Tag: Full-time MBA

Kendra Kelly, MBA ’21, was the student speaker at the virtual graduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 21, 2021, selected by her peers. Here is what she had to say to her fellow graduates.

Friends, family, faculty, staff, and class of 2021 graduates—hello. My name is Kendra Kelly, and I am proud to be speaking to you today as a 2021 graduate of our full-time MBA program and elected student speaker for today’s graduation.

Driven by a desire to catapult our careers, we came to Olin as strangers. For my class in particular, a six-week trip around the world forever changed our MBA, transforming us from strangers to so much more.

Together, we tackled strategic challenges for Raventos ii Blanc, Gramona and Para Ventura, which are incredible wineries in Barcelona—all the while becoming Cava connoisseurs. In Shanghai, we grappled with issues facing global supply chains for beloved brands like Zara and Nike, and we even created market-entry plans for St. Louis-based Strange Donuts in Shanghai.

Throughout our six weeks we worked hard and played harder. We learned Susie Bonwich gives a killer karaoke performance, Tyler Edwards will do anything to protect his friends, Flora Fahng, Gina Wang, Alex Yang, Aurora Chen, Karen Chen, Lin Chen, Yuki Goah, Zach Frantz, Kate Veronezi, Alex Ignatius make incredible tour guides and interpreters, Dean Ashley Macrander will ALWAYS have electrolytes and Tylenol available at the first sign of illness, and Lori Witherspoon, Ray Wagner and Tim Brandt can answer almost any questions you bring to them.

Strangers, acquaintances—then family

We supported each other in our breakdowns and sicknesses and cheered each other on when we shined under the bright lights of everything from our presentations to our painfully elementary mastery of “sheih sheih”—thank you in Mandarin.

You see, we came to Olin as strangers, left the country as acquaintances, and returned as family. That trip solidified our class as pioneers of our revamped program and bonded us in ways difficult to articulate to those who did not have the privilege of traveling with us.

But the reality is, whether you were on this trip or not, the events of the last year have also bonded us in immeasurable ways. When we entered graduate school we had no idea we’d be doing so under one of the most challenging years of our lives. Some of us lost loved ones, felt the sting of rescinded job offers, were separated from family and friends for months and months on end, and grappled with trauma as this nation wondered whether or not to denounce hate targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and debated if Black Lives Matter. We wrestled these challenges and many more against the backdrop of the realization that the business school experience we thought we’d have would look quite different by the end of it.

Yet amazingly, amidst the challenges of this last year, our community is stronger than ever. In a year that could have easily broken us, we banded together, realizing that our collective strength could fortify any lack of weakness we felt individually. The things that could have easily divided us, ultimately brought us together. THIS is what makes Olin such a special place, and our class, the class of 2021, an incredible class.

Cultivate your community

Our class is assertive, self-assured yet humble, hard-working, ambitious, and primed to make good on our mission to be values-based, data-driven business leaders. As we go out into the world, I implore you all to remember that our tight-knit bond IS our superpower and that much of the greatness we have achieved in this program is the result of this village— a wonderfully diverse village comprised of nearly 50% women, over 40% international students, many races, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations. We have seen repeatedly that we are our best when we work together. As we enter our careers and become glass-ceiling shattering, game-changing leaders, I challenge you to do these two things:

First, remember to be intentional in seeking out diversity of thought, experiences and people. Cultivate a community as beautifully diverse—and even more diverse!—than the one we’ve had the privilege to grow personally and professionally in for these last two years.

Secondly, similar to how at WashU we are all known by name, face and story, be intentional in creating teams where your teammates know they belong to foster truly inclusive environments.

At a time when corporate and academic institutions alike are standing up to say Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights matter, Climate Change matters, the rights of the Differently Abled matter, Mental Health Matters, Science Matters, and so much more— I urge you to enter your roles thinking about the collective WE. As this incredible class will undoubtedly build, create, market and strategize for all across the world.

Class of 2021–TOGETHER as peers, colleagues, allies, friends and, ultimately, as a family, we did it. Congratulations on becoming esteemed alumni of WashU Olin Business School.




Itohan Enadeghe, MBA ’21, Lungile Tshuma, MBA ’21, Chinazar Okoro, MBA ’22, and Oluwakemi Adene, MBA ’22, wrote this for the Olin Blog. They are all executive board members of the Olin Africa Business Club.

Olin Africa Business Club’s 2021 Spring Event explored the topic “The Future of Africa,” which featured entrepreneurs and leaders with experience in the African business landscape. Sneha Shah, Simba Mhuriro, Francis A. Obirikorang and Bilha Ndirangu sat on the panel while Liz Grossman Kitoyi, cofounder of Baobab Consulting, moderated. 

Members of the OABC Board huddle around their laptops to watch the event

Critical lessons from the panel: 

Entrepreneurship in Africa 

Entrepreneurs are willing to overlook the challenges of doing business in Africa because they are eager to build sustainable solutions. By sponsoring African entrepreneurship, they can unleash the potential in the continent. 

