Tag: Class Acts



Sustainability champions Nick Annin, Elise Fabbro and Nicola Salzman graduate this month from Washington University in St. Louis poised to fight the globe’s most pressing problem with a powerful tool: the free market.

Though these students support laws and treaties that protect the environment, they also recognize that markets can move faster. And, in this battle, every second counts.

Nick Annin plans to pursue a Masters in Finance at Olin after earning his undergrad degree. Majors: Environmental policy and writing in Arts & Sciences. 

“There is a myth that the economy and the environment are inherently at odds,” said Annin, a senior in the environmental studies program in Arts & Sciences. “We know, in fact, the opposite is true. A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment.”

The three advocates share much in common, including an early admiration for former vice president Al Gore. Each said Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” transformed climate change from a vague cause for concern into, for each of them, a call to action.

Annin remembers watching the film in fourth grade with his father Peter Annin, a renowned environmental journalist. Annin felt as if he might vomit.

“All my life, I had gone camping and the woods were my home,” said Annin, a native of Madison, Wis. “The idea that all of that was threatened was horrifying.”

Nicola Salzman Majors: Environmental policy in Arts & Sciences and leadership and strategic management in Olin Business School.

Salzman, also a senior in environmental studies in Arts & Sciences, was in high school in Boston when she read a book version of “An Inconvenient Truth.” She remembers looking at the adults around her thinking, “Wait? You knew about this? And you’re not doing everything you can to fix it?”

And Fabbro, a law student, remembers her Palo Alto, Calif., high school inviting Gore to deliver his “Inconvenient Truth” presentation live.

“I walked out of there changed,” Fabbro said. “Since then, the environment and our impact on it is what I think when I go to bed at night, and when I wake up in the morning.”

In 2013, they would all arrive at the same time at the Danforth Campus. Annin came to play football for Coach Larry Kindbom; Salzman liked the campus culture; and Fabbro transferred to the School of Law when an admissions officer serendipitously called the day she learned her current program was losing two environmental law experts.

Once here, they all applied to participate in the international climate negotiation seminar. They also each attended the global climate talks, known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences of the Parties (COP) as a delegate from Washington University.

Elise Fabbro Degrees: JD, School of Law and MBA, Olin Business School

It’s a unique opportunity, one that few universities extend to undergraduates, said Beth Martin, senior lecturer in environmental studies in Arts & Sciences. At the conferences, the students tracked specific articles of the agreement such as mitigation or finance, and attended negotiations and forums featuring climate leaders such as Gore and former United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

“They see how diplomacy works and how words matter,” said Martin, who teaches the international climate seminar and leads the Washington University observer delegation. “The students also meet people whose daily lives and homes are profoundly impacted by climate change. It is both an incredible educational and emotional experience.”

All three students consider the conference the capstone of their academic careers. “We participated in history,” said Fabbro, who attended COP 21 in 2015 in Paris with Annin.

“I asked myself over and over again, ‘How am I here?’” said Salzman, who attended COP 22 in Marrakesh in 2016. “It was an experience unlike one I could ever have in a classroom.”

Fabbro, Annin and Salzman left their respective conferences buoyed. The innovations of engineers, the research of scientists, the resolve of diplomats — the gains were real. And yet each returned, more convinced than ever, that global talks and international treaties can only take us so far. The private sector can — and must — play a pivotal role.

For a closer look at Washington University’s leading sustainability champions and their vision for world for a healthy environment and economy, link to their Class Acts profiles.




Jon Slack, MBA’17, applied to Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis because of its stellar faculty and track record of placing graduates in top jobs. But he also chose Olin because of another veteran.

“I talked to the president of the Olin Veterans Association multiple times prior to making my decision,” Slack said. “I didn’t have that sort of communication at the other schools. This was important to me because I feel there is a bond of trust veterans share.”

The financial support also mattered — not just the money, but what it symbolized.

“At the other schools where I was accepted, they said, ‘You’ll be on the G.I. Bill. That’s great. But there will be a gap between what the G.I. Bill covers and actual tuition. When I visited here, they said, ‘Know that you will be taken care of. And we do that for every veteran,” said Slack, who will graduate among 10 veterans. “That told me something about the school. It was an above-and-beyond thing.”

