’s virtually impossible for someone to aspire to leadership without having a sense of global fluency. The more you understand about societies, economies and histories, the more you are able to lead and be a factor for good in the global community,” said Allen.

Taylor reflected on Olin’s commitment to global education, specifically the full-time MBA’s global immersion program. However, all Olin programs require a global component to stretch students outside of their comfort zone and provide them with a foundational understanding.

Effective leadership is a continuous learning experience

Although both have many years of effective leadership under their belts, Taylor and Allen agreed they are continuously learning how to be influential leaders. Finding a personal leadership style is shaped by career and life experience, so it should change over time.

Strong leaders fall back on their values

At Olin, we pride ourselves on values-based, data-driven decision-making. Taylor and Allen echoed the same sentiment. While data can change, a values system should never waver.

“In a world where there are so many conflicting messages and sources at work, we are desperately in need of young leaders who are willing to accept responsibility and willing to lead,” says Allen. Being decisive and values-based is essential to succeed as a leader.

Good leaders face risks head on

As leaders of their respective communities, both Allen and Taylor are forced to make decisions that require risk. In decision-making, it is crucial to weigh the risk by analyzing the data.

“Good leaders aim to succeed. Bad leaders aim not to fail,” says Taylor regarding risk-taking in his position.

People first

Thinking about risks and COVID-19, Taylor emphasized how students were top of mind. Understanding the risk of the COVID-19 virus, Taylor asked himself a series of questions: “How do we make sure that our students get a first-class education and still graduate? How do we handle the loss of internships? How do we get students back into the classroom safely?”

To learn more about leadership and values-based, data-driven decision-making, watch the full event here.


At the 2021 edition of WashU Olin’s popular “She Suite” event, panelists celebrated the achievements of St. Louis women in business and provided insight on how to advocate for equality in the workplace environment.

At the event, held virtually on March 8, International Women’s Day, moderator Staci Thomas, professor of practice in communications, introduced a panel that included Anne Anderson, MBA ’02, Khalia Collier, Erin Harkless Moore, BSBA ’05, and Marcela Hawn, MA ’11.

The women shared testimonies of success and failure, lessons learned in the workforce and advice to aspiring professionals. 

While their expertise spanned industries, all panelists spoke about the hesitation and pressure they felt during the application process. According to a LinkedIn Business study, women feel they need to meet 100% of the job qualifications before applying to a job. Meanwhile, men will usually apply if they meet 60% of the qualifications.

“Women fall victim to perfection and minimization when thinking about advancement,” said Harkless Moore, investment director at Pivotal Ventures. “Do not be shy about advocating your experience and how it applies to your work.”

“Women do not ask enough during negotiations,” said Collier, vice president of community relations at St. Louis CITY SC and owner of the St. Louis SURGE women’s professional basketball team. She stressed the importance of aiming for the extraordinary. “Tell your whole story. Be bold. Be confident.” 

Even on the hiring side, Hawn, senior vice president and chief communications officer at Centene, said she roots for the female applicants who do not shy away from negotiations in the interview process. 

While there certainly has been a huge push towards gender equality in the workplace, the panel agreed that there is still a long way to go. However, these women already use their influence for good. 

“It is up to each woman individually to use the chair that she’s sitting in to help progress gender equality further,” concluded Anderson, vice president of the Chemicals America division at Shell Chemical.