Barriers to overcome

Business policies set by older generations pose a threat for start-ups. These policies shape finances, corporate governance and the regulatory landscape for startup companies. There are also barriers to access power, the internet and sustainable finances.

Factors critical to growth

As in many countries, networking with business owners can create an avenue for new business owners to learn. Experience is the best teacher. 

Trends in the fintech industry 

With Africa’s huge potential market, it is not surprising to see many foreign investments in the fintech space. Recently, some of the leading fintech companies in Africa (Paystack, Flutterwave, OKRA) received investments worth more than $370 million. Many other companies are raising money to provide peer-to-peer payments. With many viable players, Africa is moving closer to solving the challenges in the fintech industry. 

Pitch competition 

The event also featured a pitch competition featuring a wide range of applicants. In the end, five finalists were selected. 

Onye, founded by Emmanuel Obasuyi, aims to improve patients healthcare services and reduce revenue loss by hospitals. They clinched first position, walking away with $9,000 in prize money. 

Renmo, founded by Patrick Pierson-Prah, eliminates the burden of upfront annual payments for tenants and provides financial freedom. Renmo emerged in second place and a $6,000 prize. 

Lastly, NaYa took home third place and $3,000. NaYa, founded by Marthe-Sandrine Mpollo, is a medical fintech company operating in Cameroon which provides funds to patients to access urgent healthcare without financial limitations.

All three winners will also receive personalized consulting services courtesy of Baobab Consulting.

Honorable mention was awarded to two other companies. Motorparts Nation, founded by Genera Moore, is tackling the auto industry in Ghana and Nigeria. The Naked Convos, founded by Olawale Adetula, creates an accessible, consistent and sustainable online platform to meet the demand for content generated by the Nigerian film industry.

Fashion show

Finally, the event wrapped up with a fashion show from designer Gamu Gandawa who showcased beautiful African print designs modeled by members of Olin’s MBA class. The filming of the fashion show was covered by Chinazar Okoro and Oluwakemi Adene, both MBA ’22, on Olin’s Instagram page

For coverage of the entire event, watch here. 




When Dr. Jeffery Davis, an emergency room doctor at Missouri Baptist Medical Center and 2017 Olin MBA alum, went on vacation with his family to sunny San Diego, he expected a break from the chaos of the ER. Instead, he spent his last day saving the life of a young man in the harbor whose leg was nearly amputated by a boat propellor.

On March 26, Dr. Davis and his family boarded a whale-watching boat at the San Diego harbor. They had a great trip, sighting a whale and a pod of dolphins. On the way back into the harbor, though, the boat captain noticed something concerning: a nearby vessel had thrown three people from the boat, and the third passenger being pulled back onto the boat had a severe leg wound. His leg had been nearly amputated at the knee, severing a major artery.

Faced with this gruesome scene, Dr. Davis’ medical instincts and level headedness kicked in. He jumped onto the boat and used his belt to create a makeshift tourniquet for the young man’s leg. The bleeding slowed, allowing time for the boat to dock and the young man to be loaded into an ambulance.

After nearly 20 years of experience in emergency medicine, Davis explained to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, that this kind of quick response is “hard-wired into you” and part of “who you are.”

After the incident, Dr. Davis and his family spent the rest of their last day decompressing and letting his three daughters to process what had happened. Then, they returned home to St. Louis, where Dr. Davis continues to treat severe injuries at Missouri Baptist Medical Center as an emergency room doctor.




The following post originally appeared on The Consortium website and was reposted with permission.

As a burn survivor, Antonio Rivera-Martinez learned the hard way the importance of slowing down, of taking life day by day as opposed to rushing. 

Now a first-year MBA student and Consortium fellow at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Rivera-Martinez is finding success applying this same mindset to his studies and career. 

“As MBA students and as professionals, sometimes, we get really focused on ‘I just want to graduate, I just want to get through midterms, I just want to get a job,’ and sometimes, it’s more about what you need to do in the next hour or the next day,” he says. “Going through the burn injury recovery process really helped me to be patient with myself and everyone around me, and be more conscious. I just focused on doing what I needed to do in the next minute to be sure that I could become the person I wanted to become the next day or the next week.”

With a passion for helping entrepreneurs and small business owners, Rivera-Martinez hopes to use his MBA and the lessons he’s learned to empower people and businesses by connecting them “with the resources they need to succeed and make the world a better place,” he says — “an economic-type diplomat, in a sense.” 

A moral imperative

Raised in Puerto Rico, surrounded by family, Rivera-Martinez became interested in community development as a result of his participation in humanitarian and economic development missions across Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries, as well as in Model UN. These experiences influenced his decision to enter the field of economic development and international relations, and it’s how, following high school, Rivera-Martinez ended up at American University studying economics and international studies. “I was very much convinced that I wanted to be in public service, particularly economic development,” says Rivera-Martinez. 

Internships in the U.S. Department of State and the Organization of American States, however, steered him in a new direction. There, he learned about the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in disadvantaged communities and potential policies to overcome these. 

