Over the past several weeks, I have heard powerfully and candidly from many in our alumni and student community about the need for a clear message—backed by action—concerning the shameful record of racial inequity in our community and beyond. I hear them and want to be clear about my response: I stand in solidarity with the Black members of our community and the community at large. Further, we state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter.
Serious issues of racial inequity—brought again to the fore by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery and many others—are deeply painful and there is urgency in putting action behind our conviction.
At Olin, we say we are better than this. We are committed to being a community of diversity, equity and inclusion. We will foster an environment where our staff, faculty, students and alumni uphold these principles. Our conviction is real. Conviction alone, however, is not enough. We must put action behind those convictions.
I am appointing a task force—which I will chair and which will include representatives from within Olin and across WashU—to guide us toward identifying unjust systems and practices, and offer sustainable strategies to infuse solutions throughout Olin, from recruiting students and faculty, to curriculum improvements, to research.
At the same time, I have appointed a team to begin work immediately with the Olin Diversity and Inclusion Team to develop a robust plan, with goals and measurable performance indicators, focused on strategies to uproot systems of racism within our community. This team has my direct support.
I am committed to following through on this work, communicating regularly about our progress and consulting with all members of our community. I am grateful for the valuable insights and strong counsel I have already received. I am also grateful for the ongoing work by our faculty, staff and students toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive Olin. I recognize there is far more work to do.
I will share further updates soon as our work begins to yield specific action steps.
Pictured above: May 30, 2020: Protestors raise their hands in solidarity outside of the Fifth Police Precinct in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd. (David Brickner/Shutterstock)
This press release was initially posted on REJournals.
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. has promoted Erin Valentine (EMBA ’08) to the position of Vice President of Business Development in the company’s 28-state Central Region.
In addition to joining the leadership team that guides McCarthy’s strategic business operations across the Central Region, Valentine will manage McCarthy’s St. Louis-based business development team that focuses on the company’s core buildings markets of Healthcare, Commercial, Education and Advanced Technology and Manufacturing.
Since joining McCarthy in 2001, Valentine has helped position the company to secure numerous new projects while building valuable relationships with clients and industry partners. Her business development successes are visible throughout the St. Louis region, including the recently awarded Washington University School of Medicine Neuroscience research facility and a multiyear facilities contract with Parkway School District.
She was also instrumental in McCarthy’s national expansion into the federal government sector, helping to secure more than $3 billion in federal projects over a five-year period.
Valentine is a founding member of the McCarthy Partnership for Women employee resource group in the Central Region and has served on several national efforts, including McCarthy’s Business Development Leadership team. In addition, she has overseen several national McCarthy initiatives to strengthen the company’s client relationships, including the implementation of an enhanced customer relationship management (CRM) system and the rollout of a client feedback process to solicit ongoing feedback from project partners.
A LEED Green Associate, Valentine earned a bachelor’s degree from
Saint Louis University and an MBA from Washington University in St.
Louis. She has been recognized as a “40 under 40” business leader by the
St. Louis Business Journal, a “Top Young Professional” by Engineering
News Record (ENR) – Midwest and a “Women in Construction” innovator by
Constructech. She is a member of the St. Louis Forum and is a board
member of the St. Louis chapters of the International Facility
Management Association (IFMA) and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).
WashU Olin alumni have continued to benefit from their membership in the community many years after leaving campus. This is part of an occasional series of vignettes about the alumni experience. Today, we hear from Evan Waldman, EMBA ’09,CEO, Essex Industries
Two years after
Evan Waldman graduated with his Executive MBA, his company, Essex Industries,
engaged Olin’s Anjan Thakor, director of doctoral programs and John E. Simon
Professor of Finance, to help establish a base for its strategic planning.
“There were three
of us on the executive team who had been through the Executive MBA program. We
were excited to work with the business school—particularly Anjan Thakor,” said
Waldman, who had taken a strategy course with Thakor and was happy to
“We wanted to
update our strategic plan and we really didn’t have a process for it at the
time,” he said. “Anjan was a good resource to help us establish a solid
foundation and common vernacular. He also worked with us to level set on where
we were and where we wanted to head.”
to draw on Olin and its resources —particularly the faculty expertise and their
network of real-world companies and case studies.
