Tag: Executive MBA

Everyone has a busy schedule these days. Whether it’s running kids to soccer practice, taking a full class load, or working 9 to 5, the days are full. It can feel impossible to find any extra time, but a jam-packed schedule shouldn’t cancel out a meaningful career move. It’s possible to find work-life balance and pursue your passion — especially if that passion is a life-changing degree.

This is where an Executive MBA program stands apart from the rest. An EMBA combines the benefits of an experience-based and teamwork-focused program with a schedule that works around students’ lives. Even with a lot going on, students can build the MBA leadership skills that matter most.

More flexibility, more options

If you’ve been wondering about the benefits of an Executive MBA, start by considering its flexibility. For working professionals, a traditional MBA program — typically involving two years of full-time coursework — is a tall order. An EMBA, however, is all about a flexible schedule. Once a month, students attend classes on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Work-life balance is possible with such a concentrated time commitment, so you can still be a working professional, a parent, a caretaker, and whatever you need your life to be, all while being a student as well.

Between classes, students have team meetings, complete take-home exams, or tackle relevant assignments. With these tasks completed outside of the classroom, students can be fully focused while sitting in class with their cohort. Simply put, a flexible program is extremely efficient for MBA skills development. You can still have a life while building the necessary skills.

Even with only three days in class a month, students can find many ways to support their success. Students have the benefit of working in a diverse cohort-basedprogram in two teams, one for the first 10 months of the program and another for the second 10 months. There’s also plenty of one-on-one coaching time to provide individualized mentoring, so encouragement is never far away if a student is feeling lost or overwhelmed.

Those working full time won’t be asked to set aside their work duties, either. At Olin, we want to build meaningful connections between students’ places of employment and the program because an EMBA benefits employers, too. As they progress through their program, full-time working students can expect to learn new skills that can be immediately applied to their workplaces. Employers will benefit from an employee excited to deploy their new skillset to their team, and students will benefit from their employer’s support of their learning — a win-win for all.

The benefits of an EMBA are many, and they stem from one idea: With a flexible programand the support they need, students can achieve so much more.

What sets Olin apart

Students often ask themselves, “what kind of MBA is right for me?” An EMBA program that offers a curriculum with a foundation in experience and data will give students the most benefit in future careers. This is why Olin offers an experiential, values-based, data-driven curriculum.

What does this mean? We want students to get hands-on practice when it comes to weighing facts and figures in the context of principles and impact. MBA leadership skills rely on these foundational ideas so that students can become well-rounded leaders whose decisions are supported by both facts and principles. Students will leave the program understanding the role of data in decision-making, no matter the scale.

This also means a unique learning experience. An Olin EMBA combines world-class faculty, an executive cohort, personalized leadership coaching, and executive career coaching — not to mention immersive experiences, like international residencies. All of these elements emphasize personal investment and one-on-one help.

Prepared to take on the world

What can students expect after they complete their EMBAs? Whatever their interests, they’ll have the skills and experience to achieve their career goals.

It starts with the confidence that an EMBA builds. With strong personal connections built between cohorts, mentors, and professors, students naturally learn from everyone around them. The result? They quickly build confidence in their business skills and acumen. They learn how to strategize and plan for their next steps, all with the support of those closest to them.

With confidence in their new skills, students often step into leadership roles upon completing their program. Students leave prepared to lead teams and infuse them with all the new knowledge they’ve gathered. It makes sense that companies are excited to send their employees to the Olin EMBA program. They know the benefits of an EMBA will be far-reaching, from the employee to the team and to the company overall.

If you’re a full-time working student or parent asking “is an MBA right for me?,” Olin has the answer. The Olin EMBA program combines flexibility, support, real-world experience, and world-class faculty — all in just three classroom days a month. No matter how busy your life may be, the math adds up.

Pictured above: Members of WashU Olin EMBA class 47 at the US Capitol during their Washington, DC, residency in 2017.

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

If you’re a working professional and considering continuing your education, a large part of your decision to continue studying and what program to pursue is the ROI of an MBA. You want to know what the benefits and potential career impact of an MBA are for you as an individual, not just as a statistic. Once you’ve decided that continuing education is for you, you’ll want to pick a program that fits your needs.

The WashU Olin Business School offers many types of MBA programs. Before you get overwhelmed, consider whether to pursue an executive MBA or a full-time MBA program. In both programs, students can expect to receive a values-based, data-driven, leadership-focused curriculum.

Our full-time program has a subset called the global immersion, in which students travel abroad for six weeks and learn about conducting business in different cultural climates. The full-time MBA program allows students to fully dive into the experiences Olin Business School has to offer through the curriculum. If you’re working, taking care of your family, or have responsibilities that take up most of your day, however, a full-time program might not be the best fit for you.

