Tag: Brookings Institution



Suppose the epidemic of opioids plaguing the United States could be stopped at the source? Suppose 21st century technologies such as data mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning could flag risky drug shipments before they land in the hands of at-risk populations?

How could it be done? And what changes in local, state and federal policy would be required to curb the problem and sharpen the response from experts in law enforcement, public health and industry?

These questions form the heart of a new initiative between WashU Olin Business School and the Brookings Institution. Broadly speaking, the Olin-Brookings Commission is a three-year initiative designed to recruit a dream-team of policy experts and scholars each year who will deeply analyze a single major policy issue and issue policy recommendations.

Made possible by a $750,000 grant from The Bellwether Foundation Inc., each commission will be charged with tackling topics affecting the quality of life for people in St. Louis and across the country. Each year’s panel will issue practical and realistic recommendations informing business strategy and public policy.

“We are pleased to provide multiyear support for the Olin-Brookings Commission,” said Ginger Smith, president of The Bellwether Foundation. “Funding an initiative that deepens the partnership between Olin and Brookings, two leaders in their industries, is where we believe we can make an impact.”

The focus of our first commission

Our first commission convenes this month. This first six-member commission—in partnership with Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights—will demonstrate how new technologies can curb opioid trafficking and potentially more than 100 other equally destructive examples of illicit trafficking.

At the same time, the commission will evaluate existing policy obstacles and reveal opportunities where policy changes can enable industry and government to implement a real-time detection and alert system across industry and government agencies.

“The initiative is very compelling. It leverages new advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning to proactively detect suspicious opioid orders before they are shipped,” said Anthony Sardella, chair of the first commission and founder of data insight firm evolve24. “This effort holds the promise to save lives, enhance public health and protect our vulnerable populations.”

An initial phase of the opioid research project involves mining a relatively new database from the US Drug Enforcement Agency: the Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System. CABI co-directors Seethu Seetharaman and Michael Wall, along with Tony (who also serves as CABI’s senior research advisor), will lead the data analysis portion of the project.

“I am excited that CABI is involved in such a high-stakes national policy-related initiative in terms of showcasing the analytics talent resident in Washington University in St. Louis,” Seethu said. “This could not fit more perfectly with the values-based, data-driven mission of Olin.”

Another key component of the Olin-Brookings Commission is involvement from students, who will serve as “commission fellows” in research and logistical support for each project. Olin PhD marketing student Annie Shi will collaborate with Tony, Michael and Seethu and together, they will be co-authors on all publications that arise from this initiative.

Meanwhile, I’m pleased to announce that our first commission includes heavy hitters from the pharmaceutical industry, academia, law enforcement and advocacy organizations focused on drug policy. Find the list of commission members at the bottom of this column.

A signature program?

The Bellwether grant makes possible a long-held vision of mine, an extraordinary opportunity to further leverage and expand Olin’s powerful relationship with Brookings, while also convening thought leaders who can provide guidance and direction on “megatrends” in global business and public policy.

We envision that each commission’s report—targeting the White House, regional and national government policymakers and the media—would coincide with the springtime Olin MBA capstone experience with Brookings. That is our timeline for a report on the opioid project.

Commission members will convene in a series of virtual meetings—at least while the pandemic continues raging—over the course of this year.

In addition to recommendations influencing business practice and public policy, the initiative is structured to provide insightful, well-researched contributions to industry about societal megatrends, inform and influence the direction of future research and increase students’ knowledge about the confluence of business and public policy.

I’m confident that the Olin-Brookings Commission can become one of Olin’s signature programs, further cementing our commitment to improving life in St. Louis—and changing the world, for good.

Members of commission No. 1, opioid trafficking

  • Anthony Sardella, founder, evolve24; faculty member, WashU Olin Business School. Commission chair.
  • The Hon. Mary Bono, board member, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, former US representative.
  • Dr. Ann Marie Dale, assistant professor of medicine and occupational therapy, Washington University School of Medicine
  • Van Ingram, executive director, Kentucky Office of Drug Control
  • Gina Papush, global chief data and analytics officer, Cigna.
  • Darrell M. West, vice president and director, Governance Studies; senior fellow, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings



This article was originally published in the 2017  Olin Business Magazine.

On a very early spring morning last March, before the tourists could swarm or the business of government could lurch into gear for the day, three dozen Executive MBA students from Olin Business School strolled the quiet hallways of the US Capitol.

The morning Q&A session on the floor of the US House of Representatives—led by a former congressman—marked one of the many stops in an immersive, four-day Washington, DC residency exploring the intersection of business and public policy.

