Author: Sydney Tomlin


About Sydney Tomlin

Sydney currently serves as the Admissions Operations Specialist for Olin’s Executive MBA Program. In this role, Sydney is responsible for working with EMBA candidates from first touchpoint through the application process and enrollment, as well as marketing communications and event initiatives. She enjoys writing, French, cooking, and all things tennis.

We recognize several familiar faces in St. Louis Magazine’s June issue!  Symbolically pictured in front of Knight Hall’s Frick Forum, the site of many graduation receptions and gatherings, Executive MBA (EMBA) alumni from diverse industries and different classes reunited for a special photo op during Olin’s Centennial year.

This photo is part of special advertising section on page 91 of the June 2017 edition of St. Louis Magazine.  Alumni of Olin’s EMBA program take part in this month’s issue that features the “Faces of St. Louis – 2017.”

Among these faces are, in the front row, from left: Drew Caylor, Louis York Capital; Gene Dobbs Bradford, Jazz St. Louis; Dr. Vamsi Narra,Washington University; Dr. Doug Pernikoff, Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic; Sara Wade, Express Scripts; and Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs.

The back row features, from left: Eric Willis, Nestlé Purina; Bill Hibner, Aegis Strategies; Rachel Andreasson, Wallis Companies; Dr. Ken Yamaguchi, Centene and Washington University; and Emily Pitts, Edward Jones.

These alumni represent a medley of classes, including, most recently, EMBA Class 46, that graduated in December 2016.  They also collectively hold a breadth of industry involvement, ranging from Doctors, entrepreneurs, and healthcare, financial and non-profit professionals.

While the photo presents the array of experienced professionals who have studied in the program, it also conveys the importance that different perspectives and career experiences bring to the teamwork that exists in and outside of the curriculum.

Fittingly so, many of the key phrases that sum up the 20-month journey of alumni through the program boil down to “transformational,” “life-changing,” and “collaborative.”  As students begin the rigorous curriculum of the program, they learn the basic strategy and financial aspects of business from a leadership perspective.  In turn, as the program centers on peer collaboration, relationships are formed as students with diverse industry backgrounds and experiences apply their real-world knowledge to foster innovative and disruptive ideas.

By the end of the program, the goal is for each student, and alumnus, to hold an integrated view of the enterprise and a model for leadership ready to apply anywhere.

Fun fact: did you know that there are currently more than 2,000 alumni of Olin Business School’s Executive MBA program? Learn more about how alumni apply Olin’s Executive MBA program in their endeavors.

On Friday, May 19, Denver’s Executive MBA class 49 welcomed a special speaker for a lunchtime presentation. Mariner Kemper, Chairman, President and
Chief Executive Officer of UMB Financial Corporation
, shared his insights at a special and opportune time, as the Class 49 students kicked off their Corporate Financial Management section of the first year of their EMBA curriculum.

Mariner Kemper

Kemper spoke on the evolution of the banking industry, specifically how he has seen it change over the years as well as the consistent and constant aspects of the business. He shared information about areas of business that have worked well with new ideas. Kemper also discussed decisions that have been made over the 100-plus year history at UMB, and how his organization has made strategic choices along the way.

At the session, students were able to ask questions and expand on what they have been learning with real instances in banking.

The Executive MBA program extends a big thank you to Mariner Kemper for coming to visit and sharing his knowledge with the students!

Alumni in the news

Army veteran Katie Buehner, a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot, has found a new and rewarding career path in the medical profession. Buehner’s professional and personal journey from serving in the Army to creating a new business venture has recently been featured in both The Denver Business Journal and The National Business Journal.

Buehner’s accomplishments cross the educational, military and healthcare sectors.  An alumnus of Olin’s Executive MBA program (EMBA), Buehner served ten years in the Army as a Black Hawk pilot. Her husband is a fellow army aviator and she did not originally intend on leaving the Army, but family responsibilities took priority. With three kids ranging from ages one to four, a pending assignment to Germany for six months provided a milestone moment for Buehner. She chose to care for her young children stateside, and in so doing, that pivotal moment opened the door for a career-changing opportunity, earning her MBA degree via WashU’s EMBA program.

While at WashU, Buehner took advantage of the rich business school network by meeting and eventually partnering with fellow classmate, John Spranger and his wife Erin. The team focused on the need for staffing nurses to local medical offices, clinics and hospitals. Meeting demand for nursing supply, their company, Presto Staffing, benefits both its clients and its talent. By permitting flexible scheduling, the firm naturally draws nurses who search for alternative schedules to help their work-life balance, while also serving a growing healthcare industry.

Notably, with a revenue of $260,000 since opening in July 2016, Presto Staffing had a 150 percent growth rate, between September and December of that same year.  A May 2017 EMBA graduate, Buehner applies her “operational background” to a role that also allows her to manage her own flexible schedule while focusing on essential time with her family.

