Tag: Desk of the Dean



Attendees watching the panel discussion at WashU Olin

A spate of recent news headlines has highlighted our school’s great success in a number of areas as a result of the hard work of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

One of those successes: This year, we lead the world’s top business schools in the percentage of women enrolled in the full-time MBA programme.

Forty-nine percent of the Olin MBA class of 2021 are women—more than any school mentioned in a recent report from the Forté Foundation, which promotes women in business leadership. Globally, nearly 39% of business school MBA enrollment is female, Forté reported, with only 19 of its member schools exceeding 40%.

That report followed hot on the heels of another important win for WashU Olin, the No. 1 global ranking from Inc. magazine and Poets & Quants for MBA entrepreneurship programmes. I’m thrilled with the acknowledgement of the priority we’ve placed on entrepreneurship—and we’ve covered that fully in this Olin Blog post. So today, I’ll focus on the issue of gender parity.

The Forté report on parity resulted in a relative tidal wave of Olin press mentions in The Wall Street Journal, Poets & Quants, the Financial Times, Business Because and Study International. The news broke so fast, media outlets got to it before we even shared it on our own blog!

Initiatives driving success

To be sure, the news is affirming of the success of our efforts.

It affirms the priority we have placed on pressing for diversity among our students, staff and faculty. It affirms the work of student organizations such as Olin Women in Business and student ambassadors to call, reach out and build relationships with prospective students. It affirms the recruiting work of our faculty and the strong partnerships we maintain with organizations such as Forté, Reaching Out MBA and The Consortium.

Since I’ve arrived, the Olin team has worked hard to achieve this milestone, which came a little more than a year after the Financial Times ranked Olin No. 3 in the US and No. 4 globally among the best MBA programmes for women.

In those three years, I’ve seen OWIB establish an important “men as allies” initiative and collaborate with other student organizations to explore and build access to pastimes that have been traditionally dominated by men—pastimes such as golf, whiskey tastings, fantasy football and March Madness bracketology.

We’ve enjoyed impressive attendance at our annual Women’s Weekend/Diversity Weekend events. Numerous Olin alumnae return to campus to inspire, mentor and promote women leaders among our students—including Build-a-Bear’s Maxine Clark.

Maintaining our momentum

That includes two extremely successful programmes for International Women’s Day, when Olin has blown the doors off Emerson for our now annual “She Suite” event highlighting the achievements of women executives among our alumnae (Save the date: The next one is March 6, 2020.).

These and many other initiatives have contributed to this milestone—all while maintaining high standards for student admission and overhauling our full-time MBA with a substantial global immersion component. The pressure cooker of a 38-day immersion reinforces the need for diversity across genders, races, nationalities and other identities: A balanced group of students builds support, camaraderie and an aversion to group think.

While the news confirms our efforts, however, we cannot be complacent.

I’m committed, as I know our colleagues are committed, to the deliberate and proactive attention that issues of gender parity and diversity require. Maintaining near-perfect gender parity demands continued commitment, earnest attention and ongoing support of our student clubs, our alumni and our staff. Our students are motivated, determined and talented.

They come to us seeking an experience that is inclusive, collaborative and affords a voice to all identities and perspectives. Because of this work and the work that must continue, our students are prepared to make an impact, shatter the glass ceiling and reach the upper echelons of organizations where they make values-based and data-driven decisions.

Pictured above: Attendees watching the panel discussion at WashU Olin’s 2019 She Suite event on International Women’s Day. (Photo/Jerry Naunheim)




Pictured above: An Olin-led executive education class underway at Brookings in our newly expanded space.

The roots of executive education run deep in St. Louis and in Washington, DC, at our partner, The Brookings Institution. They’re about to run deeper.

In St. Louis, our expertise in executive education runs back at least to 1955, when Lee M. Liberman wrote to a colleague about a faculty-led management seminar he’d attended as a 34-year-old. Liberman later served four decades on the WashU’s board of trustees alongside two chancellors.

Also, in the late ’50s, Brookings launched two-week conferences aimed at “men of high caliber at the executive level,” according to a journal writeup at the time. Jointly, Olin and Brookings have partnered for years on leadership and management education in DC, taught by Olin faculty.

Although we’re already highly ranked globally for executive education—12th in the nation and 32nd worldwide, according to the Financial Times—we know we can lead further on the strengths we already have.

Leveraging our unique partnership with Brookings, we’ve created a joint organization that deeply entwines Olin’s research-based leadership in executive education with the global policy and economic expertise at the world’s premier think-tank. We’ve already rebranded the existing program as WashU at Brookings. We envision the relationship growing further still.

“The leaders of the future need to be able to navigate a set of questions that Brookings brings to the table,” said Kelly Bean, senior associate dean and the Charles F. Knight Distinguished Director of Executive Education at WashU Olin. Based at Brookings, commuting between DC and St. Louis, she is charged with unifying and expanding executive education operations in both locations.

As Kelly sees it, Brookings sits at the nexus of business, governmental policy and social impact. “That’s the sweet spot where we want to be able to help leaders in their organizations: How can that integration impact their own organizations?”

At the same time, our St. Louis-based operation continues to draw business from corporate partners eager for access to our expertise on leadership development, change management and strategic alignment our faculty experts can provide. Sam Chun, assistant dean and director of executive education, is about to depart for the Netherlands, for example, to begin delivering Olin’s first international exec ed program in leadership development for Rabobank, a Dutch multinational financial services firm.

Other new partners for Olin exec ed include distribution service provider Bunzl Distribution, pharmaceutical maker Pfizer, and AB InBev—which was attracted by the closer connection and program potential of our Brookings relationship. “We’re designing the program with AB InBev as we speak,” Sam said.

“That’s key,” Sam says. We don’t simply build programs and hope executives show up in the classroom. “We ask the market and design a program for them. And because of that, they come.”

With a deeper connection to Brookings, we anticipate DC-based policy experts leading courses for executives in St. Louis, with content delivered either in person or through our Center for Digital Education. Likewise, we see a world with expanded content from Olin faculty in St. Louis offered to executives in the DC area.

Those issues align deeply with Olin’s own DNA, focused as we are on values-based, data-driven decision-making in a global context and equipping leaders with the tools to change the world, for good. It’s just a bonus that the nation’s top CEOs, through the influential Business Roundtable, are coming around to our way of thinking about executive leadership.

“I think the historical connection between Brookings and WashU makes this so effective,” Kelly said.

Our focus on executive education isn’t new, but it’s more important today than ever. We all thrive when, as Olin deans realized decades ago, we serve the needs of corporate partners, bringing the latest business research into the boardroom. It also remains an important part of Olin’s mission of lifelong learning.

It’s the future of executive education—and WashU Olin is leading the way.

Pictured above: An Olin-led executive education class underway at Brookings in our newly expanded space.




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.