Tag: Alumni

Relive some of the sights and sounds from the Olin Veterans Association Dining Out event on March 29, 2018, with this quick video summary. Here are a few details about the event from our earlier blog post about it, written by Sontaya Sherrell, MBA ’18, and an Olin veteran herself.

Among the traditional rituals at the Dining Out, guests were invited to answer for violations of the written rules of the evening by paying a fine—all of which supports the Olin Veterans Scholarship Fund—or having a drink from the dreaded “grog bowl,” which features a hodgepodge of questionable ingredients mixed into one punch.

A few of the lighthearted rules guests could potentially be punished for include wearing a clip-on bow tie at an obvious angle, using excessive military slang or jargon, or wearing clip-on suspenders.

Guests were expected to adhere to an honor system in recognizing their own infractions or could be reported for an infraction by another attendee. Balancing out these more amusing aspects of the event were more solemn traditions, one of which included the recognition of those who could not be with us that evening.




Kenny Kline, EN

In INC. Magazine, entrepreneur Kenny Kline, EN ’08, MSF ’08—cofounder of online strength-based competition and training publisher BarBend—has some simple advice for other startup founders: Get an entire city behind you.

Kline first moved to St. Louis to attend WashU and ended up staying for several years after graduating because “St. Louis is a vibrant place with a lot of cool stuff going on.” Combine that with the relatively low cost of living and the city is a great place to start a business.

In the process of starting [my] company, I discovered what makes St. Louis highly valuable to would-be founders: The city is truly dedicated to helping startups thrive.

From the nonprofit Arch Grants program (which offers funding with no equity) to the Cortex Innovation Community (a 200-acre innovation hub and technology district in the heart of St. Louis), Cultivation Capital (a venture capital firm that supports multiple accelerator programs), and SixThirty (a global FinTech venture fund and business development program), St. Louis promises no shortage of resources for budding entrepreneurs.

And it’s exactly resources like these that explain why entrepreneurs are increasingly willing to leave the traditional startup hubs in search of greener (and more cost-effective) pastures. Those entrepreneurs who are brave enough to break with convention are finding boundless support in the middle of America.

In addition to sharing his own experiences, Kline (who also has an MBA from Columbia Business School) speaks with Michael Seaman, founder of SwipeSum, who moved his company from LA to St. Louis. Seaman also sings St. Louis’ praises as a stellar place for startups, boasting great talent, a strong work ethic, and of course, affordability going for it. Seaman is now on a mission to encourage other founders to look beyond the coasts and to take advantage of resources available in other parts of the country.

Read more at Inc. about Kline’s and Seaman’s experiences as entrepreneurs in St. Louis.




Jason Wang, BSBA ’09, recalls the day at Washington University when his father texted him a photo of “a tall, old white dude” dining at the family’s New York City restaurant.

It was the day Anthony Bourdain, with film crew in tow, really put Xi’an Famous Foods on the map. That was in 2008. A decade later, Wang paid tribute to the chef and television host, on the day of Bourdain’s suicide.

On Friday, Wang, CEO of his family’s growing food empire, committed 100 percent of the day’s net sales to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, raising $73,509.76.

On Monday, he thanked patrons and restaurant staffers in an Instagram post for their heartfelt support: “We were able to serve almost double the amount of dishes as usual during dinner on Friday 6/8/18, with some stores selling out of items towards the end of the night,” wrote the 2016 recipient of the Olin Emerging Leader award. “Thank you for helping us with this tribute to our friend.”

The Huffington Post has the full story here. You can find The Wall Street Journal feature about Bourdain and Xi’an Famous Foods here. At the time of the WSJ feature, Wang had just opened the chain’s 10th store. It’s since expanded to include nine active stores in Manhattan, two in Queens, and one in Brooklyn. Wang is regularly involved in Olin’s New York alumni network, participates in the NY Trek with students, and is part of the WashU Asian Alumni Network.