Slack was studying economics and computer science at the University of Central Florida when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. On Sept. 12, 2001, he wanted to enlist. His parents urged him to finish his degree first. Slack agreed and joined ROTC. After graduation, Slack served in Afghanistan, Korea, Germany and Africa, where he learned a lot about the world and his fellow Americans.

“I’m from Miami, so diversity was not new to me,” Slack said. “But serving in the military opened me up to other types of diversity. The people alone provided me a great education.”

Initially commissioned as an engineer officer, Slack went on to serve as a civil affairs officer, helping local people develop the capacity to rebuild their institutions. While deployed, the goal, he said, was to work himself out of job. While there was still much to be done, after 10 years he decided it was time for a change.

Slack initially thought of law school; his wife is an attorney and both of his parents are retired police officers. But he soon discovered business school would be a better fit.

“I realized things I enjoyed doing in the Army — leading soldiers, building teams, solving problems — were the focus of business school,” Slack said. “I’m a state-school kid, the son of cops. I never thought I’d go to business school, much less at an elite university. And, to be honest, after 10 years out of school, the first semester hit me like a ton of bricks. But now I love it.”

Read more 2017 Class Acts here.

Photo credit: James Byard/WUSTL Photos




Alex Blustein graduates Dec. 3 with a double major in systems engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and finance at Olin.

Blustein has visited home less than 40 days since arriving at Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. The Tampa native has spent every summer of his undergraduate years either traveling or working.

“It’s a Jewish mother’s nightmare,” Blustein said with a laugh. “But WashU offered me so many opportunities and experiences that I wanted to take advantage of. I love the classroom, but my time outside of the classroom has really helped me better understand the world.”

Early next year, he will begin Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 10-month rotational Global Management Trainee Program. “I’ll learn about everything from marketing to supply to brewing,” said Blustein, who will take a management position with the company after his rotation. “It’s perfect for a person who likes to understand multiple facets of a business from more than one angle.”

Blustein said he chose Washington University for a couple of reasons. One, the university accommodates students who want to complete different majors in different schools. To Blustein, who gives tours to potential engineering students, that just makes sense.

“I always tell people on my tours that college is the time to follow their passion and to try new things,” Blustein said. “Using two different parts of your brain is not only mentally exciting, it makes you more competitive in the job market.”

The second reason: One of the people Blustein most admires also picked Washington University — his brother Zachary Blustein, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in chemical engineering and now works for Emerson Process Management.

“He is just the first in a long line of amazing role models,” said Blustein, who counts fellow members of business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and social fraternity Sigma Nu as key mentors. “From the moment I arrived, I met so many motivated and talented upperclassmen who mentored me throughout my years at WashU.

“Many would  say to me , ‘Alex, you have to apply to this program,’ or ‘Alex, you must study abroad.’  I am most grateful to my brother and older friends for their advice. Their guidance has served me well.”

The summer after his first year, Blustein participated in Olin’s Israel Summer Business Academy, where he worked for an agriculture technology startup in Tel Aviv. He spent the next two summers working for AB InBev, first in St. Louis and then in New York. And spring of his junior year, he studied in Hong Kong — a systems engineer’s paradise.

“Their metro system? I could talk forever about its efficiency,” Blustein said. “Traveling helps you see what’s possible.”

And not just technologically, Blustein said.

“Every day abroad you make a new friend or better understand a different culture,” Blustein said. “My travels have strengthened my faith in humanity. People are good.

Guest Blogger: Diane Toroian Keaggy, Class Acts series originally published on WashU’s The Source.




A native of Oregon, WashU senior Joanna Klitzke loves the outdoors and is committed to protecting the environment — not by engineering a more efficient car or drafting stricter legislation, but by building a better supply chain.

“Small decisions about packaging, transportation and factory operations can make a really big difference,” said Klitzke, who is majoring in operations and supply chain management in the Olin Business School. “Ultimately, I am an optimist about how business can affect the environment. Many people see corporations as the enemy of sustainability, but businesses that want to make a positive difference have the capital to accomplish big, meaningful change quickly.”

During her time at Washington University, Klitzke studied Spanish in Argentina, gender studies in Turkey and sustainable development and conservation in Madagascar where she helped residents make soap to use and sell. She says her experiences abroad have informed her business ethos.

“Listen and be flexible — you can come in with all of your ideas, but in the end, you need to trust the local knowledge and adapt your plans accordingly,” Klitzke said. “For instance, in Madagascar we planned to press oil from a local plant to put in our soap but quickly discovered that the oil press was only two small beams of wood. So we used oil they had in the local market instead. The experience taught me how to improvise and collaborate.”

