Tag: Executive MBA



The political divide between red and blue states seems to fracture more than our views about abortion rights, tax cuts, and healthcare. Research from an Olin Business School professor—with midterm elections just around the corner—shows we’re even wary about buying products online from sellers who might not share our political point of view.

An analysis of more than 550 million items sold by individuals on eBay in 2015 and 2016—transactions totaling $22.3 billion—shows we’re more likely to buy goods from someone we perceive comes from a similar political persuasion.

In other words, eBay buyers in Montana were more likely to buy a clock, a bookcase, or a treadmill from a Nebraskan than from a Californian.

“We were shocked because the location of a seller shouldn’t matter at all,” said Daniel Elfenbein, associate professor of strategy. “Shouldn’t we only care about whether the item is what we want and the likelihood of getting it sent to us as we expect?”

In fact, Elfenbein and his research colleagues Ray Fisman of Boston University and Brian McManus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered that the sales divide isn’t limited to the perceived political persuasion of buyers and sellers. To varying degrees, the researchers found similar trading imbalances in states based on religiosity, ethnicity, and other measures of “cultural distance.”

The authors laid out the research in a working paper entitled, “The Impact of Socioeconomic and Cultural Differences on Online Trade,” to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in January 2019 in Atlanta.

The researchers said the divisions persisted even when the researchers controlled for population differences among states and perceived “taste preferences” among buyers and sellers. Would Californians and Floridians be more likely to trade surf gear? Would Montanans and Texans be more likely to trade hunting equipment?

“The paper was driven by a desire to understand whether these political differences were associated with the propensity of people to do business with each other—and then to rule out other explanations,” Elfenbein said. “No matter how hard we tried to rule out the idea that these political things matter, we still saw it as driving some of the trade patterns.”

The findings suggest that companies that do business across state lines should carefully consider whether their home base is meaningful for potential customers. “I would hope people in that position would have an informed opinion about whether touting their location is an advantage,” Elfenbein said. “I think marketing managers should have an informed view about whether touting their company’s location is an advantage or a disadvantage.”

Another surprise for the researchers: Buyers on eBay only know the seller’s city and state. From that, apparently, they’re extrapolating what they perceive to be the “cultural distance” between them, using that as a proxy for trustworthiness: Am I going to get what I expect to get from the seller?

The researchers did find, however, the likelihood of giving a seller negative feedback is higher when buyers are purchasing from states where the predominant political views are different from their own. It suggests that there is a tendency to be more sensitive to poor performance when they think the seller voted differently.

“There is no correlation between cultural similarity and buyer satisfaction, however, suggesting that differences in trustworthiness are not validated by actual transactions,” the researchers wrote in their paper.




If you’ve noticed a cluster of students moving around Knight Hall and Bauer Hall in similar garb, you’ve caught a glimpse of class spirit from the soon-to-graduate Shanghai EMBA class.

The 66 members of Shanghai EMBA 16 arrived in St. Louis this week for a final week of classes before today’s graduation ceremony. And their orange (for women) and blue (for men) cardigan sweaters turned more than a few heads—thanks to the inspiration of a few class members and the apparel company founded by a classmate.

Members of the EMBA Shanghai class 16 attending a last week of class before graduation on October 26.

Members of the EMBA Shanghai class 16
attending a last week of class before graduation on October 26.

“They wanted to be good-looking when they were together taking pictures. And they also wanted a souvenir of their time in the class,” said Linus Fan, founder and owner of Nena apparel company in Guangzhou, China. He put his designers to work, interviewing 10 members of the class for more information about what they wanted.

Then, he rushed the uniforms into production. Within 45 days of hatching the idea, the class had its official uniform—donated by Fan’s company.

“Mainly, we just focused on the sweaters,” he said. “They wanted to be able to wear this for a long time, even after graduating, and something that would be satisfactory for everyday wear—not too formal.”

Fan founded Nena nearly five years ago after a long career in the apparel business and a master’s degree in Manchester, England. After a number of years, he decided he needed a more broad understanding of all aspects of business, which led him to seek his MBA. The reputation of WashU’s EMBA program in partnership with Fudan University—along with its standing among global EMBA rankings—led him to join the Shanghai program.

