Tag: Executive MBA

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.”

Novolex employees model protective gowns the company began manufacturing in response to the global pandemic.

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.

Rapid results

“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.”

Carolyn Feltner, EMBA50, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Touring with the Grateful Dead the summer after college. That is the only time since I was 15 that I didn’t have a job. And I sold water out of my car, so, technically, I was still working. Just ask my parents.

I love working. It gives me fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment and feeling of community. I made many of my best friends at the office.

I am one of thousands whose position was eliminated because of COVID-19. I came home from spring break with my two daughters on a Saturday night. Less than 12 hours later, I went to the office that Sunday to catch up on work, only to walk into my own layoff.

I had been worried about the effect COVID-19 would have on my family’s physical health, but I did not think of how much it could impact our financial health. Talk about your life being flipped in 24 hours.

‘What’s next?’

The question became “Okay, what’s next?” I have more than 20 years of marketing experience and was an EMBA50. I have been honored to be part of two established and respected communities in St. Louis: Olin and Anheuser-Busch.

I had heard of Mary Houlihan before, as she worked at Anheuser-Busch and now is at Olin, but I had never met her. The day I lost my job, March 22, I couldn’t count how many times former colleagues and classmates told me to connect with her, once I had told them my news. And, as if by luck, I received an email that afternoon that Olin was starting a boot camp for MBAs in transition led by Mary Houlihan and Frans VanOudenallen, career coaches at Olin’s Weston Career Center.

The boot camp has been invaluable. Topics such as managing the transition, having the right mindset and getting organized have helped me navigate the beginning of this journey. Peter Ambrose, EMBA12, was a guest speaker at the last session and explained the importance of “emotional resiliency” as we transition during the crisis.

Olin also offers a career group coaching session. I took this course when I started in the EMBA program. At the time, though, I was employed and wasn’t pursuing other career opportunities. It was a great course then, but it is even more vital now.

Mary has been my coach through all of this. She both supports me and pushes me.

Once Olin, always Olin

I have known the strength of the Olin community for a long time. My mother, Sally Roth, EMBA11, has talked about her connection to the school, relationship with the professors and friendships with her classmates. I felt that way while I attended Olin two years ago.

Only now, however, do I understand the significance of my time at Olin. My classmates from industries as diverse as manufacturing, finance and healthcare have reached out. They not only have offered connections and advice, but also they are there for me as friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Yes, a layoff can happen to you. Yes, even you.
  2. Everything happens for a reason (and you will repeat that mantra until you almost believe it).
  3. Olin staff, faculty and alum are there for you. Reach out to them.

As much as my time at Olin was valuable, the connections I made there have been priceless. Once Olin, always Olin. Now time to find my next career adventure. Unfortunately, no bands are touring now, so I’ll be sticking with marketing.

Photo: Carolyn Feltner, EMBA50

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down campus and eliminated the possibility of in-person celebrations, WashU Olin still plans to recognize all our graduating students this year.

Washington University’s Chancellor Andrew Martin announced his creation of an Alternate Commencement Committee on April 17. That committee will examine the best way to honor the class of 2020 throughout WashU when it becomes safe to do so. While no formal announcements have been made, the committee plans to have more information available soon.

In the meantime, WashU Olin will move forward with virtual graduation recognition ceremonies that supplement, but do not replace, the university-wide celebration. On May 8 and May 15, Olin will release virtual graduation videos for each planned ceremony at the time of the original event.

Olin professor Hilary Anger Elfenbein wore her regalia to record her speech from home.

Each video celebration will include remarks from Dean Mark P. Taylor and Chancellor Andrew Martin, student speakers, announcements of student award recipients and remarks from the Reid Teaching Award winners. Though the degree candidates will not be able to “walk” during the ceremonies, their names will scroll on the screen during the presentations.

Videos will be made available at the time of each ceremony on the Olin graduation web page. Each ceremony will stream on Olin’s Facebook page, YouTube Channel and Instagram.  

Schedule of Ceremonies

Friday, May 8

  • EMBA Class 53, 10:30 a.m.
  • Executive Education: EMBA & WashU at Brookings master of science in leadership, 10:30 a.m.

Friday, May 15

  • BSBA, 11:30 a.m.
  • Graduate programs, 3 p.m.

