Tag: Brookings Executive Education



Pictured above: An Olin-led executive education class underway at Brookings in our newly expanded space.

The roots of executive education run deep in St. Louis and in Washington, DC, at our partner, The Brookings Institution. They’re about to run deeper.

In St. Louis, our expertise in executive education runs back at least to 1955, when Lee M. Liberman wrote to a colleague about a faculty-led management seminar he’d attended as a 34-year-old. Liberman later served four decades on the WashU’s board of trustees alongside two chancellors.

Also, in the late ’50s, Brookings launched two-week conferences aimed at “men of high caliber at the executive level,” according to a journal writeup at the time. Jointly, Olin and Brookings have partnered for years on leadership and management education in DC, taught by Olin faculty.

Although we’re already highly ranked globally for executive education—12th in the nation and 32nd worldwide, according to the Financial Times—we know we can lead further on the strengths we already have.

Leveraging our unique partnership with Brookings, we’ve created a joint organization that deeply entwines Olin’s research-based leadership in executive education with the global policy and economic expertise at the world’s premier think-tank. We’ve already rebranded the existing program as WashU at Brookings. We envision the relationship growing further still.

“The leaders of the future need to be able to navigate a set of questions that Brookings brings to the table,” said Kelly Bean, senior associate dean and the Charles F. Knight Distinguished Director of Executive Education at WashU Olin. Based at Brookings, commuting between DC and St. Louis, she is charged with unifying and expanding executive education operations in both locations.

As Kelly sees it, Brookings sits at the nexus of business, governmental policy and social impact. “That’s the sweet spot where we want to be able to help leaders in their organizations: How can that integration impact their own organizations?”

At the same time, our St. Louis-based operation continues to draw business from corporate partners eager for access to our expertise on leadership development, change management and strategic alignment our faculty experts can provide. Sam Chun, assistant dean and director of executive education, is about to depart for the Netherlands, for example, to begin delivering Olin’s first international exec ed program in leadership development for Rabobank, a Dutch multinational financial services firm.

Other new partners for Olin exec ed include distribution service provider Bunzl Distribution, pharmaceutical maker Pfizer, and AB InBev—which was attracted by the closer connection and program potential of our Brookings relationship. “We’re designing the program with AB InBev as we speak,” Sam said.

“That’s key,” Sam says. We don’t simply build programs and hope executives show up in the classroom. “We ask the market and design a program for them. And because of that, they come.”

With a deeper connection to Brookings, we anticipate DC-based policy experts leading courses for executives in St. Louis, with content delivered either in person or through our Center for Digital Education. Likewise, we see a world with expanded content from Olin faculty in St. Louis offered to executives in the DC area.

Those issues align deeply with Olin’s own DNA, focused as we are on values-based, data-driven decision-making in a global context and equipping leaders with the tools to change the world, for good. It’s just a bonus that the nation’s top CEOs, through the influential Business Roundtable, are coming around to our way of thinking about executive leadership.

“I think the historical connection between Brookings and WashU makes this so effective,” Kelly said.

Our focus on executive education isn’t new, but it’s more important today than ever. We all thrive when, as Olin deans realized decades ago, we serve the needs of corporate partners, bringing the latest business research into the boardroom. It also remains an important part of Olin’s mission of lifelong learning.

It’s the future of executive education—and WashU Olin is leading the way.

Pictured above: An Olin-led executive education class underway at Brookings in our newly expanded space.




Kelly Bean

Please join me in welcoming Kelly Bean as our director of executive education and professor of practice in leadership.

Kelly is president and CEO of executive education at UVA Darden and has more than 20 years’ experience in executive education at UVA, Emory, UCLA and USC, before which she worked in industry.

I have charged Kelly with unifying and expanding our St. Louis and Washington, DC, exec ed operations, and she will be based primarily in our Brookings Institution office in DC with significant time in St. Louis.

This position was endowed by a major supporter, benefactor and friend of Olin, the late Charles Knight, so Kelly will be the inaugural Charles F. Knight Distinguished Director of Executive Education. She will also become a senior associate dean and join my senior leadership team, reflecting the importance I attach to exec ed and, in particular, to building the Brookings partnership.

Kelly joins us May 1.

I would also like to announce the promotion of Ian Dubin to associate dean and managing director of the WashU Brookings Partnership. Please also join me in congratulating Ian. Ian has been instrumental in building our Brookings partnership and he will work alongside Mary Ellen Joyce, associate dean and executive director of the partnership.