“They also know the theoretical and academic approaches, which can be provocative to those who are tied up in the day-to-day realities,” Waldman said.
Three days after Dr. Ashley Jacob complied with public health regulations and shuttered his eye clinic, he petitioned to reopen. The need for emergency ophthalmology assistance continued, even with the quarantine, as neighbors in the Indian state of Kerala occupied themselves by clearing brush, gardening and staring into screens.
Then the WashU Olin EMBA alum confronted another problem. His patients only pay about 100 rupees—about $1.32—for their emergency eye exams. Yet he and his staff were spending 33 times as much to don the face shields, masks, gloves and gowns the new coronavirus-inspired safety protocols demanded.
That was in late March. At his emergency eye clinic, the only one in the southwestern edge of India at the time, he was seeing 50 patients a day and the cost was adding up.
“I was thinking, ‘What can I do about this?’” recalled Jacob, EMBA ’17. “I have to see the patient’s eyes and the solution has to be reasonably good optical quality.”
The solution turned out to be available at a local hardware store: A large clear plastic sheet that he could buy for about $33. Bolted and glued to the floor, ceiling and walls, the sheet divides his examination rooms in half. A patient sits on one side of the divide while Jacob’s technicians aim their examination equipment through the barrier into the patient’s eyes.
“This is frugal engineering,” said Jacob, who used the Indian word juggad—a cheap workaround—to describe his innovation. In other words, he “MacGyvered” it.
“We have tested it. Nothing passes through,” Jacob said. “We fumigate the whole thing after a patient visits. That is an operation room protocol. What is done on the operating table is being done in this room.”
He said the patients seem to be delighted with the solution as well because they don’t want to do anything to endanger the health of their healthcare providers. Jacob has shared what he’s done with doctors at other eye clinics around the country now that more of them are allowed to open.
“Many have started implementing this,” he said. “Many had not opened their clinics because of the expense.”
Pictured above: One of Dr. Jacob’s assistants examines a patient’s eyes through the plastic barrier he had installed.
If you’ve eaten a slice of pizza from a triangular clamshell box or bought a clear tray of muffins from the supermarket bakery, you’ve probably touched a product produced by Novolex. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s portfolio included a range of packing products and industrial goods—and almost no medical equipment.
That changed in early March. In just weeks, the firm pivoted its manufacturing capacity to design and produce critically needed pieces of protection for under-resourced healthcare workers—and WashU Olin alumnus Phil Rozenski is one of the people at the center of that pivot.
Today, Novolex is producing more than 6 million isolation gowns and more than 2 million face shields each month—products the firm designed and launched in weeks.
“Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple associations and state governments asked me if we made various medical supplies—items that faced critical shortages across the globe,” said Rozenski, EMBA ’11. “The direct answer was no—but it got me thinking.”
As Novolex’s vice president of public affairs, Rozenski connects the company with local governments, trade associations, the communities that surround their communities and others. In that role, he heard from organizations alarmed by anticipated shortages for personal protective equipment as the reality of the pandemic set in.
He recalled a recent visit to a Novolex facility in Brampton, Ontario, that uses a clear plastic sheeting material to manufacture containers for muffins and other baked goods. His instinct was that the material might be suitable to make face shields, the protective medical visors we now know healthcare workers rely on for their protection.
A plan emerged
With his experience from WashU Olin—and his background as a logistics planner in the US Air Force—Rozenski knew that even if Novolex had the know-how to make medical items, it would take more than an idea. Novolex would need to find the markets, understand the demand, identify the specifications for medical markets and more.
“Having been part of the Novolex team for more than 10 years, I knew our people are capable of incredible things,” he said. “That said, a new product launch can often take months. We had only weeks if we were going to save lives.”
He reached out to fellow EMBAs, government agencies, trade associations and other organizations. He needed to know more before he could bring the challenge to Novolex’s team such as who would need the items, how many, and how long demand would last.
