Tag: Desk of the Dean



Lungile Tshuma, MBA

Now a few days from completing the ‘round-the-world global immersion our first-year MBA students began in late June, I’ve made a few observations, picked up a few impressions and heard from a few students. They’re the basis for this month’s column.

I’ll start with a particularly poignant moment I was fortunate to witness at the students’ closing dinner in Barcelona on July 23. As they prepared to decamp for China, Lungile Tshuma rose to offer a toast.

His toast both celebrated the diversity of our latest class of first-year MBA students and affirmed an important goal of the programme: fostering strong bonds among them.

With this new format, we also hoped to distinguish our programme — and, by extension, our students — with a unique focus. Launching the students on a 38-day study of international business from day one carried some risk, but we’ve seen the payoff.

Our faculty, for example, have already spoken about the deep bench this opportunity has attracted. We knew this challenge would attract a certain category and quality of student and on that score, we believe it has already succeeded.

As Senior Associate Dean Patrick Moreton, a chief organizer of the programme, recently told the students, “You’re absorbing and engaging with the environment in a way we’ve never seen before. You’re doing a great job and while you might not be seeing it, we’re feeling good about the learning outcomes we’re getting.”

That dovetails with reports I’ve heard from diversity organizations we support such as Forté and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, where prospective employers were pulling aside our students to ask what drew them to the programme and how it had fared for them so far.

It also dovetails with a personal desire I have harboured for this experience: watching leaders emerge. By definition, this experience was built to “disorient” students and create a global foundation for their future core classes. In each locale, our class includes at least one person who can call that country home and I was eager to hear how they’d respond.

Thus, classmates like Aurora Chen, Frank Chen, Flora Feng, Zach Frantz and others could help organize social events, dinners and provide medical experts while in China.

Beyond these isolated leadership moments, however, I’ve also been gratified to hear from partners we’ve worked with — including the Gramona and Pere Ventura wineries in Barcelona — who have appreciated and valued the business insights shared by our students, even at this early stage in their business school education.

Many of our students have also been forthcoming with feedback throughout their journey, which has led to adjustments in schedules, workloads and assignments Throughout. One such example is that the faculty was making adjustments to accommodate more field experiences in the Shanghai community.

As the first students to embark on this experience at Olin, I’m grateful they’re actively participating as we iterate on the go. I’m truly looking forward to greeting our newly “disoriented” and “globalized” first-year students — whom Lungile has described as “diversely one” — when they return stateside next week.

Pictured above: Lungile Tshuma, MBA ’21, toasting the diversity of the current class of first-year students during the final day celebration of their time in Barcelona.




“To unpathed waters, undreamed shores.” Shakespeare’s phrase, from The Winter’s Tale, sums up the challenge that faces tomorrow’s business leaders. To compete in a global marketplace, one must cultivate a global perspective. Tourism won’t cut it. Deeper global experience is required.

Last week, the 2021 cohort of full-time MBA students arrived at WashU Olin. Today, they’re more than halfway through their orientation, four days from embarking on a journey of “disorientation” across three continents, immersed in a rigorous, hands-on curriculum as global business leaders additionally address real-world business problems.

It is a bold step for the students and—as a number of other schools are choosing to end their full-time MBA programmes—a bold step for Olin. But as a key character notes in Henry IV, Part I, “the blood more stirs to rouse a lion than to start a hare.”

The programme has come a long way since I first introduced it in this space back in September. A long list of Olin team members have contributed to bringing this vision to life, starting with Ohad Kadan, Patrick Moreton, Ashley Macrander, Hayley Huffman and Rachel Tolliver, have spent untold hours planning down the smallest detail.

We’ve learned from a spring break pilot to Barcelona and Shanghai with nearly 100 students. And now it’s underway for the newest class of first-year students.

Around the world in 38 days

On Sunday, the entire cohort arrives at WashU Olin’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Their agenda includes courses with business and government policy experts at the world-renowned Brookings Institution, with whom we enjoy a unique partnership. They’ll begin courses with Andrew Knight focused on impactful teamwork and with Cathy Dunkin on effective communications—courses that carry through the entire trip.

A week later, the cohort moves to Barcelona for a two-week dive into European business and an immersion into Iberian culture. They’ll take courses with Sam Chun and Peter Boumgarden in general management, working with regional vineyards on an analysis of go-to-market strategies.

The students finish with 17 days in China. After a couple of days for sightseeing in Beijing, the cohort spends the next two weeks on two courses. Daniel Elfenbein and Anne Marie Knott work with students on a market-entry problem with St. Louis’s Strange Donuts, which has considered opening in the Chinese market. Then, Fuqiang Zhang and Lingxiu Dong teach an international business operations course as students examine the distribution and manufacturing practices of local and global brands.

Through it all, WashU students will gain a foundational understanding of effective teamwork and values-based, data-driven decision-making. Combining ethical decision making with highly analytic empirical analysis—key hallmarks of business education at WashU Olin.

