Tag: Alumni



Kelli Washington, BSBA ’94, received multiple accolades for her work as managing director of research and investment strategy at Cleveland Clinic.

In June, Washington was named one of Institutional Investor’s Most Wanted Allocators. The list features executives who are “most coveted for chief investment officer roles.” The ranking is determined by both the candidate’s portfolio and the candidate’s non-portfolio management skills, judged by executive recruiters in the industry.

Out of 25, Washington was ranked 14th and was recognized as “very polished” with “a great deal of credibility.” Recruiters encourage readers to “keep an eye on her.”

Rightly so, as Washington was named to another list about a week later.

Washington was one of 30 named to Chief Investment Officer’s Class of 2019 NextGens for her ability to “effectively harness and analyze a vast amount of data.” NextGens are nominated anonymously by the investment community for their leadership skills.

In her role, Washington works to manage institutional assets at Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest and most respected hospitals in the country.

Although her work is based in Cleveland, Washington constantly thinks global. In an interview with Chief Investment Officer, she spoke about the opportunities and challenges when investing in other markets like China, India and Saudi Arabia. “To be able to think about how we can help companies in…other markets to grow and expand while earning a return that will serve our mission is very exciting,” she said.

Washington’s interest for endowment and foundation management started at Olin where she served as a student representative to the board of trustees on the finance committee. Through that experience, she “came to understand the role and importance of having a pool of assets to support operations, research, and scholarship.”




Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Markey Culver, MBA ’17. Markey leads The Women’s Bakery, an international organization that empowers and feeds women in East Africa.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I currently lead The Women’s Bakery, an international social enterprise that empowers women and provides access to quality, affordable breads in East Africa. I chose to get an MBA to better run and grow my company. Olin opened doors to many opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom. I had mentors in the form of professors, peers and alumni. Olin celebrated my work in the social enterprise space, which was both encouraging and inspiring.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

Dr. John Horn, Economics, and Dr. Tom Fields, Accounting, were my most influential professors. Not only were both excellent professors, but they took a personal interest in seeing me succeed. John was genuinely interested in The Women’s Bakery and helped me analyze the company’s business model as well as craft our strategic plan for growth. Tom honed my skills in constructing financial systems company-wide. 

Why is an MBA important?

I chose my MBA because I sought to fuse the non-profit and for-profit sectors. I knew I had emotional intelligence and communication skills, but lacked finance and accounting acumen as well as the theoretical building blocks of business. I wanted the tool box to build something new and better and Olin’s programs merit such fusion by embracing, incubating and launching entrepreneurs of all kinds.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Take advantage of office time with your professors and take risks in the classes you choose!

Pictured above: Markey Culver with a group of women involved in The Women’s Bakery. Markey is third from the left.




Ja Song

Ja Song, who was a student on the vanguard of WashU’s earliest links with Korea and rose to become president of one of its top universities, died on August 22.

Song was among the first Korean students to come to Washington University when the US government tapped Olin Business School to work with two South Korean universities to rehabilitate their business programs after the war in that country. Song earned his MBA from Olin in 1962 and his doctorate in business administration from the school in 1967.

South Korean news sources reported last week on Song’s death at age 83. He had served as the 12th president of Yonsei University from 1992 to 1996. The same reports indicated Song had also led Myongji University and the Cyber University of Korea before serving as South Korea’s minister of education in 2000. Olin named Song a distinguished alumnus in 2003 when he was CEO of Daekyo Co. Ltd., South Korea’s leading educational information service provider.

While leading Yonsei, he and then-Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton launched a student exchange agreement between Yonsei and WashU. Song also served as a member of WashU’s International Advisory Council for Asia. 

‘A very good friend’

“More than anyone, he maintained the connection of the school with Korea, and that’s continued through to the present day,” said Robert Virgil, WashU Olin dean emeritus and a contemporary of Song’s in the business school in the early 1960s. “I remember him as a very good friend, dedicated academic, a very serious person and a great ambassador of his country and of the Olin school.”

In an interview with Olin Business School in 2017, Song was effusive in his praise of the contribution WashU made through the so-called “Korea Project,” partnering students and faculty with their counterparts at Yonsei and Korea universities to establish quality business curricula at the two schools.

“It was not only trying to train the teacher, they trained industry people,” Song said on the occasion of Olin’s 100th anniversary. “They had conferences for them. That project had many purposes to help us know the new developments and skills in teaching about business.”

After graduating in 1962, Song served a mandatory 16-month tour in the South Korean army and returned to Olin to earn his doctorate in accounting. He taught for 10 years at the University of Connecticut, then he taught in Korea until 1992 when he began his tenure as Yonsei’s president.

‘A great champion of Olin’

“Ja Song was a great champion of Olin Business School, Yonsei University and other business schools,” said former Olin Dean Mahendra Gupta. “He was instrumental in re-establishing relationships with Yonsei and starting the global master of finance program.”

Media reports from South Korea said Song had received honors from his country in 1997 for his contributions to education and alumni honors from Yonsei in 1998 and 2003. School officials noted that Song was instrumental in starting Yonsei’s first school development fund, raising 100 billion won during his tenure—or about $82.3 million today.

