Tag: Executive MBA

Paul Shao, managing director of Olin

In case you’re wondering, yes, that was Paul Shao playing Guns N’ Roses’ “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” with his old college rock-and-roll band. They played at the 2018 Chinese New Year party for students in Class 16 of WashU Olin’s Shanghai EMBA program.

That’s just one of the ways Shao, the managing director of the program, engages with students on a personal level. One of many. For example, as a graduate himself in 2013, he knows exactly what the students are going through as they juggle professional, family and corporate lives with a load of coursework.

Paul Shao on his guitar in this undated photo.

“It would be really hard to overstate the value Paul brings to this program,” said Dan Elfenbein, professor of organization and strategy and associate dean of the 21-year-old EMBA-Shanghai. “In many senses, the program has become a real reflection of who he is and how he thinks.”

In many ways, Shao has a hand in almost every aspect of the program, from coordinating with administrators from Fudan University, WashU Olin’s partner in the program, to marketing the program across China, to screening applicants, to facilitating classroom teamwork, to introducing faculty, to coaching and counseling students.

Applies what he learned in the program to the program

For Shao, the job is about applying what he learned in the program to the program itself: Set your strategy. What is our competitive advantage? How can we win in this market?

Paul Shao, managing director of Olin's joint Shanghai EMBA program with Fudan University, presenting the program to students.
Paul Shao, managing director of Olin’s joint Shanghai EMBA program with Fudan University, presenting the program to students.

“We have clear positioning here in the market, which is focused on being a top English-language executive MBA program for Chinese business people who are serious about learning, teaching and the experience,” he said. The Shanghai EMBA has consistently been a top-ranked program among its competitors and, two decades ago, was the first American MBA program to be sanctioned by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

“As both alumni and program director, he has a deep understanding of what we need and has been driving changes, adapting to our requests,” said Vincent Wang, EMBA-Shanghai Class 14. He’s now SouthAsia commercial director for Milliken & Company. Wang cites upgrades to the program such as the study abroad portion and its focus on lifelong learning program as benefits Shao had a hand in developing.

Indeed, Shao is heavily involved in launching Class 21, which started on Friday May 26—a class, he’s proud to note, includes at least 50% women for the first time in the program’s history. The class also includes students with remarkable educational backgrounds: nearly half hold master’s degree or PhDs. Meanwhile, 78% serve in director-or-above-level positions and a fifth serve in vice president, general manager or CEO positions. Shao says that bodes well for a productive and meaningful peer-learning experience.

This moment coincides with a milestone for Shao in the program: He’s served as managing director for eight years—a lucky number in Chinese culture that’s associated with prosperity, success and status.

In fact, after six years in the role, Shao also added two more titles: head of executive education at Fudan and head of the joint doctor of business administration program between Fudan and City University of Hong Kong.

A transformational experience

Shao prefers to push aside any focus on success or status for himself, however, preferring to highlight the transformative nature of the program.

“Looking back, what is so important about what’s happened is how people have changed after the program,” he said. “That’s one thing I really like about this program. It really changes people’s lives in a very tangible kind of way.”

Paul Shao, managing director of Olin’s joint Shanghai EMBA program with Fudan University, joining students for a photo.

Jolin Liu graduated in Class 16 and now serves as deputy general manager for marketing agency MRM. “I can attest to the value and impact that it has had on my career,” she said. “Since graduating, I have gone on to have a rewarding career in the advertising field, and I credit much of my progress to the skills and knowledge I acquired during my time at WashU Olin.”

She also credits Shao directly, whom she said “encouraged us to push ourselves to new heights, both personally and professionally.”

So does Peiling Lu from Class 17, who now works as a trainer under contract with a German company on ESG-related topics in Taiwan. “He is very caring for all the students—even introverted people like me,” Lu said. “Paul plays a critical role in the program.”

‘Resilience and loyalty’

Never was that more clear than during the pandemic, when national borders slammed shut, cities went on lockdown, and Olin professors could not, of course, teach classes in Shanghai. The global crisis affected three classes, which had to make do with courses taught remotely by Olin professors who would lead classes in the middle of the night St. Louis time.

“I could clearly feel his pressure and motivation,” said Hong Guan, who met with Shao, his Shanghai EMBA classmate, several times during the pandemic. “But stronger was his resilience and loyalty to this program, which maintained it in such an era. He dared to face those abnormal challenges and take responsibility as a leader.” Guan now works for Novartis as TA head of cardiovascular and head of innovative patient activation.