Buehener credits her journey through EMBA with connecting her to the business realm, pointing out that the “classes are… comprised of experienced professionals.”  Through molding her in-depth military operations experience with her acquired real-world business knowledge and connections at WashU, Buehner is looking forward to the next chapter of her joint venture.

For more coverage of Buehner’s career, please click here (note: full article is available for National Business Journal’s subscribers only).

For more on the WashU Executive MBA program, please visit our website.

One of the most-explored and desired processes of today’s global business marketplace is innovation.  In this highly digitized age, where entrepreneurship and start-up ideas are encouraged and often fostered, traditional organizational hierarchies can be brushed to the side.  The power of a game-changing idea has the ability to transcend this traditional structure, leaving room for equal places of contribution to the table.

The most recent broadcast of the Executive MBA program’s “Live from Olin Business School” webinar series challenged the common notion that a leader should not be involved in the innovation process.  Stuart Bunderson, Associate Dean & Director of Executive Programs, the George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance and Co-Director of the Bauer Leadership Center, presented the webinar.  In “Leading Innovation without Getting in the Way,” Bunderson broke down just why innovation does not work effectively without the involvement of a strong leader.

By citing the famous example of the 1999 IDEO shopping cart video, in which an IDEO team redesigned the standard shopping cart in just five days, Bunderson showed how innovation is a process buffeted by the contribution of members from each level of a hierarchical system. IDEO, a Palo-Alto, California based invention company, had not formally defined hierarchy of its shopping cart team. Team members were encouraged to contribute ideas equally in the short five-day due date.

Buoyed by this timeline, key members of the team did help drive the process forward, each with a specific role to play. Narrowing down the best idea meant that contributions from the group facilitator, company founder and more experienced members led the team to a revolutionary approach to the shopping cart.

Bunderson emphasized that a social hierarchy helps innovation. Hierarchy is a natural occurrence because of differences in expertise, education, and other characteristics within groups of people. It contributes to the function of groups, most particularly where there is a problem that needs to be solved in a specific amount of time, such as the IDEO shopping cart proposal. These types of “problem parameters” encourage creativity, because time and resource restraints often can produce the most skilled outputs from group members.

Because of this organizational behavior, leadership develops. Leaders become moderators of sorts, making sure that voices are heard and the ideas of team members are not drowned out. This is not for the leader’s professional benefit, but for the guidance of the team and its product output. If there are disagreements, a group can be sidetracked from its goal and its organizational structure. A leader, produced from a social hierarchical system, will settle these disagreements and achieve coordination. In other words, keeping the eyes on the prize – a group or organization requires leadership to encourage direction over conflict, move things forward and foster innovation.

The ancient quote from Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching, best sums up what Bunderson conveyed in his research findings:

“A leader is best when people barely know he [or she] exists, when his [or her] work is done, his [or her] aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Please visit to register for the next “Live from Olin Business School” event and to learn more about the Executive MBA program.

Alumni in the news

Retired US Air Force veteran Don Halpin, a 2016 graduate of Olin’s Executive MBA program, is the Healthcare Systems Engineer at the Jump Simulation Lab at OSF Innovations in Peoria, IL. He is responsible for supporting socio-technical innovation projects. In this role, he develops new technologies and processes – particularly the incorporation of aviation safety tools into the healthcare arena. Halpin’s second career at “Jump” was recently featured in The Edwardsville Intelligencer.

Don Halpin is a graduate of the USAF Academy with a BS in Electrical Engineering (computer design focus) and a MS in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle University.

Halpin employs forward-thinking best-practices from his 28 years in the Air Force. His final assignment was as the Director of Safety for Air Mobility Command where he was responsible for the flight and ground safety of its 55,000 person operation. He was an airlift and air refueling pilot, capability planner, political-military affairs officer, squadron and wing commander.  Now, he’s applying his knowledge of mobility operations to the medical sector at Jump Simulation, also known as Jump, for short.

Jump, which opened in April 2013, is a collaboration between OSF Healthcare and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, and aims to improve the experience of medical practitioners and patients through education and simulation initiatives. One such initiative includes printing 3-D hearts for cardiovascular surgeons to employ before surgery, an example of the high-tech atmosphere at the innovative company.

Halpin credits his strong family support system and Olin’s Executive MBA program as assets to his work at Jump, where he started working following his retirement from the Air Force. He was actively engaged in the EMBA curriculum, graduating with honors, while also fully engaged in the important work at Jump. Managing work, family and EMBA is a challenging yet rewarding experience for Executive MBA students.

With healthcare positioned as one of world’s most relevant and global industries, Halpin practices the EMBA pledge to take “business knowledge and translate concepts into real world applications,” on a daily basis.

To read more about Halpin’s work, please see the news article from The Edwardsville Intelligencer here.