All Olin Executive MBA students (including EMBA Shanghai) are the latest beneficiaries of the unique partnership between Washington University and the Brookings Institution, the highly regarded DC think tank that university benefactor and former board president Robert S. Brookings founded a century ago.

The collaborative relationship is exemplified by Brookings Executive Education (BEE), the “host” of the residencies. Thanks to this insider’s view, students enhance leadership skills by gaining a deeper understanding of how business and public policy mesh—and how they can participate in shaping it.

This behind-the-scenes experience is one Dean Mark Taylor aims to share with every Olin student, capitalizing on the university’s unique relationship with the nation’s premier public policy research institution.

“Our link to Brookings is an incredible differentiator for Olin, with striking opportunities to prepare our students to be well-rounded business leaders,” he said. “We are duty bound to leverage this relationship to its fullest.”

Lessons from the trenches

While in the nation’s capital, students meet congressional leaders, visit foreign embassies, and discuss policy with senior government officials, regulators, and journalists. Overall, BEE’s roster of experts and speakers reads like a who’s who list of Washington movers and shakers, with names such as Marvin Kalb, former Meet the Press host; Carol Browner, former EPA administrator; Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s White House chief of staff; and former Senate majority leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle.

“This is something that is truly quite extraordinary,” said Mary Ellen Joyce, executive director for Brookings Executive Education program. “Other business schools don’t capture this dimension of business operations.”

As Brookings and Olin consider how to expose more students to the partnership, the EMBA residency is seen as something of a model. Bringing large groups of students to Washington requires careful choreography in order to turn Brookings’ deep DC connections into a productive experience.

“The Executive MBA residency has been just a roaring success, partly because we’ve been very, very careful about getting everything just right,” said Lamar Pierce, Olin professor of organization and strategy and director of the school’s Executive Master of Science in Leadership degree program, offered exclusively at Brookings.

Expanding to the Full-Time MBA Program

The expansion of the Brookings-Olin relationship will kick into gear in February 2018, when full-time MBA students from St. Louis will make the DC residency the capstone of their experience.

“This is an order of magnitude more complicated than the EMBA residency,” said Pierce, who will be on hand as two groups of second-year MBA students—70 in each wave—roll into the nation’s capital for a compressed schedule of receptions, roundtables, and Q&A conversations with DC policy makers.

In addition to an appreciation for the policy-making process, students are expected to leave with strategies for how to influence policy through changes in legislation, changes in regulation—even changes in presidential administrations.

“What we hope to do for the MBA students is give them a deeper dive into an area that connects more with their specific area of interest,” Joyce said. “They’ll be long days.”

Creating strong leaders in government

With its founding in the late 1950s, the BEE program was intended to “teach the art of handling problems” to business and government leaders alike. Olin’s Executive Master of Science in Leadership (EMSL) degree meshes well with that mission.

Although the program caters to government employees seeking career advancement, many EMSL students are typically already on top of their game. Pierce said they include high-level administrators in agencies such as the IRS, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security—“the people who make sure things get done.”

At any one time, as many as 70 EMSL students are enrolled, dipping into BEE’s flexible schedule of courses as their work schedules permit. BEE faculty tailor case studies to students’ government experience, with students writing papers outlining how they apply classroom concepts to their professional duties. Since launching in 2011, the program has about a dozen EMSL graduates, Joyce said.

“The impact Olin content is having on federal government is incredible,” Joyce said. “We are transforming the federal government one leader at a time.”




The Executive MBA program’s Washington, DC, residency is a unique immersion experience into policy making, regulations, appropriation and budget processes, and legislative action—and how each impacts business.

Washington University’s exclusive relationships with the Brookings Institution, one of the world’s most respected and quoted think tanks, provides a level of access to legislators, administrators, and power brokers that is unique to our DC residency.

So naturally, when the Executive MBA program reintroduced “The Business of Policy” back into the curriculum last year, there was a lot of interest.

“When our alums learned about the new residency, we knew we had to give them a chance to experience this priceless opportunity,” says Meg Shuff, assistant dean of Executive MBA Admissions.

In October, alumni were invited to a mini-residency at Brookings, where they were literally rubbing elbows with key legislative decision makers and some of the leading scholars at Brookings who are working to solve important global issues—essentially, the primary players who keep the engine of our Nation’s capital running. It was a packed two days, with topics ranging from the vital relationship between business, government, and the regulatory process, to combating poverty and the role of media in public policy.