In terms of organizational structure, Ian and Mary Ellen will report to Kelly, as will Sam Chun, assistant dean for executive education. Ian and Mary Ellen will also have a dotted line to Lamar Pierce, professor of organization and strategy and associate dean for the WashU Brookings Partnership, who overseas the academic development of our DC programmes, working alongside Kelly.

We have a world-class executive education team in both DC and St. Louis and are poised to take Olin to the next level in this important and impactful area of our activity.




Cliff Holekamp

One day, we may think of the Holekamp family as the Johnny Appleseed of Olin’s startup ecosystem.

Thanks to a $500,000 gift from Cliff Holekamp and his father Bill Holekamp, known as the Holekamp Seed Fund, Olin now offers up to 20 grants a year of $1,000 to students who need a small injection of capital to get a startup business off the ground.

“I’m just interested in having all of our entrepreneurship students take action on their ideas and that they have the support to pursue a passion,” said Holekamp, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship at Olin.

The idea for the Holekamp Seed Fund grew out of his experience with startup competitions, which typically hear from a variety of student proposals, but only reward one or two with funding. “The thought is to flip that around,” Holekamp said. “What if we were to think of it as seeding a large number of students with small checks? It’s about moving a student to action.”

It’s Holekamp’s dream that these relatively small grants will stimulate an even more vibrant startup scene on the WashU campus. The outline for the Holekamp Seed Fund suggests that the next Varsity Tutors, Schoology, or ePharmix—established firms that launched as student-run startups—will get their first investment from Olin.

He only asks for two things of the students.

First, he expects students to demonstrate a serious commitment to launching their idea. Applications won’t be judged on the potential long-term viability of the idea, but rather on how passionate the student is about giving the idea a go.

One reason for that stipulation? Eventually, students may learn their idea isn’t viable. Or, perhaps, they’ll uncover a better, more promising opportunity along the way. “Entrepreneurship should be liberating,” Holekamp said. “It shouldn’t be a cage.”

Second, Holekamp will ask recipients of the $1,000 grants to consider paying them forward after they’ve had a chance to pursue their own idea. Though not a requirement, he hopes students will consider pledging $200 a year over five years back to the seed fund or to the Olin Annual Fund.

“I’m not aware of any other schools doing something with this ‘pay-it-forward’ element,” he said. “I know of schools that do loans or give out cash prizes.” The component of building a vibrant startup community on campus was important to the Holekamp family’s conception of the idea.

“The idea behind this fund is wonderfully innovative—befitting Cliff, his family, WashU and the entrepreneurial spirit of the St. Louis community,” Dean Mark Taylor said. “This fund will provide a nudge to student entrepreneurs and it may well entice them as successful alums to likewise lend a hand to students who follow them. It’s an innovation win-win.”

Students can apply on the Holekamp Seed Fund website with the expectation that they will have a face-to-face interview with Holekamp. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, so students can apply at any time. A three-person panel—Holekamp; his father, Bill; and Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA ’16, and principal at Cultivation Capital—will review applications. They’ll be assuring the applications come from Olin students who are ready to incorporate as a business and can demonstrate a personal commitment to the idea.

Applicants must have completed at least one semester in an Olin graduate program or course, or they must be a rising junior who is majoring in business or has participated in an Olin entrepreneurship course.

“It’s enough to get them motivated, get started, get incorporated and begin creating something,” Holekamp said. “Sometimes the hardest milestone is the first—going from nothing to something.”




More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman poet Virgil famously said, “Fortune favours the bold.” In today’s vernacular, he would have said, “Go big or go home.” At Olin, we’re going big. And we’re going bold.

We’re doing it by launching a sweeping renovation of the full-time WashU Olin MBA. Students who arrive in mid-2019 will be the first to embark on what is arguably the most global MBA programme anywhere in the world.

Two weeks after they arrive for orientation and introductory classwork in late June—yes, that early—every first-year MBA student will depart for an around-the-world immersion in global business. And I’m not speaking metaphorically. The summer semester continues with a week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Then two weeks in Barcelona. Then 17 days in Shanghai.

Students will dive deeply into the fundamental principles of business management in the context of each country’s local economy. Morning classes move to afternoon projects as students roll up their sleeves and apply their knowledge, doing research and analyzing real-world business problems with local executives. This isn’t academic tourism. It’s not a St. Louis class transferred to Spain or China. It’s serious work gaining cultural intelligence about global business and leadership issues.

When students return to St. Louis, they’ll be equipped to continue their core classes in strategy, economics, accounting, marketing, finance, and operations—but with global context and the perspective of several economic systems. Plus, they’ll have forged deep bonds with their classmates, a foundation to support, grow and advance one another throughout their Olin careers.