Elfenbein heaps praise on Shao for his dedication to navigating the crisis. He upgraded classroom technology at Fudan University so students could convene in person while professors taught from their homes in the States. He created an engaging experience for students. He collaborated with faculty to accommodate their teaching schedules.

“There was just an incredible amount of adjustment that had to happen,” Elfenbein said. And in retrospect, he said, “we got teaching ratings that were as good as they normally get when they teach in person. I was really, really incredibly happy to see that.”

Elfenbein also appreciates the ease with which Shao navigates cultural differences between China and the United States. It’s a knack program alumni notice as well—and not only the ones who heard Shao shred his guitar at that 2018 party. It turns out he’s quite the student of jazz, favoring Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington and, of course, St. Louis-regional native Miles Davis.

“His knowledge and enthusiasm for jazz was infectious,” Liu said. “Seeing how he incorporates his passion into his busy schedule helped me understand the importance of finding ways to pursue personal interests outside of work.”

Pictured at top: Paul Shao, managing director of Olin’s joint Shanghai EMBA program with Fudan University, presenting the program to students.

Dr. Mohamed A. Zayed, EMBA 2023, with an image of the check he and his team received at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston.

A WashU-based life sciences startup that patented a groundbreaking bloodstream marker that flags potential cardiovascular disease recently won a $250,000 investment prize in a major national pitch competition.

Dr. Mohamed A. Zayed, EMBA 2023, is cofounder of AirSeal, founded after he and his colleagues accidentally discovered an enzyme that attaches to the “bad cholesterol” in the bloodstream. AirSeal later created a simple blood test for the enzyme that can flag patients who might be at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Zayed pitched the company and its groundbreaking, patented discovery in mid-May at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston. The competition doled out $3.4 million in prizes to 42 startups.

“It was an extraordinary experience, which was full of excitement, thrill and a lot of hard work,” Zayed said. “It was also wonderful to be surrounded by such an accomplished field of innovators with transformative ideas that have the potential to change the world.”

AirSeal won the Texas Medical Center Innovation Healthcare Investment Prize of $250,000. The company also won a $500 prize for best pitch in the life sciences category. More than 1,000 companies initially sent pitches in hopes of an invitation to the competition May 11-13.

“This investment is an important milestone in our young company’s life,” said Zayed, who is also an associate professor at the WashU School of Medicine and director of its CardioVascular Research Innovation in Surgery and Engineering Center. “It was our honor and privilege to represent WashU and the Olin Business School at the event.”

The founding team was recently a finalist in the 2023 Global Impact Award, hosted by WashU’s Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The next milestone

He said the substantial prize would be a significant catalyst toward AirSeal’s next key milestone: developing a product the FCA can evaluate. “It provides us with access to additional experts and partners as we continue to execute our key deliverables,” Zayed said.

The enzyme, known as circulating Fatty Acid Synthase, or cFAS, is essential for making saturated fatty acids that can lead to atherosclerosis—a plaque buildup that hardens the arteries. The research team conducted clinical studies in hundreds of patients to develop a blood test for cFAS, publishing the results in multiple journals. Zayed credited Olin’s Ron King, emeritus professor of accounting, and Doug Villhard, director of the entrepreneurship program, for helping the AirSeal team take the discovery to the next level.

“We leveraged their guidance and expertise,” he said. “They provided critical feedback and advice that helped us develop a competitive business plan and pitch.”

Pictured at top: Dr. Mohamed A. Zayed, EMBA 2023, with an image of the check he and his team received at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston.

Olin Professor Stuart Bunderson teaching an EMBA class at WashU Olin.

Congratulations to us! Olin’s Executive MBA program is about to turn 40, so we’re taking a moment to look back over this four-decade history and commemorate some of our greatest achievements. Plus, we’re taking a look into the future and considering where MBA programs, including our own, are headed.

How has the EMBA program evolved over the last 40 years?

Since the birth of our EMBA program, hundreds of leaders have come through our doors to learn, develop their business ideas, grow their networks, and build their careers.

Over that time, we have cultivated a reputation for high-quality teaching and for developing spaces and strategies where students can learn in ways that make sense for them. We are an advocate of flexible MBA programs and learning environments that adapt to the changing times as well as to the changing needs of students and educators.

