Author: Sydney Miller

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About Sydney Miller

PMBA 44, former journalist & editor, and perpetual student. I previously managed social media for Olin's Marketing & Communications Department. Now, I serve the same role for the WashU medical school.


As the passive investing strategy has taken the market by storm, criticism of index funds and common ownership have increased: Are index funds evil (as asked by The Atlantic)? Are they bad for the economy?

Common ownership came under fire last year with a study finding that “airlines compete less vigorously on price because they are owned by the same handful of investors,” writes David Nicklaus.

However, in an interview with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Olin’s Todd Gormley, associate professor of finance, provides a defense for companies with higher index-fund ownership: They actually have better governance.

An active money manager who doesn’t like the way a company is run can simply sell the shares. The passive manager doesn’t have that choice. “In their view, the only way they can protect themselves is to make sure there are good governance structures in place,” Gormley said.

Besides, he said, long-term passive investors often back activist hedge funds that attempt to shake up a company. “We found a positive influence on governance,” Gormley said. “The presence of these index funds makes it easier for other investors, the activists, to get into a company and provide discipline over management.”

Gormley was recently quoted in the Princeton Alumni Weekly on the same subject, where he discusses the evidence of some positive effects of passive ownership.

Read the full article on The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Princeton Alumni Weekly.




At the end of the year, I like to look back at our analytics to see which of our blog posts were the most popular with readers throughout the year. It’s an interesting exercise in reflection—particularly because the 2016-2017 year commemorated our Centennial, which we celebrated this March.

In 2016, we said goodbye to a beloved dean and welcomed a new one, celebrated a #1 ranking and kicked off our Centennial. What did 2017 have in store?

Take a look back at 2017 through our 10 most popular blog posts:


10. Managing the Millennial Wave

As a millennial, the enormous interest in learning about managing millennials (and my favorite, communicating with us—“Millennials, we’re just like you!”) is both fascinating and, I will say, a little amusing. But intergenerational communication and collaboration are important. And because millennials are increasingly entering the workforce, questions about retention, job satisfaction, and what makes us tick are (or should be) important to management.

Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior Andrew Knight presented his research on the topic in August—including some of the misconceptions about the oft-cited “narcissistic” and “entitled” generation.

Laura and Adam Stumpf

9. Stumpy’s Spirits: A grain to glass startup

Adam Stumpf, PMBA ’14, has defined a unique niche within the small-batch spirits category of the distilling industry. The ingredients for his brand, Stumpy’s Spirits, are sourced from the Illinois farm surrounding his craft distillery. And the farm has been in his family for eight generations.

Adam answered some of our questions about his PMBA experience, securing funding for his small-batch spirits venture, and the not-so-glamorous side of entrepreneurship.

8. Lacob Speaker Series opens with Cardinals v. Cubs

The Joseph S. Lacob Business of Sports Speaker Series provides students opportunities to network and interact with sports insiders working at all levels of industry. Kicking off the 2017 series (and Opening Day) was an exciting matchup of owners of baseball rivals the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, Bill DeWitt III and Tom Ricketts.

7. Are you ready to fail? 

Raisaa dutifully chronicled her first year in the United States and as an MBA student at Olin—including the not-so-wonderful parts, in the form of internship and job rejections.

In “Are you ready to fail?” Raisaa perfectly captures the necessary grit and can-do attitude needed to survive a rigorous MBA program—or life, for that matter. As it landed on our list of most popular blog posts of 2017, our readers obviously felt the same.

6. Poets & Quants ranks Olin Undergrad Program #2

This time last year, we were celebrating Olin’s #1 undergraduate ranking in Poets & Quants. In 2017, Poets & Quants ranked Olin’s undergraduate program #2 nationally—second only to Wharton—after the ranking experienced an influx of participating institutions, from 50 in its inaugural year to 82 in 2017.

“We are very proud to be at the top of Poets & Quants’ undergraduate rankings for the second year in a row. It’s a testament to Olin’s academic excellence and student satisfaction, particularly in a much larger field of top business schools,” said Dean Mark Taylor.