A better option can be our part-time, leadership-focused Executive MBA program, which meets once a month for three days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Students can expect three additional residencies or immersive experiences. The part-time nature of the EMBA allows working professionals to continue working at their jobs while attending university on a flexible schedule compared to the full-time program, in which your “job” is to go to school.

How can pursuing an executive MBA degree affect your career path?

First, students are working with executives from different areas and industries in their cohorts. There is a lot of diversity in the different histories, industries and educational backgrounds of the other students. When diversity is introduced into the student cohort, it helps everyone reconsider their current ways of solving problems because they’re challenged by this new group of intelligent people.

Additionally, the Executive MBA program offers both leadership coaching and career coaching for students. Students can create and implement their own leadership trajectories for their careers. Through executive career coaching, students learn how to communicate their brands to become better leaders.

Finally, the executive network of the student cohort and business partnerships leads students to form a strong group of friendships and alliances with other companies and industries—helping students ultimately build lasting networks that help cultivate more talent going forward. With these partnerships in tow, students can return to their workplaces and make an immediate impact. Students apply what they learn on the job and help grow their own organizations or teams.

The ROI of an EMBA

We’ve hinted about it before, but graduated cohorts have found measurable ROI from their executive MBAstudies. In one of our most recent cohorts, we found that over 50% of that cohort had either been promoted or had switched to a new position during the program. This speaks to the immediate impact of what they were learning; students were able to create value in their workplace and either become promoted or feel confident enough to find their own path.

Olin’s Executive MBA program is about to enjoy its 40th year. Our educators have been constantly crafting, honing, and updating this program to keep it current, fresh and leadership-oriented. We’ve had so many great success stories over the years. Some students have been successful at running their own startups, and others have taken higher positions within their existing companies or their competitors through references from their cohort and professors.

It all comes back to that immediacy of people being able to take what they learn and apply it right away. We often talk about students “having better Mondays:” They return to work after those three days at Olin ready to execute something new they learned in their coursework. Students who embrace what they’re learning can apply these techniques right away to their work and make an impact on their careers, leading to immediate ROI and continual growth throughout their professional lives.

Pictured at top: Olin Professor Stuart Bunderson teaching an EMBA class at WashU Olin.

Mary Kate Klump, WashU Olin marketing brand manager for in-person graduate programs, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Of the 36 students graduating this year in the latest cohort of WashU Olin’s Executive MBA class, half of them reported career growth during the course of the program. That includes promotions and new positions while they fulfilled their studies.

The cohort represents 29 companies and includes business leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, scientists, veterans and physicians.

Four of those students participated recently in a panel discussion, sharing success stories about Olin’s EMBA program enhanced their leadership preparation and influenced their career path. The participants—all EMBA ’22—included Saqib Salman, senior vice president, Citibank; Nancy Wild, business strategy manager, Accenture; Lance Knuckles, deputy executive director, St. Louis Development Corporation; and Tom Jenkins, vice president of Department of Defense programs, Express Scripts.

Mary Houlihan, WashU Olin EMBA career coach, moderated the conversation, which focused on four key areas: ROI, work/life balance, leadership and elevated business acumen. Here are some highlights from their remarks.

“You have stories within those that their business actually grew because they applied some of the knowledge learned during the program,” Wild said. “That helped them elevate their business.”

Why did you enroll? What was your career path and how has it changed?

JENKINGS: His boss referred him to the program, and he saw it as a way to rebrand himself while working within a large company. During the program, he was promoted to vice president. A mix-up involving how much of his tuition would be covered turned into a happy accident for Jenkins. “It was the best mistake that happened to me. Had I known it was not fully paid for, I probably would not have joined the program, but after being in it, I recognized the value, recognized the changes making in me within my work and family life. It was such a tremendous journey that made the financial aspect all worth it.”

KNUCKLES: He thought of it as investment in himself. “The experience has brought some things into perspective that allow me to lead a team. I have the privilege of giving them new leadership and focus to do work into the future.”

WILD: She was an engineer by trade, but was looking to learn more about business and leadership. When she started the program, she was working in supply chain for Emerson, then transitioned to an operations and strategy manager before moving on to Accenture as a business strategy manager. “Without the knowledge I gained from the cohort and from the program itself, I don’t think I would have been able or eligible to apply for the roles that I applied for outside of Emerson and even within Emerson.”

What were your biggest concerns about this program? How did that play out?

SALMAN: He was concerned about time management. “It started becoming something that I was enjoying. I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to talk to these guys and see what they had in mind. You really do start immersing yourself in the whole program as soon as you put your foot in.”