Our program has developed into an MBA leadership development program in which working professionals can continue their jobs and keep up their responsibilities while also learning intensively. It offers leadership and career coaching that helps students develop their skills while also supporting their outside lives. Many of our people know exactly what they want to achieve through the program, and others take what they learn here and pivot into new career trajectories and new business ideas.

The legacy of our program so far is a network of students who have become successful leaders in business and communities. But it is also a legacy of businesses and brands. The partnerships and friendships students have made over these forty years have created the foundations for many successful business collaborations.

What are we most proud of?

The Olin EMBA program has been ranked among the top EMBA programs in the world. It was ranked 18th globally by the Economist in 2020.

Our faculty ranked even higher—third in the list of global EMBA programs. This ranking is special because it is voted for by students on a five-point scale for teaching quality. Additionally, 100% of our professors are PhD-holders, so our faculty sits at the very top of the most-qualified list.

These are global achievements, but we’re just as proud of our local impact. The program has had great success in training students who go on to become top business leaders in St. Louis and other cities. Because we strive to nurture leaders who are social change-makers, our students often begin to make an impact in the community before they’ve graduated.

Lastly, we are incredibly proud of our students themselves. Our graduates show us every day how valuable this program is. Many are successfully running startups, others are impressing within larger companies. According to our own data, 50% of our recent cohorts were either promoted or offered a new position during their time in the EMBA, showing how quickly the lessons of the program begin to pay off.

How is the EMBA program changing in the future?

Our success doesn’t stop us from wanting to change. Part of our identity is to continue to meet students’ needs and to help them to prepare for an ever-changing business world.

For this reason, our executive MBA curriculum underwent a significant shift in 2020. The changes included developing multiple courses to further the school’s “values-based, data-driven” pillar of excellence. We also added an executive MBA leadership coaching component and a course about data-driven decision-making.

As long as the world keeps turning and changing, we will keep changing too. The business world will keep demanding more from top EMBA programs, and we need to be ready to accept the challenge. How can we adapt an executive MBA curriculum and executive MBA coaching so that we can really be there for tomorrow’s students, no matter what the world throws at them? This is the question that fuels us.

Join us for the EMBA 40 Year Celebration. Register here.

Everyone knows that customized means quality; we would all look much better in a suit made just for us than we would in one we bought off the rack.

WashU Olin Business School offers different types of MBA programs tailored to fit the diverse needs of students at different stages in their careers. The Full-Time MBA works best for students who can leave their jobs and dedicate their time solely to the program.

The Online MBA appeals most to those who can’t leave a full-time job yet want to be digitally enabled leaders—or who just need more flexibility. Olin’s Professional MBA offers evening classes in-person twice a week for the first 27 hours, then the opportunity to choose from various specializations to finish the degree. The Executive MBA allows busy, experienced professionals to attend class just three days per month and focuses on leadership skills throughout the curriculum.

People in various stages of their careers all have strong options with the types of MBA degrees at Olin, and candidates in all four categories will be steeped in digital opportunities and resources. “What type of MBA is right for me?” Well, let’s see:

All in: WashU’s Full-Time MBA option

WashU’s Full-Time MBA program is designed for students who can leave their jobs and commit their days fully to the program. It offers students opportunities for rich global business experience in several major cities around the world. The Full-Time MBA students will also get the full on-campus experience that Olin Business School has to offer.

The Full-Time Program also lets students choose a customized curriculum based on their specific interests. For example, WashU’s program concentrations offer tracks for consulting, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing and supply chain. Students can tailor their MBA experience to their career goals.

Where flexibility meets technology: WashU’s Online MBA

Olin understands that professional students need flexibility, and technology and flexibility go hand-in-hand. WashU’s Online MBA is firmly rooted in the knowledge that technology is rapidly changing the world; thus, the degree requirements frame all classes through the lens of a digitally driven business landscape. Like all WashU MBA programs, the progressive curriculum is built on Olin’s values-based, data-driven leadership framework.

In Olin’s Online MBA, students meet both synchronously and asynchronously. Two nights a week, students are together in a virtual classroom, and on the other nights, they work independently or collaborate virtually. Although the program emphasizes technology, it focuses on technology as a strategic advantage that students can use as leaders and not just on developing technological skills.

The professional approach: WashU’s PMBA

WashU’s Professional MBA (PMBA) requires students to attend class in person twice per week, typically on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Students garner 27 hours of core credits, then they have an additional 27 hours in which they can specialize and focus.