5. Our lunch with Warren Buffett

What’s a trip to Omaha without a business lunch with Warren Buffett? A group of 20 students met the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway for lunch and an intimate Q&A session, where Buffett commented on the pressing issues of the day, from nuclear weapons to income inequality.

He also did not shy away from reflecting on his personal life, emphasizing the importance of family and true friendship: “You don’t feel bad about your life if you feel good about your family,” he told students.

4. Gear up for Meet the Firms on 9/13 and 9/19

Meet the Firms, Olin’s largest networking and recruiting event of the year, is always a topic of intense interest for students. The event offers students a chance to rub elbows with representatives from hundreds of national and global companies seeking interns and full-time employees.

Firms that attended this year’s event include Emerson, Equifax, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, RubinBrown LLP, Walmart, and World Wide Technology, among others.

3.  Olin welcomes new faculty

2017 was a record-breaking year for Olin faculty. We welcomed five tenure-track female professors, as well as a female visiting professor in economics from Carnegie Mellon.

In addition, the MBA Class of 2019 reported an uptick in gender equity, with 39 percent women.

Among the newcomers:

  • Ashley Hardin, assistant professor of organizational behavioral
  • Xing Huang, assistant professor of finance
  • Karam Kang, visiting professor of economics
  • Zhenyu Liao, postdoc for organizational behavior
  • Hannah Perfecto, assistant professor of marketing
  • Rachel Ruttan, assistant professor of organizational behavior
  • Sydney Scott, assistant professor of marketing

2. Richa’s story: From Bollywood to Olin MBA 

Bollywood star Richa Gangopadhyay is a recent alumna of the Olin Full-Time MBA Program. Richa walked away from fame and a five-year film career in India to pursue a career in business.

Richa shared her exceptional journey from suburban Indo-American girl to A-list actress to Olin with Poets & Quants in March, which we excerpted on the Olin Blog:

“There is something to be said about the Olin community. It’s incredibly close-knit and there’s just this sense of camaraderie among the students and the faculty that really appealed to me. It has a real eclectic blend of students from different backgrounds. It wasn’t just different professional backgrounds, but different thought leaders as well. For me, an appeal was being able to share my unique experiences in a business realm as a film actress. I have a really divergent perspective to share through the practical learning opportunities that I had.”

1. Fashion startup aims to ‘romp up’ men’s fashion

Wherever you land on the issue of rompers for men (and according to your social media feedback, many of you are decidedly against the trend), there was a lot of shared community pride surrounding the fact that Olin alumnus Daniel Webster-Clark, BSBA ’11 and MSF ’11, and three friends were the brains behind the fashion startup that “broke the internet.”

Daniel’s RompHim garnered attention from GQ, Vogue, and Buzzfeed—not to mention a lot of spirited feedback on #RompHim. He spoke to the Olin Blog about how RompHim came to be, making the move from finance to fashion, and life as an entrepreneur.


What big changes are in store for Olin next year? Instead of waiting for a roundup, I’d encourage you to follow and engage with the Olin community in real time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn (and of course, submit to the Olin Blog). See you next year!




Congratulations to four members of the Olin community—including a current Executive MBA student—selected as up and coming leaders in the St. Louis Business Journal’s annual 40 Under 40 Awards. More than 500 nominations were submitted for the awards this year.

Here are awardees with strong ties to Olin:

Shannon Bagley, EMBA 2015

Vice President at Centene

Ryan Moss, BSBA 2001

Project Director at McCarthy

Jared Ogden, EMBA

Founder and CEO of Triumph Systems

Adam Tenzer, MBA 2007

Vice President at Mastercard




The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently profiled the Olin alumnus behind one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the country.

Chuck Cohn, BSBA ’08 and a 2017 Emerging Leader Honoree, is the founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction online, on mobile devices and in person.

In his interview with the Post-Dispatch, he offered this advice to other entrepreneurs:

First, do something you are passionate about. It can be incredibly hard to build something that customers and the world value, so it’s important that you are passionate about the work you are doing. I know the work we are doing actually helps people and I get to see the positive feedback, testimonials and the impact we have on a lot of learners and it is really rewarding.