With more than a month abroad from the outset, these students have embarked on arguably the most global full-time MBA programme in the world. But that’s not the only enhancement we made as we overhauled the full-time MBA.

Flexibility—with rigor

For career-switchers, the traditional two-year MBA may continue to be the right choice. They are turning their careers in a new direction and they value the foundational education, the time to engage with our career services professionals and the chance to test themselves in a summer internship.

But career enhancers—looking for a leap forward in a career they already love—want the content in less time and for as little opportunity cost as possible. They need an accelerated programme that skips the internship. They don’t want “MBA lite.” They want “MBA intensive,” in an abbreviated timeframe, and that’s what WashU Olin has created with the new accelerated full-time MBA.

The new 14-month programme skips the internship and provides the same rigor, the same credit-hours, the same classroom and peer-to-peer experiences as the full-time, two-year programme. Yet students will emerge eight months earlier, prepared to take a giant leap forward in their careers.

Or, if they wish, they can build additional expertise by pairing a specialized master’s degree in business analytics —”big data” — with their full-time MBA. They’ll work on both programmes concurrently and earn two complementary business school degrees in 26 months.

At a time of change and introspection across the business-education spectrum, we are not done innovating in our full-time MBA programme. The Olin Business School team is working to add alternative destinations to the global immersion that will benefit more students, for example.

For our newest class of WashU Olin global MBA students, you might say the programme makes their “blood more stir.”




One is a financial economist with nine top research publications under his belt. Another has been lauded with some of the most prestigious research awards in marketing. And a third is internationally renowned for her work on how firms organize across borders and influence the global economy. All three are outstanding teachers. 

Soon, all three will join WashU Olin Business School—with tenure. Washington University’s Board of Trustees approved their appointments last month. Indeed, the board has commended Olin’s team for the care we take in recruiting top faculty. 

Brett Green, Song Yao and Minyuan Zhao begin in July. These three professors, recruited by our excellent Olin faculty, have proven themselves as accomplished researchers and skilled teachers. They’re hitting it out of the park.

The faculty at WashU Olin continually raise the bar for whom we hire to join their ranks. Expectations are high for research productivity at WashU Olin. And we are recognized for our efforts: The Financial Times ranks us 12th in the world for excellence in research productivity. Indeed, the opportunity to join our world-class faculty and benefit from our world-class facilities is a significant draw. And we aim to get even stronger. 

Todd Milbourn, vice dean of faculty and research, is heading up our hiring strategy, which includes a tactical, five-year look ahead into the hiring needs for each academic area of the school: accounting, economics, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, operations and manufacturing management, and strategy.

“If you want to do world-leading research, you need world-leading scholars,” Todd said. “Instead of going solely after the rookie market—newly minted PhDs—we are making sure we are also recruiting professors who can move the research needle from the minute they step onto campus.”

So, the strategy is to systematically recruit seasoned and senior faculty who have a record of producing top research—scholars who are already well advanced in terms of their research excellence and productivity. It also includes identifying gaps in our research capabilities and expanding our expertise in areas such as entrepreneurship, innovation, healthcare and business analytics. And it includes driving greater diversity among our faculty.

And in areas where we have attracted tenured faculty, it will be important to continue to bring in rookies. Put in business terms, we want to better balance our portfolio—or, as Todd has said, “We want an even deeper bench of greatness.”

That greatness applies equally to teaching. With great research comes the expectation that new faculty members will be great instructors, bringing their cutting-edge business insights to the classroom and preparing our students for the world as it will be rather than the world as it is.

Recruiting can be challenging, to be sure. While we’re out recruiting, we know other universities are as well. We are working to do all we can to retain the talented faculty we have by providing the resources, recognition and opportunity to recharge they are due.

But what I’m excited about the most is the biggest opportunity that comes with continually and collaboratively building on our world-class faculty: Living up to the vision of our school by enhancing the world-changing research, teaching and impact of WashU Olin.




In research and in practice, the results are unambiguous and incontrovertible: Organizations perform better when they welcome, embrace and foster diverse points of view. For this and myriad other reasons, creating an environment which includes and supports a diversity of voices and perspectives is the right thing to do.

Yet at the end of this millennium’s second decade, our society still falls short. We need not look far to find examples of corporate missteps in marketing or product development because planners failed to include a diverse set of voices.

This issue is near and dear to my heart. I’m gratified to be at a school that long ago recognized the importance of racial equity in business education by founding the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.

And I believe we’ve made strides here at WashU Olin by improving the gender balance among students, attracting an increasing number of top women to the faculty, increasing the number of female full professors and advocating for additional endowed teaching chairs for women.

I recognize, however, that as a top business school, there is much more we can do. Building diversity, equity and inclusion is work we should be leading. We cannot assume we’re doing the right thing. We must address issues of inclusion, unconscious bias and institutional inequity with deliberation and forethought.