Olin has designed the PMBA for the worker who doesn’t want to leave their job but wants to elevate both their skillset and career. The average student in this program has been working for five or six years and is around 30 years old. To cultivate their professional careers, students have access to a robust alumni network and exposure to corporate partners.

Experience counts: Olin’s Executive MBA program

Lasting just 20 months, Olin’s Executive MBA program moves at the most intensive rate of all the programs. Most participants in the Executive MBA Program already rank highly on the corporate ladder. By pursuing an Executive MBA, they collect the knowledge and skills crucial to making it to the executive or C-suite level.

WashU’s Executive MBA students, who generally range around 40 years old, attend class just three days per month—on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They also participate in three additional residencies or immersive experiences. A marked difference in this program comes from the wealth of experience of the collective students. With the average Executive MBA student having 15 to 20 years of working experience, the classroom conversation builds with the collective wisdom of the cohort.

Olin’s MBA meets students where they are

Regardless of which program a WashU Olin MBA student chooses, they will find certain inalienable traits: an emphasis on entrepreneurial and creative thinking that goes across all programs; experiential world-class learning; and highly ranked, dedicated faculty. During their time in the program, students will build a robust network of accomplished classmates, and WashU alumni and business leaders willingly meet students wherever they are in their career journeys.

WashU’s Olin MBA Program is committed to creating leaders who make change for good. That is the unifying principle the program’s directors keep central by offering cutting-edge, rigorous, world-class programs more accessible to today’s top professionals.

Photo of Brookings Hall against a bright blue sky with the Financial Times logo in the top left and the words "2022 EMBA Shanghai: #9" in the lower left.

Buoyed by strong representation from female students, strong international course experience and very strong salaries for graduates, WashU Olin’s Shanghai-based Executive MBA program rose substantially in the Financial Times’ latest ranking of similar programs for 2022.

The ranking, released in October, showed a marked increase in the program’s performance in the FT ranking over the previous two years. In 2021, Olin’s ranking suffered when pandemic-related issues prevented the program from enrolling a class in time. The year before, in 2020, Olin ranked 16, so its rise to the top 10—in the year of its 20th anniversary—was significant.

“Olin’s joint EMBA program in Shanghai with Fudan University has long been one of the gems of our school,” said Anjan Thakor, interim dean at WashU Olin. “I’m thrilled to see the hard work of so many, and the dedication of our students, recognized by the results of this ranking.”

Daniel Elfenbein, Olin professor of organization and strategy and associate dean for the EMBA-Shanghai program, acknowledged the “tremendous challenges for effectively engaging with students” through COVID-19.

“Thanks to the flexibility of our faculty, our students and our Fudan partners—and the incredibly hard work that each of these groups has put in—the EMBA-Shanghai program remains one that we can be tremendously proud of,” Elfenbein said. “These rankings validate that hard work, and they reflect the impact that our program continues to have in global executive education.”

Program on the vanguard

Olin was on the vanguard among business schools when it partnered with Fudan University in 2002 to launch the first-of-its-kind Executive MBA in China, placing American business faculty members in front of Chinese nationals to teach global business principles.

At the time, China was just entering the World Trade Organization, and its economy was the sixth largest in the world. Today, China’s economy is ranked second, and the program counts more than 1,000 students among its graduates.

Among the highlights of the 2022 Financial Times ranking:

  • The incoming class in the joint Shanghai-based program was 42% female, placing Olin 15th among schools.
  • Alumni salaries were strong, averaging $398,893, moving Olin up from 10th to sixth in that dimension of the ranking.
  • In international course experience, Olin rose substantially, from 39th to 22nd.
  • The WashU-Fudan program also showed continued strengths in its ranking for work experience (10th) and its Financial Times research ranking (eighth).

“The fact that our program continues to soar is a testament to the commitment and passion of everyone involved—students, staff and faculty,” said Markus Baer, professor of organizational behavior and Olin’s vice dean of executive education. “We are excited about the future and what we can accomplish in the years to come.”

One area of opportunity centered in curriculum content hours focused on environment, sustainability and governance issues. Nearly 13% of Olin’s curriculum centers on those issues—similar to previous years—but its ranking in that category fell, indicating an increase in curriculum hours among other schools.

Northwestern University, the China Europe International Business School, Tsinghua University/INSEAD, HEC Paris and ESCP Business School took the top five spots in the 2022 ranking. Rounding out the top 10 were programs including a three-way joint program among HEC Paris, New York University and the London School of Economics; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Chicago; WashU Olin; and the University of Navarra.