Tag: Center for Experiential Learning



Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

In October, the Center for Experiential Learning sent a team of student-consultants to Quito, Ecuador, to advise the innovation and entrepreneurship department of ConQuito: The Agency of Economic Promotion.

The startup or incubation ecosystem is a complex and unpredictable environment that fuels technological progress, the ecosystem in which the seeds of the most innovative and revolutionary technologies are planted and cultivated. The opportunity to step into and examine this environment has been—so far—the highlight of my academic career.

Entering the landmark historical building in which ConQuito operates, the team was welcomed by ConQuito members to their impressive co-working space. Designed with the vision of merging the past with the future—the historical significance of the building and ConQuito’s efforts to engender a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship—the co-working space symbolizes ConQuito’s goal to cultivate the seeds of innovation to pave the way to economical improvement in Ecuador. Our client ConQuito is a pioneer of promoting innovative and entrepreneurial activities that stimulate the economy.

Working with a team of welcoming, collaborative, and dedicated professionals has served to increase the team’s motivation and interest in this project. The team’s objective is to provide the innovation and entrepreneurship department of ConQuito with a recommendation that optimizes the strategy for fostering a culture of innovation, ingenuity and progress.

The CEL practicum is the culmination and application of all the business concepts I have learned in Olin Business School. The experiential value of a real-world consulting project has shaped my future career aspirations. It has given me the assurance that I want to pursue a career in consulting.

Pictured above: Enrique Crespo, director of innovation, ConQuito (the CEL client); David Paquette, MBA ’19; Stephanie Feit, MBA ’19; Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20; Mimi Wang, MBA ’19; Laini Cassis, MBA ’19.




Samuel Roth, MBA ’19, wrote this on behalf of his team in Olin’s Center for Experiential practicum program.

The MilliporeSigma team received more than 50 disparate data sets with tens of thousands of rows of data—each ranging from customer interaction logs to water quality measurements to technician feedback logs. The team has been asked to take the data and answer a seemingly simple question: For lab water purification system-customers, when are service events likely to occur and what are the primary indicators of an imminent service event?

From a business school mentality, the team, consisting of four master of customer analytics students and two MBA students, initially wanted to organize the data to create a model that would maximize economic benefit for MilliporeSigma. However, the client noted that the team needed to approach the problem without bias toward organizational objectives.

Team members rolled up their sleeves and began analyzing the data, only to find discrepancies in records that defied human understanding. How could the data indicate a technician made a repair on a machine that had never been installed? This realization led the team to realize every piece of data included in the model had to be rigorously scrutinized for its reflection of the real world.

Painstakingly, the team cleaned, examined, and again cleaned the data to avoid the phenomenon of “GiGo”—garbage in, garbage out. The client pivoted its expectations upon recognizing how much work was required just to prepare the data. The new measure of success: Simply creating a file that provided clean enough input for machine learning models to analyze.

Exceeding expectations, the team produced a file that is machine-learning ready with four weeks remaining to derive insights from statistical learning models.

The team has endured major pivots at nearly every turn in the project and has come to recognize that this is how business is done. MilliporeSigma and the CEL have provided the team an amazing opportunity to not only apply ivory tower modeling techniques taught in academia, but also to experience first-hand how challenging it is for organizations to patch their data together and provide insight into the real world.

Pictured above: Nithin Tiruveedhi, controller, BRM and diagnostics, MilliporeSigma; Robert Woody, MSCA ’18; Claire Xu Yiwen, MSCA ’18; Samuel M. Roth, MBA ’19; Seungho Oh. MBA ’19; Leah Zhang Chuyi, MSCA ’18; and Kunnan Liu, MSCA ’18.




Abigail MacDonald, MBA ’18, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

Back row: Jeff Brown, MBA ’19; Ingrid Claussen, innovation manager, Rosario Board of Trade;
Nick Wosniak, MBA ’19; Gabe Berkland, MBA ’19. Front row: Abigail MacDonald, MSW/MBA ’18;
Ana Galiano, Austral University, Rosario – School of Business Sciences dean; Ankita Bhalla, BSBA ’20.

St. Louis is known as one of the best agricultural technology ecosystems in the world. With great agriculture universities, world-class research centers, interested investors, and thoughtful infrastructure, St. Louis is a perfect example of a successful ecosystem.

This fall, a team of graduate and undergraduate students at Olin Business School took a deeper dive into agtech ecosystems to learn about the importance of those essential institutions, groups, and entities necessary to have a successful ecosystem. We partnered with Austral University in Rosario, Argentina, and the Yield Lab, located both in St. Louis and Buenos Aires, to look at two different agtech ecosystems. As part of this process, we traveled to Buenos Aires and Rosario in early October.

