Noah Vermes, BSBA 2024

Sometimes, the path to your future isn’t a straight line. You make a turn here and take an on-ramp there, and before you know it, you’ve ended up someplace entirely unexpected.

For Noah Vermes, an incoming senior in the BSBA program, those turns took him from WashU’s College of Arts and Sciences to Olin—and allowed him to craft a path that combines a talent for consulting and a love of education. 

He’s finishing up an internship in Boston that capitalizes on both—working as a summer analyst at Tyton Partners, a strategy consulting firm in the global education sector.

“I’m working on a long-term project with a university, providing them with a go-to-market strategy and pricing strategy for the near and long term,” Vermes said. “I’m researching the types of students they hope to attract and seeing how they make decisions about colleges.”

The internship couldn’t be a better fit with Vermes’ interests and goals. “I have loved working in consulting for a sector I am so passionate about.”

The pivot

Vermes, a Cherry Hill, New Jersey, native, entered the university as a math major. “I had no clue what I wanted to study,” he said. “But I liked math and knew I was good at it.” The son of a school psychologist, he thought he might pursue a career as a math teacher.

Vermes said he enjoys communicating with people and using math to solve problems. “That naturally led me to pivot to business school. I found that I liked management consulting, which brings in so many aspects of what I enjoy—solving problems, working with people.”

But he never gave up his interest in education and decided to take on a second major in educational studies. He wasn’t sure how to reconcile these two interests until he discovered the world of educational consulting. Researching firms in that sector, he found Tyton.

“They work with universities, schools, nonprofits, foundations, education technology firms, everything under the sun,” Vermes said. He leaned heavily on his preparation at Olin’s Weston Career Center and advice from his management professors Staci Thomas and Rebecca Dohrman in pursuing the Tyton internship. “I used them as a sounding board, saying ‘Here’s what I’m thinking about doing.’ It was incredibly helpful.”

A broader perspective

Vermes said this summer’s internship gave him a broader understanding of the opportunities available in education.

“I had settled on the idea that I need education in my life in some way, but I saw it as separate from my business classes,” he said. “I’ve learned that there are opportunities out there, whether it’s in grad school, education consulting, even education VC (venture capital firms).”

Now he’s heading back to Olin this fall reinvigorated—and with a big challenge ahead. He’ll be the head teaching assistant for eight sections of the Management 201 class, supervising 15 other TAs.

“I definitely pushed for this and said I’d love opportunities to challenge myself,” he said.

Vermes encouraged students to look beyond traditional career paths to find the best fit for their talents and passions.

“It’s easy to silo yourself and keep to the path that everybody else is taking,” he said. “Look at what you really like doing and find out what you like about it. Olin gives you the foundation to take the skills you learn and apply them toward something that you really enjoy.”

Drake Shafer, BSBA 2023, grew up in Glasford, population 834, near Peoria, Illinois, and attended high school with 50 graduating seniors. With his mom’s encouragement, he became the first in his family to go to college and the first student from his high school in generations to attend a top-20 university.

“Something felt different when I toured WashU,” said Shafer, who visited more than a dozen campuses. “Instead of trying to see myself fitting into the campus and student life, I immediately felt at home.”

Shafer enrolled at Olin School of Business, but he felt behind as soon as he started. Some classmates had business experience, and some had parents with successful business careers. Fortunately, he said, “many of the professors in the Olin Business School that I’ve had aim to help every student succeed academically and professionally, no matter their background.”

Scholarship support made it possible for Shafer to attend the university. It “has given me the opportunity to solely focus on my education and the experience of being a learner, something I’ll never find the words to completely express my gratitude for,” he said. “More privileged and higher-income students can’t begin to think about the implications and struggles that come along with being from a lower-income background.”

Last fall, the university launched Make Way: Our Student Initiative, a fundraising effort to increase financial resources for undergraduate scholarships, graduates scholarships and fellowships, and a best-in-class student experience. Through Make Way, WashU aims to increase access and opportunity for students at every level of need.