Second, listen to your customers. If you build something that solves their problems and helps them, you are a lot more likely to be successful. It’s important to survey your customers and never accept the status quo.

Last, you need to test everything. You need to constantly be trying to improve every aspect of your operation. Eventually you’ll build something special.

Check out the full Q&A with Chuck on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

#OlinKudos, Chuck!




Photo, above: Harry Schmidt, Passavant President and CEO. Photo credit: Passavant Area Hospital

We’re always excited to see Olin alumni in the news, and this interview with Harry Schmidt, EMBA 44, caught our attention in particular.

Harry came to Olin’s Executive MBA program with a full military career under his belt, having served as a pilot in the Navy for 20 years. He is currently the President and CEO of Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, overseeing 960 employees and a $120 million budget.

Harry was recently a guest on Beyond the Uniform, a podcast that showcases veterans and their transitions into new careers. Harry spoke with Beyond the Uniform Founder and Host Justin Nassiri about planning his transition to a new career, the leadership advantages veterans bring to employment, and his choice to pursue an Executive MBA degree at Olin. Check out highlights from the podcast, or listen to the full interview below:


When you were on active duty, how did you start to prepare for your transition?

It’s a great question because there’s a ton of uncertainty and ambiguity regardless if you’re leaving after one tour or after a full career. I started the process late, probably about six months before retiring which is not a lot of time. I was very fortunate that I had a neighbor who was able to help me through the process. This ultimately ended up being the tie that got me into healthcare.

When a service member is transitioning, I think it’s important to set boundaries and parameters for what kind of a job or career you want afterward. Otherwise, you could end up chasing something that’s someone else’s dream. It could be a fit for someone else but not for you. My family and I wanted to come back to the mid-west. That was the fit for us.

What the civilian sector is looking for is leadership skills—the leadership skills we have learned through getting a lot of responsibility early in our careers, dealing with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. People in the civilian sector are looking for people that can handle these situations and make great decisions within volatility and uncertainty. That’s the skillset that’s transferrable regardless of your warfare specialty.

At what point did you decide to pursue an Executive MBA at Washington University?

It’s been one of the pivotal points in my short civilian career, and I don’t think I would have this role as CEO of a hospital without that education. As veterans, we learn a lot just through on-the-job experience. We learn about finance and budgeting through the money our team or department is allocated each year. But in a lot of ways, we miss out on the revenue side of the operating statement. Taxpayers are giving us our revenue when we’re in the military so it’s a little different.

Regardless of your specialty in the military, the MBA can be a good way to round out your skillset and learn about terminology. I initially looked at a school and started a traditional MBA program, taking classes at night. But it was a little bit disjointed. I didn’t feel like I was being challenged in a way that I wanted to be. So I started looking at different opportunities and found the Washington University EMBA program. In the Executive MBA format, we met once a month for 2-3 days and then worked on projects together in between those meetings. The format set me towards what I wanted to do. I moved through the 20-month program with the same group of people in a cohort fashion. We were able to challenge each other because we had similar levels of experience.

I would also add that sometimes people think it’s just about the letters behind your name. But that mentality will only get you so far. More than the degree itself, I want to know where the person got that degree from. I want to know that they had meaningful conversations about business with others in the program, that they had negotiations and debate. Work gets done in business through relationships, so I want to know that a person developed these skills during their degree program.

What advice would you give to a transitioning military member that feels intimidated by the thought of “starting over” in the civilian sector?

Be a life-long learner. Don’t be afraid to learn something new or take advantage of a new opportunity. Most people would be happy to sit down with you if you wanted to learn more about their industry or what they are doing. Use LinkedIn, make a meaningful connection. I would also recommend various veterans networks. I’m working right now with a group called Elite Meet. It’s a group that looks to connect former special forces and fighter pilots with private sector opportunities. There was also a really strong veterans network at Washington University. I’m sure this is the same at many other schools as well. There’s so many people out there that are willing to help and want you to be successful.


We love to share updates on our alumni with the Olin community. If you have news to share, let us know at blog@olin.wustl.edu.