Fan took a two-hour flight each month to and from Shanghai for his courses while running his company, which employs 215 people focused on apparel design and manufacturing, serving clients who want to market and sell their own lines of apparel in their stores.




Former WashU Olin Business School Dean Robert Virgil was honored as an “ageless, remarkable St. Louisan” by a prominent local nonprofit dedicated to improving living conditions for at-risk seniors.

Virgil, who was Olin’s dean from 1977 to 1993, is part of a class of 14 so-honored this year by the St. Andrew’s Charitable Foundation. The organization recognizes a new class each year of individuals 75 years old and up “who are actively making a tremendous impact in St. Louis through philanthropy, volunteerism, and leadership. These awe-inspiring individuals are proof positive that, at any age, we can make a difference in our community and the lives of others.”

Virgil was recognized with the other honorees at a gala on October 20 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, hosted by St. Louis Public Radio’s Don Marsh. This is what the organization had to say in its write-up about 84-year-old Dean Virgil.

Bob likes to say that he has had careers with two of the world’s finest institutions, Washington University and Edward Jones. At Washington University beginning in 1960, he taught accounting to hundreds of students and from 1977-1993, was dean of the John M. Olin School of Business.

He has had numerous other roles in the university, including chairing the highly successful scholarship segment of the recently completed Leading Together campaign.

In 1993, Bob joined Edward Jones where he had responsibility for management development and was a member of the firm’s management committee. He retired as a general partner in 2007.

Bob has been involved actively with several organizations in the St. Louis community. Among them are Girls, Inc. of St. Louis, the Magic House, City Academy, Harris Stowe State University, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Gerry and Bob enjoy four grown children, 12 grandchildren, and their pup, Maisie.

The 2018 class of “ageless, remarkable St. Louisans” also includes: Jorge M. Alegre, M.D.; Margaret (Marge) Aylward; Mariann Laue Baker; Shirley and Charles Drury, Sr.; Paul J. Gallant; Dr. Ron Gregory; Carol Powell; Jay C. Rickmeyer; Harvey G. Schneider; Mary Ann and Richard Shaw; and Ted C. Vargas, M.D.




WashU Olin’s Executive MBA with Shanghai’s Fudan University ranked No. 6 globally in the latest ranking of EMBA programs published Monday in The Financial Times.

The news comes just days before graduation for the latest cohort of Shanghai-based EMBA students. Commencement for Shanghai Class 16 will be October 26.

“This is great news and reflects the excellent work of our faculty and staff delivering and supporting this program,” said Dean Mark Taylor. “While this is one ranking for one of our programs, it’s indicative of all of the outstanding work going on across all of our programs right now. I very much appreciate the effort that is being made to ensure that we are consistently improving the student experience and innovating our curricular offerings.”

Read more about the Financial Times ranking and see where other schools placed in the measure.




Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library in Simon Hall on October 12.

Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen
during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library
in Simon Hall on October 12.

When Ron Allen first arrived on WashU’s campus for a new job as business school librarian, there wasn’t one—at least, not one adequate to serve a world-class business school.

In 1986, Robert Virgil was dean, on a mission to raise Olin Business School’s profile among global business schools. Simon Hall was under construction and a new, state-of-the-art business library was part of the plan to help propel Olin to new heights. Allen was to be the first to build the library from a tiny nook and to hold an endowed directorship for the position as the Asa F. Seay Librarian.

“There was a sense of starting from nothing and growing this library into a first-rate service for faculty and students,” Allen recalled on October 5, on the occasion of his retirement from WashU, 33 years after his arrival. The New York City native—who confessed that “I don’t know if I could have identified St. Louis on a map”—spent three decades building, defending, and morphing the library through changes in leadership and technology.

“He was a change agent like nobody else over the course of his career,” said Ron King, Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting, in his tribute remarks. “The heart of the school was the library.”