A chance to delve into the student experience

In his second year, Shafer was chosen to participate in the inaugural class of the Chancellor’s Career Fellowship program. The program provides career-oriented opportunities for first-year or sophomore students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds. The skills Shafer gained helped him land his first internship, and the university provided a stipend to help offset housing costs during the experience.

Now in his senior year at Olin, Shafer has delved deeply into the student experience. He’s majoring in marketing, operations and supply chain management, and he’s minoring in the business of entertainment. He participated in the student-owned consulting firm Bear Studios. He opened Gallery 314, a retail store on campus. And he completed a global management internship at Anheuser-Busch.

“Thanks to my Olin experience, I now feel just as capable as my classmates to take on a high-caliber career.”

After graduation, Shafer will head to Chicago to join the Kraft Heinz Company’s trainee program.

He said he hopes his collegiate success will lead to a fulfilling career and enable him to give back to those who supported his journey—especially the WashU community and his family.

“WashU has helped me learn how to take on—and succeed in—multiple roles. I’ll keep these experiences with me for the rest of my life.”

Brock Mullen, BSBA ’23, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

I had the privilege of spending the past semester studying abroad in Ireland at University College Dublin (UCD). Olin provides so many opportunities for global experiences, and this is my second time getting to take advantage of an international Olin program. This semester not only provided useful academic skills for my marketing major, but also it taught me many life lessons. The classes at UCD are structured differently than at WashU, so I only had classes two days a week. I used the rest of my time to explore Ireland and the rest of Europe! I’d like to share a lesson I learned from each of the countries I visited:

Ireland: Make the most of unexpected changes

To accompany my second major in Chinese Language and Culture, I was originally planning to study abroad in China. However, that was not possible due to COVID-19. I was not expecting to spend a semester in Ireland, but I am so glad it worked out this way. I made amazing lifelong friends and had so many opportunities for experiences I never would have had otherwise. Although I didn’t get to practice my Chinese much (I found some people to practice with in Dublin, however), I have been able to travel to many places I never would’ve thought possible before this semester.

United Kingdom: Make time for friends

The first destination I visited was to see a fellow WashU student who is from Wales and was home for the holidays. It was such a great trip, even if we didn’t do anything “touristy” while visiting. Making time for friends is a must.

Slovakia: Be spontaneous

Sometimes, you just need to take advantage of unique opportunities as they arise. I saw an advertisement for €5 round-trip flights to Slovakia and purchased them on the spot. The trip was one of my favorite memories of the semester!

Belgium: Take advantage of the global Olin community

I decided to visit a group of my Olin peers who were participating in a special class at the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. Olin has students, staff and alumni all over the world, and it was amazing to see many people come together at this event.

Germany: Take a break and admire everyday beauty

While visiting the local sites in every place I traveled was great, some of my favorite moments were simply being with friends in a quiet park or on a random street. Don’t focus too much on the big moments; stop and look at the little things.

Spain: It’s okay to have an adjustment period

I do not like eating dinner at 9 p.m., so getting used to the Spanish lifestyle was challenging at first. However, amazing friends supported me and helped me get used to the different cultural norms.

Czech Republic: Relax and open up

On my visit to the Czech Republic, I felt great after taking time to relax and open up to friends. By growing closer to my travel companions, it enhanced our visit of the country and made the trip so enjoyable.

Norway: Be flexible

I did not intend to visit Norway, but due to a last-minute flight cancelation, I was forced to have a layover there. Although this didn’t seem ideal at the time, being flexible in my travel plans allowed me to explore a new place and gain great experiences!

Iceland: Plan to check something off the bucket list

I had always dreamed of visiting the beautiful nature in Iceland. I finally fulfilled my dream, and it was amazing! Taking the time and effort to make it a reality definitely paid off in the end.