“I noticed how both the U.S. and Mexican economies, most economies really, are driven by small and medium-size businesses,” Rivera-Martinez says. “A lot of them, if not most of them, are being led by underrepresented communities — Blacks and Latinos — and you really see a disproportionate amount of financial resources that are available to one demographic versus the other.”

Eager to translate this new interest into working with entrepreneurs on the ground but about to graduate with a degree in international studies, Rivera-Martinez applied for and received a Fulbright scholarship to work in Mexico City. “I wanted to understand really well the process of how to build a small business and what the barriers are that are limiting communities from becoming more economically self-sufficient,” he says. 

In 2015, after a year of working as an investment operations associate at Cambridge Associates — where he says he “got a crash course in everything related to investing, finance and business” — Rivera-Martinez moved to Mexico City as a Fulbright Binational Business Scholar. Working as a senior analyst and strategy director at Angel Ventures, he learned all about the startup ecosystem, including how venture funding is processed, how entrepreneurs craft their pitches, how they secure funding and what financial institutions are looking for in entrepreneurs. “I was slowly but surely learning all the informational symmetries to connect the dots,” Rivera-Martinez says. 

Following completion of the Fulbright program, he was offered a full-time position as a strategy director at Angel Ventures. The opportunity allowed him to travel throughout remote areas of Mexico, where he talked about entrepreneurship with locals as well as worked with government entities, small business incubators and universities. Through the experience, Rivera-Martinez learned that no matter where you are, the same development gap exists among entrepreneurs, and although information about securing funding is often presented in a complicated manner, it’s actually very basic. “Being able to understand that and communicate it to other people was very important to me,” he says. 

Ready to run with this new knowledge, Rivera-Martinez unfortunately hit a roadblock. An incident at a bonfire left him with second- and third-degree burns on 25 percent of his body. With a full recovery projected to take a year, he returned to Puerto Rico to be closer to his family and doctors. “I went from being on a ventilator, to walking with a cane, and back to working while still on treatment within a year’s time,” he says. 

During this time, Rivera-Martinez began working at a new seed fund that was just getting off the ground in Puerto Rico with Grupo Guayacán — the first of its kind on the island. But then, in September 2017, Maria hit. 

The hurricane wiped out power to his family’s home for four months, complicating his recovery efforts and challenging him in new ways. However, he says, helping family members and friends kept him busy and moving forward amidst the chaos. “I remember thinking, ‘I’ve been through worse. I know we’ll be able to get through this,’” Rivera-Martinez recalls. 

The hurricane ultimately shifted the focus of the seed fund where he worked as they heard from local businesses about the hardships they were facing and tried to identify companies impacted by the hurricane that could greatly benefit from their assistance. “After the hurricane, it definitely took on a deeper purpose. Now it wasn’t just about funding companies, it was more about doing my part to help with Puerto Rico’s economic recovery,” says Rivera-Martinez. 

He enjoyed his experience at the fund, which included investing in companies in industries ranging from food and beverage to AI and software development, but found himself wanting to do even more. “I was reaching a point where I wanted to do more than just connect companies with the resources they needed,” Rivera-Martinez says. “Ideally, I want to be a resource, help build a company or help a particular organization grow, and invest in companies using my time and connections.” 

Lacking the operational knowledge to do this, and with encouragement from his mentor Jorge Negron, he decided to pursue his MBA. “Jorge was a Consortium alum from Michigan Ross, and he always talked to me about The Consortium and how it was a great experience, how it really helped him and gave him a lot of tools to be able to help businesses in Puerto Rico,” says Rivera-Martinez, adding that Negron passed away last year. “He was very inspiring in terms of pushing me to apply through The Consortium. His life work and character continue to move forward today. Jorge really helped me realize I had what it takes.”

The Consortium, Rivera-Martinez says, aligned perfectly with what he had been doing and what he hopes to do following his graduation from Olin. In addition to helping Latino and other underrepresented entrepreneurs overcome the obstacles they face through better access to resources, his plans include returning to Puerto Rico, where he hopes to help spur growth in his own community — not to mention, spread the word about The Consortium. 

In addition to helping make their future organizations great, Rivera-Martinez believes he and his Consortium peers also have the moral imperative to do as Negron taught him: “to always inspire others to apply to The Consortium and to be better through their work.”

“Business tools are just a way to help and empower others,” he says, “and I think everyone in The Consortium family knows and lives by that.”




Family-owned M-D Building Products Inc. has named a new president. The Oklahoma-based company develops, manufactures and markets a range of residential and commercial weatherization, flooring, caulking and specialty extrusion products.

Following its centennial anniversary, the company appointed Ryan Plotkin, MBA ’16, who plans to “take M-D to the next level” under his leadership by fostering innovation and efficiency, according to the company’s press release. As president, Plotkin will “lead operational growth plans surrounding the consumer products, specified extrusion manufacturing and professional flooring divisions.”

In the release, the company’s board indicated that it enthusiastically supported Plotkin’s appointment, citing his focus, energy and commitment to driving progress within the company.

Plotkin held the position of chief operating officer after his graduation from Olin’s MBA program. He has been with M-D Building Products since the company hired him as a global business manager in 2008.