Jacqueline Slack Carter

That is why I recently created two new positions at Olin dedicated to this work. Several months ago, I appointed Judi McLean Parks, the Reuben C. and Anne Carpenter Taylor Professor of Organizational Behavior, into the new role of associate dean for diversity and inclusion.

And on April 1, Olin’s former registrar, Jacqueline Slack Carter, started her new role as diversity and inclusion officer based in the dean’s office and supporting Judi.

Judi’s role formalizes and expands work she has already done at Olin and dovetails thoroughly with her research interests. Jackie has a demonstrated commitment to this work through numerous on- and off-campus activities including her advocacy for Consortium students, service on numerous university committees and membership in the St. Louis Business Initiative and the Diversity Awareness Partnership.

“I realize this will be a lot of work to change mindset and institutional culture, but it will be transformative work that will have an impact,” Jackie said. “I want to be a part of creating a new story—that we are intentional about providing access and equity for all and where all voices are heard and all are seen.”

Judi is already hard at work again on an initiative she’s pioneered at Olin, a biennial faculty development workshop that brings young, junior faculty from various institutions to our campus for workshops in research presentation, salary negotiation and networking. The June workshop helps develop young faculty and builds the hiring pipeline for research institutions such as WashU Olin.

She’s been meeting with and gathering information from the leaders of various race-, nationality- and gender-based affinity groups and she plans to host—along with Jackie—a series of broader listening sessions.

“My hope is that we can do more to level the playing field at Olin and make it a more welcoming culture for everyone,” Judi said. “It’s not that it’s not. It’s just there are things we can do to continue moving in that direction.” How well do faculty case studies reflect diverse viewpoints, for example? What more can we do to expand and diversify the voices we have on our faculty?

“There’s often a lot of resistance to diversity training,” Judi said. “You often feel like you’re preaching to the choir. But you can do the training in ways that help the person who is being underrepresented to help level the playing field.” I am grateful for the work Judi and Jackie have already put forth. They are both committed to taking a proactive approach toward driving growth in diversity and equity at WashU Olin. Consider this to be the first word on the subject—certainly not the last.

Pictured above: Judi McLean Parks, newly appointed associate dean for diversity and inclusion, presents at a recent “lunch-and-learn” for Olin staff and faculty.




In the two-plus years since I became dean, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of emceeing quite a number of WashU Olin commencement ceremonies. It is my joy to stand at the podium and gaze at faces glowing with a combination of pride, relief and anticipation. I make a point of being the first to welcome them into the community of Olin alumni—a global network approaching nearly 30,000.

The challenge, of course, is where we go from that day forward?

For the alum, Olin can be a source of professional development through webinars, symposia and research. We can be a source of opportunity and career development through ongoing services and engagement with the Weston Career Center (WCC). And, importantly, I’m proud that we’ve launched new opportunities for our alumni and we continue to grow professional connections through networking events.

For Olin, each alum has the potential to provide career coaching and mentoring to the students who follow them. They can provide professional insights to our students in the classroom and through hosted career treks. Or invite students to work on practicum projects that solve real-world problems. Or recruit students for jobs in their organizations. And because of our alumni, who are generous with their treasure—as well as their time and talent—we are able to maintain and build our scholarships, programs and facilities.

Over the past two years, as we have strived to take the school even higher, I’ve become resolved to be more intentional about how we engage with our alumni. We intend to do more to maintain the strong connections between Olin and our former students, to provide a service to our alumni, particularly in the early years of their career, when they most need our support.

We’ve been clear at Olin that our mission and vision statements call for us to provide a return for our students over their entire career. Our students have had the Olin experience—the community, the coursework, the global projects, the collaboration, the faculty—and they’ll continue to have the benefit of Olin after they leave.

Once Olin, always Olin.

In that spirit, watch for more details about the ways we intend to enhance our outreach to and collaboration with our former students.

These initiatives fall in broad categories such as alumni engagement, lifelong learning, alumni communications and personal career resources—a joint effort, taking in the feedback we’ve received from our alumni and the work of colleagues in Alumni and Development, Marketing and Communications, the Graduate Programs Office and the WCC.

In some cases, our work is really focused on better communicating about existing services and opportunities—including career coaching and other career services through the WCC. These services are there and we know our alumni want to make use of them.

In other ways, it’s about taking what we already do to the next level. To enhance communication, for example, we’ve launched a quarterly alumni newsletter (watch for the next edition on April 23). We’re creating listening tours and a schedule of happy hours.

We’re working on symposia, luncheons and panels in various cities around the country, as well as strategies for more communication through phone calls, alumni profiles and more. We’re looking at additional conferences, special events and recorded resources for professional development and sharing WashU Olin thought leadership.

We’re focused on these initiatives so we may live up to our mission and vision. We’re focused on them to make the special relationship between Olin and our alumni more evident to everyone. We’re focused on them because we believe in that perfect world.

I want you to hold me to it.