Morocco: Reframe anxiousness as excitement

Because Moroccan culture is very different from the Western European culture, I’d grown accustomed to, I was initially nervous to explore this place. However, I turned that anxiousness into excitement by focusing on how much I would learn and grow from the experience—and it was outstanding!

Croatia: Don’t let rain (or any unfortunate circumstance) stop you from having fun

After learning my trip to Croatia would be filled with rain and storms, I was disappointed and not as excited to go. However, I was still able to have an amazing time—even if the itinerary had to change quite a bit to accommodate the weather.

Montenegro: Waiting is great time for thinking

When coming back from Montenegro, I was stuck waiting to cross the border for hours with no internet connection. This provided a wonderful opportunity to reflect, pause and practice using my imagination —a break that we all need sometimes!

The Netherlands: Allow shock to encourage curiosity

The Netherlands is a stunning place, and there are many societal and physical differences from other places I’ve traveled. Leveraging this surprise to pique my interest in the local culture allowed me to learn many new things that challenged my beliefs and perspectives.

Denmark: Take risks

I decided to try something new and do a bike tour. I was hesitant because I had not ridden a bike in many years, and I wasn’t sure if exploring a new city by bike would be difficult or dangerous. But, as the old saying goes, it was “just like riding a bike.” I’m glad I decided to take this risk for me and enjoy the reward of a pleasant experience.

Sweden: Be bold and try new things

I was in Sweden on Easter, and the only open restaurant I came across was a Mexican-Swedish fusion restaurant serving an Easter brunch buffet. I was hesitant to experiment with this new cuisine, but it ended up being some of the best food I had in Europe!

Portugal: Climbing a hill makes you stronger

Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is a lot like San Francisco—quite hilly! Going up all the hills can be exhausting, but the views at the top are always worth it. Just like in life, though the journey may be uncomfortable, sticking through it ends in with a nice reward (and nice calves).

Austria: Savor Moments

I visited Austria on a day trip, and I initially felt pressure to rush and squeeze in all the activities. However, I realized that taking the time to savor each of the new sites would provide a much more meaningful experience.

Hungary: Be adventurous

While I went on all my other trips with amazing fellow Olin students, I decided to do my final trip of the semester alone. It was fun to explore independently and be adventurous, and it provided me with a new perspective on traveling.

Overall, this Olin semester abroad was outstanding. It would not have been possible without my Olin peers and best friends Brad Gordon and Harrison Tanaka, the support of the Olin Global Programs office and the friendly people of the world. I’m looking forward to my next adventures at WashU and beyond!

This coming semester will be the first spring Olin will send students abroad since 2020. They’ll immerse themselves in other cultures for the entire semester in Chile, Ireland, Italy and Spain.

We asked five of our soon-to-travel BSBA students, all Class of 2023, about their plans and hopes as they go abroad. After all, this is International Education Week, celebrating the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. Closer to home, of course, Olin is globally oriented. It’s one of our four pillars of excellence.

“I haven’t spent much time out of the US, so this will be an entirely new experience for me,” Emma Guarnero said. She’s heading to Santiago, Chile, and is looking forward to mastering Spanish and learning about the indigenous culture there.

“I’m also looking forward to living with a host family and, hopefully, developing a strong relationship with them,” she said. Overall, she said, she’s hoping to gain a more global perspective “and begin to understand the world outside of my bubble in the US.”

Eventually, Guarnero intends to work in Latin America. “I’m planning on working as an international human rights attorney or in Latin American economic development. I’m hopeful that this experience will give me clarity into which career path I want to pursue.”

‘An expanded mindset’

Originally, Brock Mullen was bound for Singapore, but that program was canceled. So, he’s heading to Dublin.

“In high school, I had some wonderful opportunities to travel abroad with my church and my school,” he said. “I have been to Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Germany and Turkey with my high school, and I participated in a service trip in Jamaica.”