“Our company may potentially be part of the solution,” Rozenski wrote to fellow EMBAs in early March. “But we need your help in connecting with existing suppliers and other parties so we can bring our manufacturing capabilities to the fight.”
Immediately, emails started flooding back and he found that Novolex could indeed contribute to addressing the critical shortage. The contribution first began with a donation of 49,000 pounds of plastic sheet. Soon after, Rozenski and Novolex’s Adrianne Tipton, senior vice president of innovation, worked on sweeping away obstacles to design and launch a Novolex face shield.
“Within a week, we were stamping these face shields out. Within two weeks, we were manufacturing the headgear,” Rozenski said.
Assembling the right team meant engineers in the group brought up other ideas. One group worked out a way to retool machines that normally make trash can liners and food-grade produce and freezer bags to produce another piece of critically needed protection: isolation gowns for healthcare workers.
“Within two days, we had prototyped a gown with sleeves—something we never made before. Within a week we were shipping them,” he said. By May 1, the company had shipped 10 million. “To have something you don’t even do in the market in a week is amazing.”
The Novolex team has generated three or four versions of the gowns and other facilities are looking at other methods to do the same.
In addition to the millions of face shields, headgear and gowns Novolex now produces, the company is selling its clear plastic sheeting to other companies—companies that make hundreds of thousands more face shields as well. In total, Novolex has seven facilities producing some sort of medical supplies needed to fight COVID-19.
Rozenski said that being an EMBA grad helped prepare him to be a leader in this effort and also gave him networks needed in the journey as well.
“It wasn’t just a business connection, it was a national crisis,” Rozenski said. “This is a market that didn’t exist for us before March 1.”
This was written by the current Olin/United Way Board Fellows Program students who agreed to share their feedback anonymously from a recent survey. It was compiled by Amy VanEssendelft, CEL Senior Program Manager.
The Center for Experiential Learning provides an opportunity for MBA, PMBA and EMBA students to serve for a full year as a voting member of a local United Way member organization’s board through the Olin/United Way Board Fellows Program. Al Kent serves as the program director for this opportunity. Al has been a member of over a dozen nonprofit boards throughout his life.
Every year, he outlines goals (highlighted below) for the students who participate in this program. Under each goal are comments from current students who are participating in the program. These comments demonstrate how each goal is in the process of being achieved, especially with, and in spite of, the current COVID-19 challenges.
Work to define and solve an ambiguous problem
“I really appreciate the support and autonomy I’ve been given for my project. I have built an understanding of the board dynamic and have gained support from key stakeholders.”
“As I go forward, I have continued to learn to be agile and adaptive and look at creative ways to develop the advocacy campaign within (my agency) despite the limitations the current environment has placed on us.”
“The president of my board said something in my first meeting which I remember vividly: If an organization succeeds, everyone is responsible for that success. However, if an organization fails, it is the board’s fault.”
Deepen understanding of leadership
“This has given me a different perspective on the leadership role boards play, and is particularly poignant right now during this crisis as our board is faced with incredibly difficult decisions.”
“Watching how the executive director navigates the board and rallies them to action has been an incredible learning opportunity for me.”
“In the most recent board meeting, I was able to witness in real time how an organization’s leadership communicates about and responds to a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“I’ve observed how people bring their diverse backgrounds to the table and how interactions proceed when experienced leaders have a common goal.”
Understand how nonprofits work and learn board governance
“They are mission-driven and conscious about their budget/strategy/customer services just like any other entity.”
“I’m very surprised that a nonprofit could do such an amazing job and run like a corporation.”
“Now, I see the crucial role they play in setting budgets, hiring directors, and truly deciding the direction of their organization.”
“Participating in all the board committee meetings helps me understand how everything comes together.”
Develop a professional network and build passion
“I have had the opportunity to interact with very high-impact individuals who are passionate about their mission and vision.”
“It is clear that the board members are not just there because they are high dollar donors, but instead because they are incredibly engaged and passionate about the mission.”
“Their positivity is infectious and this motivates me to go forward.”