At an event in the ornate reading room at the Al and Ruth Kopolow Business Library, three former deans and Todd Milbourn, vice dean and Hubert C. and Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance, shared their recollections of Allen’s career and contributions.

Milbourn recalled how Allen “got me wired in” as a brand new faculty member in the business school when he arrived, describing Allen as a partner in research who would find and help faculty exploit new data sets for their work.

Former deans Stuart Greenbaum and Mahendra Gupta recalled occasions when they tried to commandeer space from the library to accommodate expanding programs at Olin—attempts Allen rebuffed every time.

“You fell in love with the place when you walked into Kopolow,” Greenbaum said, crediting Allen with the environment he’d created. Gupta built on that remark, calling the library “the intellectual future of the school.”

When Allen came to WashU to run the business library, it was a standalone entity. It’s since been absorbed as part of the WashU library system. He said he’s come to terms with the idea of retirement and is looking forward to downsizing from a house to a Central West End apartment and his Florida condo.

“His handprint is all over this library and the way it was shaped and developed,” said former Dean Robert Virgil. “It was why our students wanted to stay here and study here.”




Dean Taylor with Dean Colangelo and a selection of his works that will appear in various parts of Olin Business School.

Few figures in science have pierced the popular imagination or made more fundamental scientific contributions like renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. He wrangled with complex data about the construction of the universe and yielded mathematical models depicting its function. Yet he was also a musician, an artist and a lover of dance.

“The true sign of intelligence,” he once said, “is not knowledge, but imagination.”

At the business school, as part of a great university, we are in the knowledge business. We create it, we transmit it, we leverage it with our community partners. And I’d like to think we’re continuing to create a workplace that sparks the imagination of our colleagues.

Complementing the inspiring architecture of Olin Business School, we’ve begun to introduce new images to adorn its walls. I wanted to share a little about these works and the people behind them.

Thames and Bens II 2018 by Ann Wimsatt

They include the works of Ann Wimsatt, a St. Louis-based artist whose work I encountered at an exhibition soon after arriving at Olin. Her work now lines parts of the fourth and fifth floors of Knight Hall and Bauer Hall, as well as parts of the second floor in Simon Hall.

In Ann Wimsatt’s work, I was struck by three things. First, her images are extremely international, depicting significant architectural landmarks in locations such as Mumbai, Barcelona, London, Siena, Hong Kong and more—as well as St. Louis. Second, they are subjective interpretations of the buildings and landmarks they depict. And third, they are vibrant splashes of color that turn a corridor into an artist’s palette as we walk along, before stopping to look at the details of any particular one.

“Sometimes the most glorious endeavors of a civilization are what they create in their cities,” said Wimsatt, who is also an architect. “I’m quite interested not only in what meaning and importance they might have to me as I paint them, but also, as I manipulate them digitally, what kind of meaning I can draw out of them.”

G.R. (GRE.EK) 2011 by Carmon Colangelo

Olin visitors will also notice a new series of works by my friend and colleague Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Carmon graciously showed me around and introduced me to the art scene in St. Louis soon after my arrival and we spent a lot of time discussing art in his studio and in galleries around the area.

Several of Dean Colangelo’s works hang in and immediately outside my office—and there will soon be several new ones displayed prominently in the Kiefer Foyer in Simon Hall. Those closer to my office tend toward the symmetrical and orderly, but the farther from my office they get, the more the works take on their own character and depart in subtle but significant ways from the central works. I view it as something of a metaphor for the academic freedom we enjoy on the WashU campus.

“I made a new series that was inspired by the concepts in the first versions of the stretched colorfield images,” Colangelo said. “I like the analogy Dean Taylor has made about innovation and faculty research responding with more radical variations on this theme.”

Our very existence as a highly ranked business school depends on the ways we foster collaboration and imagination in the service of the knowledge we create. How do we infuse creativity into a business school? Perhaps by osmosis? I’m rather hopeful that we’ll see our students, visitors and faculty members take time to pause and appreciate the new works adorning the halls and to become inspired by their environment.

Pictured above: Dean Taylor with Dean Colangelo and a selection of his works that will appear in various parts of Olin Business School.