KNUCKLES: He worried about being a “late bloomer” after finishing his undergrad in 2017, but realized his professional experience added value to not only him but his classmates. “I had a few challenges coming in, but they really turned into assets the moment I embraced the program. We all have challenges. It was a really exciting moment to take some challenging things and turn them into a positive.”

WILD: In contrast, she was concerned about being the youngest and not as “seasoned” as her classmates. She quickly realized her concern wasn’t an issue. Everyone is treated fairly and classmates are eager to learn from one another, no matter their age.

What are some experiences or learning you gained from the program?

SALMAN: He valued the residency in Washington, DC. “We met with so many people all from the Brookings Institution. It’s a phenomenal experience. You’re getting firsthand answers from somebody who’s actually responsible for policy. I felt like I had gone up a whole level, like a whole notch.”

JENKINS: It was the faculty and the network. “The faculty made themselves available for questions and emails and discussions whenever it was needed. That was tremendous. The visibility into networks that have a vast array of experiences was super enlightening. To hear about how Emerson might think about something. It was really fascinating to have those discussions with colleagues in a risk-free environment.”

WILD: She also valued faculty and admired the staff that made the program run. “We were supposed to start in April. We started in September. But all the decisions they were making with the information they had available to keep us safe, to also keep us learning and able to network, I honestly admire all the effort.”

KNUCKLES: He valued the executive coaching. “My coach challenged me every session. He understood that this program was about me telling my truth and being in places in spaces where African-American men traditionally aren’t able to lead. And so if I’m going to be in that space, I have to be my authentic self.”

What suggestions would you have if you could have a do-over?

WILD: She talked about school and family balance. “I have two young kids. I also have a highly demanding job. So, there is never a right time. If you really want to grow yourself as a leader and as a professional, that time comes when it’s time.”

JENKINS: He wished he would have done it earlier, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong for waiting. He liked that his older children could witness him in school. It set a good example.

KNUCKLES: He said learning goes beyond the classroom. “Knowing you’re willing to learn and that that learning may happen introspectively is the right time—not based on a date, or if you got the money. It’s about your willingness to be vulnerable and challenge yourself—and knowing that you won’t get through this program by yourself.”

Twenty years ago, Robert S. Mathews Jr. was a student at Olin, working toward his professional MBA.

Also 20 years ago in September, terrorists hijacked four jetliners and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and crashed one in a field in Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed.

“Unfortunately, things took a very bad turn in the world.”

In December 2003, Mathews, a U.S. Army reservist, was recalled to active duty to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He promised himself that, one day, he would return to Olin.

In all, Mathews served 33 years in the U.S. Army. Early in his military career, before the terrorist attacks, he commanded the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha in the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

In that role, he supported counter-drug and counter-terrorism training in the U.S. with Mexico and Central and South America. Ecuador was his specialty. One of the highlights of his career, he says, was participating in peace talks between Ecuador and Peru.

A word about the Army Special Forces. They’re also known as Green Berets. As Mathews himself said, “It takes an individual with a high tolerance and endurance for physical and mental pain to complete the two and half years of training.”

As the years passed, he rose in rank, took on expanding responsibilities and received numerous medals, including the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.

Recall after recall

Let’s backtrack. During his time in the Army Reserve, and some time before the September 11 attacks, Mathews worked at G.E. Capital in Danbury, Connecticut. He was with the Commercial Equipment Finance group as a Six Sigma Black Belt.

A certified Six Sigma Black Belt leads and facilitates teams of subject matter experts on process improvement and lean initiatives that executives champion in the business.

He was then promoted to Six Sigma Master Black Belt and sent to the GE Small Business Finance Group in St. Louis, where he also started his PMBA at Olin.

Months later, the Army recalled him into active duty. In all, while he was trying to build his corporate career, he was recalled four times for a year each time. After one of those recalls, Citibank hired him in New York City as the senior vice president of national client onboarding. That lasted a year before the Army called him into service again.

Eventually, the Army pulled him back full time, into what’s called acquisitions. “Now, most people think of acquisitions like mergers and acquisitions, but the Army does it differently,” he said.

“It’s more the procurement and the contracting. We essentially are the business part of the Army that negotiates the contracts, commodities, services and minor military construction throughout the world for the different parts of the Department of Defense.”

Mathews wore two hats: Chief of staff of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command and acting commander of the 418th Contracting Support Brigade. As chief of staff, he managed the executive staff responsible for 1,500 people and a $15 billion portfolio throughout the United States. As the acting commander, he oversaw 500 people and a $3 billion portfolio for Army contracts West of the Mississippi.

A two-mile run

As of today, Mathews is officially retired from the military. Yesterday was U.S. Army Colonel Mathews’ last day in uniform.

The Army retired him because of a medical condition.

“We’re required to do a bi-annual physical fitness test to demonstrate that we’re in good working order and that we’re still able to do all the things that the military asks us to do,” he said.