He’s counting on his semester in Ireland to help him deepen his appreciation of other cultures. “By having an expanded mindset, I’ll be able to make more well-rounded and thorough decisions in my career. Adding a global perspective will make me a more valuable asset for my future employers.” 

Mullen said he hopes to one day join the ranks of upper management for a successful company. After he graduates, he’s bound for Microsoft’s finance rotation program, which is its leadership development pipeline.

Jaya Tewari already has traveled to 13 countries and heads to Madrid this spring. “I’m most excited to meet other students from around the world and experience a new culture.”

She intends to work in the sports industry, and she said she is curious to learn if experiencing European soccer culture will confirm her desire to work internationally.

Ireland has fascinated Andrew Weiss since high school, when he studied European history and Irish English literature. “I’ve always wanted to study abroad, and I am very excited to visit Ireland for the first time.”

At University College Dublin, he plans to combine his passions of European history and business. He also said he hopes to meet new, lifelong friends and develop a deeper understanding of Irish culture.

“I’m very excited to build a business network abroad,” he said.  “I have learned so much about the value of networking at WashU.” 

When his time in Ireland is over, he’ll be off to New York City for an investment banking internship at DC Advisory. “I am very open minded to what the future may hold, but I believe I have narrowed it down to banking or private equity as the space I am most interested in.” 

Jason Jin said he’s not yet sure where he wants to go with his career. For now, he’s taking it a semester at a time and excited about the next one, which he’ll spend in Milan.

“I’m hoping to broaden my worldview and expand my appreciation for the Italian culture,” said Jin, who has visited Russia, Spain, England and China. “I think this experience abroad may allow me to be more open to potentially working abroad as well.”

Pictured from left top row: Emma Guarnero, Jason Jin, Brock Mullen, Jaya Tewari and Andrew Weiss.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Nina Gerson, BSBA ’17. Nina works as an investment banking analyst at Union Square Advisors.

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

I am currently in my second year as an investment banking analyst at Union Square Advisors, a boutique investment bank that advises technology companies on M&A and late-stage private capital raising. Upon completion of the analyst program this summer, I will be joining CapitalG (formerly known as Google Capital) as an investor on their growth equity team.

I believe having an undergraduate BSBA from Olin helped set me apart from other candidates during recruiting for investment banking. Moreover, Olin’s supportive, close-knit community provided me with the resources to explore and prepare for a career in finance.

Olin has a very entrepreneurial environment. While at Olin, faculty supported me and my peers in our efforts to build out the Washington University Investment Banking Club (WUIB), WUIBWomen and bringing Adventis to campus to teach financial modeling. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take advantage of the opportunity to tap the bright network of students, faculty and staff within Olin for support, ideas and collaboration.

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

The first class I took at Olin, Management 100, was a defining moment in my college journey. I vividly remember working in a group on a HBS case study on Southwest’s business model. I was drawn to the applied nature of the case study method and the collaborative, group work environment that is present in most of Olin’s classes. Once I was exposed to this method of education, I quickly switched from a pre-law track into the business school.

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

Since I graduated two years ago, I have lived in both SF and NYC. Both cities are hubs for Wash U grads and have a great community – both professionally and socially. Olin and its associated professional clubs do a great job of encouraging students to reach out to alumni and I love to hear from current students and stay involved via their outreach.

Why is business education important?

Graduating with a BSBA prepared me for the technical, conceptual and applied aspects of financial concepts that we work with on a daily basis in investment banking. In addition, my classmates and I received the gift of a national professional network that we can tap post-graduation, an opportunity most students only have after earning an MBA.

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

Seize the years you have at Wash U and in Olin. Olin’s students, faculty and staff are eager to mentor, advise, collaborate and support each of you. This is a special moment where you have an incubated environment of striving individuals with similar goals and hopes as your own. I encourage you to use this time to explore your personal and professional ambitions to the fullest.