Wheels up

Before leaving for Argentina, the team conducted research and interviews in St. Louis. We were excited to share their findings with the partners at Austral University in Rosario and the Yield Lab upon arriving in Argentina. We had a full schedule once we touched down in Argentina, and all of us were focused on the goal of the trip: to understand the key drivers of the agtech ecosystem in Rosario and to learn about how it has evolved over time.

Rosario is located in the province of Santa Fe, which is in the heart of soy country in Argentina, making it a perfect place for an agtech ecosystem to emerge. St. Louis is also located in a heavily agricultural region. The team spent some time driving between the cities of Rosario, Cordoba, and Santa Fe. Ultimately, this traveling gave us the opportunity to see the countryside of Santa Fe and how it closely resembles the agricultural region around St. Louis.

On our second to last day in Rosario, our team visited Molinos Agro, a large local soy crushing facility in San Lorenzo (just outside of Rosario). We had spent most of the week learning about the agtech ecosystem from the beginning of the value chain with startups creating new farm technology or genetically engineering seeds.

A fuller view

As a result, visiting Molinos Agro was especially helpful in that it gave us a glimpse into the middle-end of the value chain. The soy beans came into this facility as raw materials and left as either soy mill or soy oil. This was a great experience for our team, as it allowed us to see the effects that startup technology can have on an entire industry.

Our week in Argentina was filled with activities. Throughout the visit our team had the opportunity to interview with accelerators, startup founders, large local corporations, government agencies, investors, and the Rosario Board of Trade. These interviews provided great insights into the Rosario agtech ecosystem. Upon returning to St. Louis, the team has been hard at work to learn more about the Rosario ecosystem and to create a gap analysis between the two ecosystems. This gap analysis will provide insight into the necessary pieces of a successful agtech ecosystem.

Based on our experiences thus far, taking on a CEL practicum project is a lot of work, but it provides students with experience in industries in which they may have never considered working and helps students to develop useful skills in consulting, teamwork, and critical thinking.

Pictured above: Abigail MacDonald, MSW/MBA ’18; Gabe Berkland, MBA ’19; Nick Wosniak, MBA ’19; Jeff Brown, MBA ’19; Ankita Bhalla, BSBA ’20.




Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library in Simon Hall on October 12.

Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen
during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library
in Simon Hall on October 12.

When Ron Allen first arrived on WashU’s campus for a new job as business school librarian, there wasn’t one—at least, not one adequate to serve a world-class business school.

In 1986, Robert Virgil was dean, on a mission to raise Olin Business School’s profile among global business schools. Simon Hall was under construction and a new, state-of-the-art business library was part of the plan to help propel Olin to new heights. Allen was to be the first to build the library from a tiny nook and to hold an endowed directorship for the position as the Asa F. Seay Librarian.

“There was a sense of starting from nothing and growing this library into a first-rate service for faculty and students,” Allen recalled on October 5, on the occasion of his retirement from WashU, 33 years after his arrival. The New York City native—who confessed that “I don’t know if I could have identified St. Louis on a map”—spent three decades building, defending, and morphing the library through changes in leadership and technology.

“He was a change agent like nobody else over the course of his career,” said Ron King, Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting, in his tribute remarks. “The heart of the school was the library.”

At an event in the ornate reading room at the Al and Ruth Kopolow Business Library, three former deans and Todd Milbourn, vice dean and Hubert C. and Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance, shared their recollections of Allen’s career and contributions.

Milbourn recalled how Allen “got me wired in” as a brand new faculty member in the business school when he arrived, describing Allen as a partner in research who would find and help faculty exploit new data sets for their work.

Former deans Stuart Greenbaum and Mahendra Gupta recalled occasions when they tried to commandeer space from the library to accommodate expanding programs at Olin—attempts Allen rebuffed every time.

“You fell in love with the place when you walked into Kopolow,” Greenbaum said, crediting Allen with the environment he’d created. Gupta built on that remark, calling the library “the intellectual future of the school.”

When Allen came to WashU to run the business library, it was a standalone entity. It’s since been absorbed as part of the WashU library system. He said he’s come to terms with the idea of retirement and is looking forward to downsizing from a house to a Central West End apartment and his Florida condo.

“His handprint is all over this library and the way it was shaped and developed,” said former Dean Robert Virgil. “It was why our students wanted to stay here and study here.”




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.”