“Well, in that test it was the first time in my entire military career where I couldn’t finish a two-mile run. I was having a hard time with breathing.”

An MRI on his chest revealed pulmonary embolisms in his left lung. “It was very, very dangerous.”

In Afghanistan, Mathews and others were repeatedly exposed to fumes from burn pits the Army used to get rid of waste. “The fumes and everything, we think, got into my lungs created these problems.”

The condition would prohibit him from remaining in uniform, especially because he has to be on blood thinners. It was likely that no one could stop the bleeding if he was shot or injured in an explosion.

Mathews’ career, however, is far from over.

These days, he is enrolled in Olin’s Executive MBA program: He expects to graduate in April 2022.

The Army is footing the bill as part of his vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Mathews says he’s getting the tools he needs to transition back into corporate banking. More important, he says, is having access to professors with extensive experience, along with building a network in his EMBA 56 class and with people in other EMBA classes.

“It had been 20 years,” Mathews said. “And this was my first opportunity to return to the program.”

Carl Casale, EMBA ’92, will be honored on April 30 as the 2021 Dean’s Medalist.

A purpose-driven executive and respected leader in the agriculture and food industries, Casale leads the venture capital practice at Ospraie Ag Science.

His three decades of experience leading globally influential companies across the ag and food sectors provide insight into converging forces that will fundamentally transform global agricultural systems.

“The projections are by 2030 about half the world is going to be middle class or wealthy and the other half is still going to be poor,” he said in an interview.

“What we believe is going to happen is a bifurcation in the food supply. There’ll be those that just want more calories. But increasingly in what we’re seeing in this country is it’s not about how many calories can you produce. It’s how can you produce my calories?”

Consumers are interested in sustainability, transparency and local sources, he said.

“It’s not a fad. It is a shift, we believe. And so we said, ‘OK, if we believe that to be true, what do we want to do?’ And we said, ‘Well, let’s invest in technologies that fulfill those needs that can make farmers more productive but satisfy the desires of consumers in a way that they want met.’”

A farmer himself

A fourth-generation farmer, Casale identifies ag tech investment opportunities that support sustainable food production. In 2018, he helped launch Ospraie Ag Science, which is the venture arm of Ospraie Management. In this role, he leads successful venture campaigns for select companies that help farmers do more with less environmental impact.

In another role, in Casale’s seven years as the CEO and president of CHS Inc., the company returned $3 billion to its owners, invested $9 billion in new capital expenditures and nearly doubled the size of its balance sheet from $8.7 billion in 2010 to $17.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2016. CHS Inc. is a global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States.

Casale said he focused on prudent fiscal management and enhancing management systems at the company. During his tenure, CHS was the only major firm in the industry to manage through the recent economic decline without a planned reduction in workforce, instead relying on strategic cost reductions. Casale reduced working capital by $400 million to help fund a $2.8 billion transformational investment in CF Nitrogen—without taking on an undesirable debt level. The result was an 80-year agreement and a significant new profit source for the co-op’s farmer-owners.

His Monsanto days

At Monsanto Co., Casale rose through the ranks from sales representative to running the company’s largest division at age 36. As executive vice president of strategy and operations, he conceptualized the industry’s first eight-gene agricultural biotech product, “SmartStax,” which became the nation’s No. 1 insect protection trait in corn. As CFO, he reduced several hundred million dollars in operating costs by shifting the reliance on revenue to the strategic use of cash to generate earnings.

From Congress to key industry events, Casale is a sought-after commentator on the future of farming and global ag infrastructure. He remains deeply committed to “creating business models that ensure relevance over time” and continues to shape the ag, food and energy industries in both private and public roles.

Casale and his wife, Kim, operate a 150-acre specialty crop farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and his family resides in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Olin’s 2020 EMBA program consisted of 87 students, all of whom continued or finished the program as the country shut down due to a global pandemic. Luckily, the EMBA program responded quickly and effectively to the newly-virtual and distanced educational experience. From virtual graduation ceremonies to hybrid classrooms, here’s how Olin EMBA students responded to the pandemic, by the numbers:


day to redirect travel and set up EMBA 55 on-campus DC residency after Washington University suspends travel on March 9


virtual graduation watch parties, along with celebration kits sent out to grads


cohorts—54 and 55 hybrid global residency


months—EMBA hybrid classrooms at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Clayton


months with virtual-only classes


conversations over cocktails with Olin experts, attended by 400 alumni and students


SimNet online Excel courses


lunches delivered to student homes in March and April


boxes packed and delivered to FedEx and DHL containing books and course packs


“mobile break station” packages delivered to student homes between May and December

We congratulate the EMBA program for their resilience and efficiency during this challenging time.