He was reportedly involved with a number of South Korean social service agencies for children and wrote several groundbreaking accounting textbooks.

Song’s survivors include his wife, Tak Soon-hee, his daughters Eun-mi Song and Jeong-yeon Song, and his sons-in-law Park Ki-nam and Choi Jae-hoon. Funeral services were reportedly held the morning of August 26 on the Yonsei University grounds.




Elisabeth Conrad, BSBA ’16.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Elisabeth Conrad, MBA ’16. Elisabeth has been with Anheuser-Busch InBev in New York City since her graduation.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career? 

I’m the Global Director of Sustainable Brands and Innovation for AB InBev, the world’s leading brewer. I help our brands, including Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona, design and communicate sustainable programs. Sustainability is critical to our business and increasingly important to consumers, so we have major opportunities to bring consumers into all the work we do—like when we used this year’s Budweiser Super Bowl ad to promote our commitment to renewable electricity.

My Olin education is critical, especially the strategic thinking. Everything I do now is cross-functional, spanning procurement and supply, to marketing and sales. It’s really system design. I could never have done my role without a holistic foundation.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

John Horn was one of the best teachers of my life. His infuriating and enigmatic signature response – “It depends” – is the only constant in an ever-changing corporate landscape. He really taught me how to think about business problems in a holistic way. 

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I try to keep up with OWIB and with the WCC, especially when they recruit in New York where I live now. It’s very important to me that Olin continues to recruit the best talent, especially women and diverse candidates.

Why is an MBA important?

More than skills training or business knowledge, my MBA taught me how to cope and thrive in challenging, ambiguous climates. It grew my confidence and taught me to focus on adding value, rather than getting the “right” answer and being “perfect.”

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Your cases put you in the shoes of a CEO. But that doesn’t mean you are a CEO or should be. Let go of the hashtag approach to work and business: focus on learning and striving to be a little bit better every day.

An earlier version of this post referred to Elisabeth as a BSBA. This has been corrected and the Olin Blog regrets the error.




Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Joe Piganelli, MBA ’18. Joe now serves as a management consultant with Accenture in St. Louis. Prior to Olin, Joe was a nuclear submarine officer with the US Navy.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I am a Management Consultant at Accenture in St. Louis.  My Olin MBA opened the pathway to Accenture.  I knew I wanted a career change from the Operations Management in steel fabrication that I was previously involved in.  I didn’t know when I started at Olin, that I would be so strongly interested in consulting.  But, through the experiences of the Platform Speaker Series, and Professor Elfenbein’s Introduction to Business Strategy – I found a new direction.  I was fortunate along with a few other classmates of mine to have the opportunity of an internship with Accenture the summer between academic years.  That internship confirmed that consulting was the career path I wanted to pursue, and that Accenture would be a perfect place for me to be.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

My entire second year of the MBA was one big influential moment in my life.  So many people gave of their time and efforts to help me develop as a leader and a person.  Whether it was a professor in the classroom, a fellow student in study groups or an extra-curricular organization, or a community leader outside of the Olin School – the year was absolutely full of growth opportunities.  Three experiences make that year especially memorable: 

1) In the classroom:  Kurt Dirks’ classes – “Power & Politics” and “Defining Moments”.  If any prospective student or 1st year student contemplating next year’s courses is reading this: build your schedule around these two.  The new perspective I have from both of those classes is something I value and can continue to refer back to throughout my career as it progresses. 

2) Participating in Student Led Groups: Having the opportunity to be a member of the Olin Veterans Association (OVA) is an experience that I’ll always be thankful for.  It was highly rewarding and beneficial for all of us military veterans to be part of this organization with such strong links to a supportive alumni network and the St. Louis business community.  The OVA helped us hit the ground running in the classroom with a ‘bootcamp’ before coursework began – and helped us get introduced quickly to different career path opportunities through business leaders in the community. 

3) Experiential Learning – Participating in a Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) project was immensely beneficial and I learned a great deal from that.  Working with community leaders, fellow students, and civic leaders to drill into a deeper level of data and root causes surrounding Veterans in Missouri was a powerful experience that I grew from both personally and professionally.  I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to participate in a CEL project.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

We get together for happy hours every so often.  We also have a class Whatsapp chat that’s still alive.  It’s fun to see posts on Facebook or in that chat when classmates happen to find themselves in different cities for a weekend – or for work – and have the chance to meet up with those of us who have spread to different areas of the country.

Why is an MBA important?

An MBA gives you the information, tools, and most importantly the thinking style to be a leader in business.  If I had to say sum it up into one phrase that would be it.  It means utilizing data to make decisions – being data driven.  But also realizing that the quality of your data needs to be a factor as well.  You also need to appreciate that there can be more to critical decisions than data alone.  Compassion for people that will be affected by decisions is also critical.  Olin teaches all of that and more.  I think differently and approach my work differently because of what I learned at Olin.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Aside from the couple of things I’ve mentioned above – Don’t spread yourself too thin.  Find the things you are passionate about and devote yourself to those.  The more quickly you find the type of career path you want to pursue – the sooner you’ll be able to focus your time and your energy into building your experience and customizing your preparation for that.