Additionally, students can accelerate their programme under our new model, moving more quickly to the job market, or pair their MBA with a specialized master’s degree.

Why embark on such a sweeping change to Olin’s flagship program? The answer, quite simply, is that we must practise what we preach. The world is shrinking. Leadership challenges are expanding. As we urge students to do, we must anticipate what the market will demand in the future—then think big and act boldly to confront the challenge. Tinkering around the margins won’t do.

We paired that principle with data. We informed our work with the help of Boston Consulting Group, which researched the needs of students and companies in the future. They interviewed current students, prospective students, faculty, corporate recruiters, and more, generating data about the requirements of a redesigned MBA programme.

In some ways, we’ve been building to this for a while. Recent MBA classes have had expanding global opportunities through the Center for Experiential Learning and the Brookings MBA capstone experience. This spring, we plan to pilot some of the global components of the redesigned curriculum, though details are yet to be ironed out.

On the Olin website now, there’s more detail available about our MBA renovation—designed with BCG, taught by world class experts on three continents, one truly global MBA. It is a renovation, I firmly believe, that will be favoured by fortune—for Olin and our students.




In one of Olin Business School’s newest magazine ads, white text pops from a field of rich red in type that evokes a sense of strength and wonder. Just a few words, strategically aligned on the page, draw the reader into a story of unknown origin—and clear gravity.

“When the cost of goods comes at a cost … we pause.”

Within that pause, Olin invites readers to consider the consequences of the decisions they’ll make and the preparation WashU offers for a business world demanding principled, evidence-based leadership.

Within that pause lies the mission of Olin Business School, its promise to students and the marketplace, and the pillars that underpin our strategic plan.

And from within that pause comes the bold voice of Olin Business School’s new brand identity, articulating what we are, what we stand for, and how our strategic plan sets us apart among the world’s top schools.

“We’re making a bold claim on what’s always been in our DNA: That we develop business leaders who create change, for good,” said Dean Mark Taylor, architect of Olin’s strategic plan. “It’s important for all of us to take ownership of this idea so we can clearly articulate our point of view on business education, attract the right kind of talent, and be a distinctive voice in the marketplace, as drivers of global change.”

See the video below to get a better understanding about how Olin will position itself with its brand messaging.

Launching the new Olin brand

Marketing & Communications prepares for the brand launch event.

Marketing & Communications prepares
for the brand launch event.

The formal announcement of Olin’s new brand strategy came today in a schoolwide event drawing together faculty and staff. With video presentations, digital signs, a champagne toast, and speeches from the dean and a faculty leader, participants heard how the business school will use its brand messaging to talk about the elements of our strategic plan, our vision, our mission, our values, and our strategic priorities.

Dean Taylor stressed the importance of our strategic pillars — particularly the idea that Olin develops values-based, data-driven decision-makers.

“The truth behind those words isn’t new at all. We’ve taken a deep dive into how we want to think and talk about ourselves,” he said, adding to the crowd of faculty and staff assembled for the event “it’s vital that we all take ownership of our brand.”

The crowd applauded after watching the brand identity video (see above).

Stuart Bunderson, co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center and Olin’s George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance, reinforced the message: “We want every Olin student to say first, what do the data say and second, what values are at play here” when they are making business-oriented decisions.

After the speeches and a champagne toast, Olin employees dispersed to pick up swag bags, enjoy street food from a group of food trucks on Snow Way, romp at a selfie station, and take headshots that may be used in Olin branding campaigns down the road.

More details about the branding

The messaging comes together in a simple positioning statement that boldly declares who we are and how we’re different from other top business schools: “As a premier educator of business professionals, Olin Business School champions better decision-making by preparing and coaching a new academy of leaders who will change the world, for good.”

We do this through our pillars of excellence, the elements that drive our approach to preparing leaders:

  • Values Based and Data Driven
  • Globally Oriented
  • Experiential
  • Entrepreneurial

The brand work also offered an opportunity to address another niggling challenge: Our school’s eight-word, 55-character name. New guidelines offer a more streamlined identity: “WashU Olin Business School,” captured in a more casual brand “mark”—a variation on the formal logo—that we will use as a “nickname” for the school when the full name is also visible elsewhere.

We’ve also taken care to ensure that Olin’s brand aligns with the WashU master brand. The university is often the front door to the business school, so it’s important that the two entities align. Our story starts with the core idea of the master brand, but extends that idea in a relevant and meaningful way.

More information about the strategic plan and the brand messaging strategy is available on the Marketing & Communications section of Campus Groups, where visitors can download logos, templates, and fonts, as well as see guidance on the use of our brand and our colors.