Today’s a day of extreme sadness for us here at Xi’an Famous Foods. I’ve lost a dear friend today, and we mourn with the rest of the world. I remember the time in 2007 when Tony first visited our basement food stall in Flushing for Travel Channel’s No Reservations while I was still in college (even though I didn’t know who he was at the time). I remember my father preparing interesting off-menu dishes to get his opinion on when he visited our store. I remember years later in 2015 after interviewing together for an article, I approached Tony and told him, while he may have no idea what he has done for our family and business by simply saying he enjoyed the food, I wanted him to know it helped bring our family out from living in one room in Flushing to living the American dream. We were able to grow our business and provide great food for our guests, and opportunities for our employees. I looked at him in the eyes and said, this is something we will always be thankful for, Tony. And he simply replied, “I’m just calling out good food like it is, that’s all.” In honor of his memory and all of those dear people who left us all too early, and in taking whatever action we can to prevent suicide in the US, Xi’an Famous Foods will be donating 100% of our net sales on June 8, 2018, from all of our stores, to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK @800273talk. Please cherish all of our lives and help those who may be struggling. Rest in peace, Tony, and the most sincere condolences to Tony’s beloved family. ~Jason Wang, CEO … [UPDATE 6/11/18: With your heartfelt support, along with the hard work of our store staff, we were able to serve almost double the amount of dishes as usual during dinner on Friday 6/8/18, with some stores selling out of items towards the end of the night. We were able to raise $73,509.76 (net sales) to donate to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’ to help their work in suicide prevention. Thank you for helping us with this tribute to our friend.]

A post shared by Xi’an Famous Foods (@xianfoods) on




Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA

The St. Louis Business Journal has released its 2018 list of “30 Under 30” honorees and two Olin alumni are part of the latest class. The awards program, sponsored by Olin, recognizes future leaders of the region and the local business community.

This year, Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA ’16, AB ’11, and Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17, will be among the 30 St. Louis-based young business leaders who will be featured in the July 6 of the Journal and honored at a July 12 ceremony.

Hoffman is a principal at Cultivation Capital. She manages the firm’s Life Sciences Funds I and II, focused on developing funding for promising biotechnology startups. Her responsibilities include deal sourcing, due diligence, portfolio management, fundraising, financial reporting and investor relations.

Glantz is co-founder and CEO of GiftAMeal, a for-profit social enterprise that invites customers at participating restaurants to use the GiftAMeal mobile app to share photos of their meal. For each meal shared, a donation is made to a local food bank.




Early in his new book, The Samurai Listener, Cash Nickerson recounts the shock he received from a poor performance review in his first year as a corporate attorney for Union Pacific Railroad.

“At the young age of 26, what held me back were skills I had not learned in college, law school, or business school,” writes Nickerson, JD ’85, MBA ’93. “My behaviors in the office and the perception of those behaviors by my boss’ assistant and everyone else in the office who had an opinion had derailed me—possibly even threatened my career.”

Nickerson recalls that he hadn’t learned to listen. He hadn’t learned to watch people around him for signals about how they were feeling about the situation—and how he should respond. He hadn’t learned to “read situations” or identify and navigate power structures—like the influence his boss’ assistant could wield—in the organization effectively and respect.

His latest book (Nickerson has five other published volumes to his credit) puts listening skills in the context of martial arts practices such as politeness, self-control, and honesty. Great listeners, he says, use these practices to guard against “subtle attacks we often face from colleagues, clients, and others competing for control, eager to succeed at our expense.”

“I’ve seen a list of as many as 70 ‘soft skills’ in my research,” Nickerson said told the Olin Blog. “Listening is one that is heavily talked about. There’s also teamwork, which probably gets the most attention in business school, but gets zero attention in law school. In business school, that’s recognized as a critical success factor.”

The Way of the Samurai

Listening was key, he said, serving as an umbrella category for a host of other soft skills—how to read others, how to broaden your perception of what’s happening around you, how to read situations, and how to navigate politics.

He tells a story of a class on negotiation he gave recently for students at the WashU law school. He passed out a playing card to two class members for a quick game of “high/low.” Which student, he asked the rest of the class, had the higher card? The class stared at the students trying to discern a signal. None got it right the first time. A few people guessed correctly on the second round.

Before he tried a third time, he chided the class: “You guys are just staring at their faces. You have to get a broader view.”

And that third time, he passed out two cards and asked again: Who has the higher card? Finally, a student gave the correct answer: They have the same card. “I saw the look on your face,” she said, “and you seemed to be smirking a little bit.”

“Don’t just watch someone talk. Step back,” he said. “See how everyone else is reacting.”


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