OWN it logoKlitzke brought that same can-do attitude to Washington University’s first OWN IT, a female leadership summit. Founded by Ellen Kaushansky, a senior at the Olin School, and Claudia Vaughan, a senior in Arts & Sciences, the event hosted leaders in sports, science, entertainment, business and politics including Laura Meckler (AB ’90), Wall Street Journal national political correspondent; Michelle Larson, president of the Adler Planetarium; Nina Roth, senior director of marketing at ESPN and Sandra Stern, President at Lionsgate Television Group.

“I saw it as a way to bridge millennial students with the women who inspire them,” Klitzke said. “Yes, it is a summit for women, but more importantly, it is a summit designed to share with the WashU community many amazing people who, with grit and determination, have done great stuff with their lives.”

The event was a huge success and recently received the Excellence in Leadership Award for outstanding new campus event. Klitzke took care of the logistics from contracts to catering.

“My co-chair and I were the ones who made sure everyone was in the right spot at the right time and that everyone was happy about being in the right spot at the right time,” Klitzke said. “Basically the same reason I love supply chain is the same reason I loved working on OWN IT — I love working behind the scenes to get things from one point to another.”

by Diane Toroian Keaggy, WashU Public Affairs

Image: James Byard/WUSTL Photos




Golf, the poets say, is a lot like life, except more complicated.

And no one knows that better than Portland, Oregon, native Connie Zhou, who will earn a degree in marketing from Olin Business School at the 2016 Commencement, with minors in psychology and the business of sports.

Among the highlights of her four-year undergraduate career are an appearance in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” feature as a sophomore; helping her team to a third-place overall finish in the NCAA Division III championship in 2015; two first team All-America honors in 2014 and ’15; and internships with the PGA Tour and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, where she helped welcome Steph Curry and teammates at the airport after they won the NBA title.

It’s all been pretty easy, right? Not so fast. Zhou also has seen her fair share of challenges in the classroom and on the fairway; and if you know anything about golf, it’s how you handle the peaks and valleys that teach you the most.

“This year has been a challenge for her,” said her coach, Ellen Port. “She’s had three great years but her numbers have dropped off her senior year, which can be frustrating. That’s a life lesson she has handled quite well. If you play any sport long enough, there are going to be peaks and valleys. She’s remained working hard and positive.

“She’s the complete package,” Port said. “A great golfer, teammate and person.”

Bloomington, Ill., April 17, 2016 – Senior Connie Zhou fired a season-best even-par 72 Sunday to lead the No. 15-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women's golf team to a fourth place finish at the 2016 Kathy Niepagen Spring Fling hosted by Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill.

Bloomington, Ill., April 17, 2016 – Senior Connie Zhou fired a season-best even-par 72 to lead the No. 15-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women’s golf team to a fourth place finish at the 2016 Kathy Niepagen Spring Fling hosted by Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill.

It’s what Zhou has learned as a student athlete at a Division III university — being a team captain, taking tests in hotel rooms on the road, juggling matches with classes and then focusing on golf when it’s time to focus on golf; all these things will help in her next steps in life.

“A lot of it is prioritizing and planning your time well,” Zhou said. “As for golf, sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself, but then I just remember to step back and keep everything in perspective. That’s why I’m really happy I came to WashU. I’ve had such a focus on golf practically my entire life, but here I have other things that I’m involved in.”

It’s that focus that will carry her.

“When you’re in a tournament you don’t want to be thinking about the technical things,” Zhou said. “You want to just be focused on the present and on scoring. It’s more about feel.

“I really have to zone in and distract myself by not thinking and planning. So many things can happen in golf — one wrong thought can really mess with you.”

But one right thought can get you places you never thought possible. Zhou’s goal after WashU is a career in sports marketing. Applying for an internship at Portland-area marketing firm Wieden+Kennedy — a firm known for its most famous client, Nike — she was asked to send a video introducing herself.

Thinking outside the box, the Olin business major asked a friend majoring in film and media studies to help. The result was a 30-second introductory video with animated pasta.

Pasta? Just what you’d expect from an All-American golfer.

Zhou, low-key, even tempered, simply smiles.

by Leslie Gibson McCarthy, originally published on WashU’s Commencement site. Link to more Class Acts profiles.


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