We welcome any photos or reflections from your participation in our graduation ceremonies. Please share any images or videos with us @wustlbusiness and use #WashU20. Though this isn’t the ceremony any of us expected, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2020.

Isabelle Roig, a WashU BA candidate and student worker for Olin’s marketing and communications department, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Matt Kueker, MBA ’06, was recently named Kenway Consulting’s new CEO.

Kenway is a Chicago-based management and technology consulting company founded in 2004. It helps clients in the areas of technology solution delivery, enterprise program leadership, and information insight in industries that include business-to-business distribution, financial services, healthcare and telecommunications.

Matt Kueker
Matt Kueker

In February, the company announced it was partnering with Svoboda Capital Partners (SCP), a Chicago-based private equity firm that invests in middle-market growth companies. The new partnership brought about the need to change Kenway’s leadership structure.

Brian King, former CEO and founder of Kenway, transitioned to open and lead the company’s Scottsdale, Arizona, office. Company veteran Kueker,  who most recently served as Kenway’s managing director, assumed the role of CEO.

“This exciting partnership, along with the energy and enthusiasm Matt brings to the CEO role, will help position Kenway for accelerated growth, continued success, and long-term value for our clients and employees,” King said in a press release.


Kenway’s values and company culture has earned it accolades. It was included in Inc. magazine’s 2019 Inc. 5000 list, with a No. 20 ranking in IT Services. In 2018, Crain’s Chicago Business named Kenway No. 28 in their top 100 “Best Places to Work in Chicago.” And the National Association of Business Resources declared Kenway one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the Nation” for three consecutive years.

“We are impressed by Kenway’s consistent growth and its talented and energetic team, which remains focused on building a culture that delivers outstanding client service,” SCP Principal David Rubin said.

Kueker said he is inspired by Kenway’s values and how they have encouraged continuous growth for Kenway during his time with the company. The transition from his former role as managing director to CEO will build on that foundation, he said.

“I’m honored to be a part of this new chapter of Kenway’s history as we build upon this successful momentum we’ve created together,” Kueker said.

Kenway’s Consulting’s Matt Kueker, left, and Brian King are pictured with adoptable dogs and, from left to right, ALIVE Rescue’s Kristen Gerali, Margo Strebig and Hannah Nicolet at Kenway ‘s annual fundraiser for the local nonprofit.

Gwendolyn Y. Doss, EMBA 55, received the Dave Barclay Affirmative Action Award at the 34th Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards.

Doss is a software engineer manager at the Boeing Co. The  award recognizes efforts to promote affirmative action and diversity management in education, job promotion, small-business development and community activities.

“Gwendolyn Doss is a gifted, but more importantly, a giving leader,”  Boeing’s Rob Adkisson said, introducing her at the ceremony in February in Washington, DC.

St. Louis students can see Boeing from their bus stops, said Adkisson, vice president of SSM engineering and division chief engineer.

“What they don’t see is a pathway through our doors. Gwen shines a light on that path, guiding the underserved and underrepresented in our community. Throughout her 25-year Boeing career, Gwen has been a tireless advocate, volunteer and coach. Her passionate and unwavering leadership  has made our community and our industry stronger.”

Courage and determination

Doss’ acceptance speech was brief. “My mother would always tell me how smart I was, and I think that went to my head,” she said, making the audience laugh.

“I know it inspired me. Her affirmation gave me the courage and determination to go beyond high school.”

And go she did. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Grambling State University and a master’s in computer resources and information management from Webster University. 

Doss’ journey has been difficult and at times. In September 2016, she lost her daughter, her only child, in a car accident.

“That broke my heart in ways I could never imagine,” Doss said at the awards ceremony. Her daughter, Marquia Lewis, aspired to become an engineer—and did. Doss started a nonprofit foundation in her daughter’s name to provide scholarships to students who want to pursue higher education. “It’s my heart’s desire to inspire future engineers,” Doss said.

In addition her foundation work, Doss volunteers with Delta Sigma Theta Inc.,  the Society of Women, the National Society of Black Engineers, Boeing Women in Leadership, the Boeing St. Louis Leadership Association and Boeing Believers in Christ.

Watch the awards ceremony here.

Pictured: Gwen Doss and Rob Adkisson