The mock residency sold out quickly, with 24 alumni from eight different cohorts across the country—traveling from St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Phoenix, Tampa, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. At the end of two action-packed days, the group had established high-level contacts with influencers in their respective industries, and felt confident in the science of policy entrepreneurship and the art of determining where, when, and how to advance their own interests.

“The Brookings experience was a fantastic way to learn about the intersection of business and policy, which complemented the education I gained at WashU during the EMBA program,” says Executive MBA alum Craig Armstrong, CEO at Loquient. “This residency is a true differentiator that really sets the WashU curriculum apart from the rest.”




Rich Ryffel, Olin’s senior lecturer in finance is the co-founder and co-chair of the annual Municipal Finance Conference hosted by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution. This year’s conference will be held July 17-18 in Washington D.C. Olin is partnering with Brookings as well as the Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance at Brandeis International Business School and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago to host the 6th annual conference.

Rich Ryffel

The event invites academics, practitioners, issuers and regulators to come together for panel discussions and paper presentations of the latest research in municipal finance. The conference does not charge an attendance fee, but must be attended in person.

To find out more about the muni fin meeting, we asked Rich Ryffel a few questions:

Q: What happens at the Brookings Municipal Finance Conference?

RR: The goal of the conference is to bring researchers and practitioners together to both encourage better research in municipal finance and to encourage the adoption of more scientific policy and practices.

Q: What have been the changes in muni capital markets since the Great Recession?

RR: There have been significant changes in the municipal market since the Great Financial Crisis (GFC).  This includes the consolidation of intermediaries and reduced liquidity, more regulation, more disclosure and less innovation.

Q: Are there ever any surprising revelations from research shared at the conference?

RR: Lots of surprises – practitioners are often surprised to see how the data can reveal conclusions that are not obvious from anecdotal experience. Likewise, researchers are surprised to see how subtleties in the market can be masked when simply crunching large data sets. Thus, the reason to put the two groups together.

Q: Why should people involved in municipal finance attend the conference?

RR: Opportunities abound for education and improvement to better understand market behavior and use that knowledge to create better policy and more efficient government.

Link to more information on the 6th annual Municipal Finance Conference.




After a whirlwind week in New York, we headed south to Washington, D.C. to immerse ourselves in the workings of government and financial regulation with Olin’s Brookings Executive Education (BEE) team as our guide. The day started with welcoming remarks and introductions from Ian Dubin, Associate Director, and Chris Mancini, Program Coordinator. They explained the general agenda for the week, and the long and special history between the Brookings Institution and Washington University in St. Louis.

Day 6 - Brookings Ian DubinAfter the brief introduction, Mr. Dubin gave us an overview about the basic structures of U.S. government and legislative processes to set the stage for the week. He explained the unique roles of the Executive Branch, Senate and House of Representatives, and the complexity of the legislative process.

We also learned about the Brookings think tank and how it contributes to making public policy. The Brookings Institution is one of the most important and influential public policy research think tanks in the world.

The rest of the day was spent learning more about the various key financial sector regulators as well as learning directly from current and former regulators from both the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

First, we learned from David Wessel, who is the Director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy. He briefly explained the function of the United States Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), and also introduced 10 micro-prudential regulators in the system, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and The Federal Reserve, to name a few. Although the FSOC provided the chairperson of each of the 10 agencies with the opportunity to communicate with each other, he stated that those 10 chairs have different missions and have issued regulations on financial institutions (banks) that are conflicting. This resulted in banks having a hard time fulfilling the requirements outlined by different regulators. He also touched upon the importance of Macro-Prudential Regulation (FSOC role), and highlighted the differences between finance and other industries, especially in terms of contagion risk. Last but not the least, he compared the FSOC structure with that of the Bank of England.

Winthrop Hambley speaks to Olin students during their visit with Brookings Executive Education.

Winthrop Hambley speaks to Olin students during their visit with Brookings Executive Education.

Our last speaker of the day was Winthrop Hambley, former Senior Advisor, Board of Governors, The Federal Reserve. He first introduced the structure of the Federal Reserve and its key monetary policy-making body, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

He then proceeded to explain to us both traditional monetary policies as well as non-traditional monetary policies, which were introduced after the financial crisis–namely, large scale asset purchases, forward guidance, and maturity extension.

Last but not least, to address the popular topic of the Fed rate hike expectation, he spent some time explaining to us the rate normalization process and considerations during Q&A.

This is part of a series of blogs chronicling the experiences of 41 Global Master of Finance (GMF) dual degree students during their two week long immersion course in New York and Washington, DC. Each blog will be written by a small subset of students during their experience.