Tag: Professional MBA



It sounds like the setup for a bad joke: An artist, an engineer and an economist walk up to a bridge. Instead of delivering a punch line, however, I’ll take this scenario a different direction: Let’s talk about the non-traditional ways Olin has structured business education—some of them in direct response to students.

Consider the artist, whose eye focuses on the bridge’s aesthetic appeal. The engineer admires the integrity of a design that supports hundreds of tons of concrete, steel and people. The economist sees an investment that should yield returns by accelerating the transport of goods, services and labor.

Each has a unique perspective but each considers the other. All three want a sound, attractive, purposeful structure. In that vein, we recognize at Olin that every business student isn’t necessarily interested in a traditional business career. Even further still, every student seeking better business savvy is not destined for a business degree.

For example, we’ve reduced barriers for students approaching business courses from other disciplines, such as students from the Fox School who want to understand marketing better. These are typically rigorous, quantitative courses requiring advanced calculus as a prerequisite. While fully respecting the quantitative nature of our marketing curriculum, we’ve designed a “principles of marketing” course—without the deep quantitative background—for those who don’t need it.

Students themselves drove the introduction of our “business of social impact” minor, which only launched last year, combining faculty expertise from the Brown School and Olin. As BSBA curriculum director Bill Bottom told Student Life last year, “This is an initiative that began from student interest and student research—a group of students…really were quite enthusiastic about their business studies.”

That minor joins the minor in the business of sports, underway for several years, and the newly announced minor in the business of the arts, due to launch next year—along with a course in the economics of entertainment taught by Glenn MacDonald.

We’re even going deeper in the next year—beyond a few courses or a minor—with the introduction of WashU’s first truly joint degree within the university. In 2019, in collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science, we’ll welcome our first students working toward a bachelor’s degree in business and computer science.

“We’ve worked for a year to put this together, and we’ve validated our thinking off of other alumni and corporate partners,” said Steve Malter, Olin’s senior associate dean of undergraduate programs. “This is what the workforce is looking for. This is the future.”

Steve made those comments in the new edition of Olin Business magazine, out now, which dives more deeply into cross-disciplinary business programs than I can here.

As an economist and scholar of renaissance literature myself, you must imagine that I’m a firm believer in interdisciplinary work, combining a broad general curriculum with business education. Real-world problems don’t come neatly packaged. We must look across academic siloes to solve the toughest problems. As leaders, we must be comfortable moving from the highly qualitative to the highly quantitative, using our skills of persuasion, backing our viewpoints with hard-core analysis.

It’s in this context that we speak at Olin about a values-based, data-driven education. That’s why I’m excited by the work Olin has done to reach across disciplines and attract non-traditional business students.




Pictured above: Scholarship donor Neil M. Yaris, BSBA’86, meets with the latest recipient of the Neil Marshall Yaris Scholarship, Hank Hunter, BSBA’20.

Neil Yaris recalls the numbers clearly: When he applied to Washington University 36 years ago to pursue a business degree, the cost was $15,000 per year. The university offered a $5000 scholarship. His father advised him to go to WashU even though it would still be more costly than the New York state schools he could have attended.

“Without the help from that scholarship, supported by Sidney Guller, BSBA ’47, it would never have happened. I was only able to attend this university because of the generosity of others,” said Yaris, BSBA ’86.

This story has come full circle as Yaris, himself, created the Neil Marshall Yaris Scholarship in 1999. He recently met with his 13th recipient, Hank Hunter, BSBA ’20, in Bauer Hall.

“I am truly grateful for the Gullers’ generosity and feel strongly that I should give other young people the same opportunity I was given way back in 1982,” Yaris said. “Sydney helped me feel this way and I have since conveyed the same sense of ‘giving back’ to Hank.”

Guller, himself, has spoken often about his need for financial assistance when he attended Olin Business School. More than 70 years later, Hank Hunter offered similar thoughts, saying, “I would not be at this school if I hadn’t received a scholarship.”

Neil and Hank have developed a particularly close relationship over the past two years. “Though I have known many of my scholarship recipients, my relationship with Hank is certainly the strongest I have had. We have both made that happen. We have met many times on campus as well as in New York where I was able to watch Hank play in the basketball team’s 91-66 victory over NYU,” according to Yaris.

The two also share career interests. Yaris retired in 2016 after a 29-year career trading bonds for firms that include the Royal Bank of Canada, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Credit Suisse. Hunter is eager to launch a career of his own in finance and recently completed a summer internship at Stifel Financial in St. Louis.

He is grateful for the opportunity he has been given, stating, “Neil has really helped me in my career process. He has connected me with several financial firms and introduced me to a lot of smart people. I am truly looking forward to my life beyond college. In the meantime, I want to make the most out of my last two years at WashU, and take advantage of as many things as I can while I’m here.”

Neil’s WashU connections go deeper than his own education and the named scholarship. Two of his children are alumni—Melanie, ‘13 and Charlie, ’16—and his youngest daughter, Annie,’20, is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

His support for scholarship runs deep, stating, “My wife and I are thrilled to give young people the opportunity to attend this great university. We hope these recipients will carry on the tradition and do the same for others in years to come.”

Though numerous students enjoy the benefit of Olin alumni named scholarships, many never actually meet their benefactors. Some will get that opportunity at the Olin annual Scholars in Business event on November 8.

Pictured above: Scholarship donor Neil M. Yaris, BSBA’86, meets with the latest recipient of the Neil Marshall Yaris Scholarship, Hank Hunter, BSBA’20.




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.




Rik Nemanick

Rik Nemanick

Rik Nemanick, a Washington University adjunct instructor, wrote this for the Olin Blog. He is the author of The Mentor’s Way: Eight Rules for Bringing Out the Best in Others and is leading an upcoming daylong workshop on mentoring and leader development at Olin. This is the third in a series of Olin Blog posts on mentoring. Check out part one and part two if you missed them.

This blog post concludes my discussion about mentoring as a vehicle to extend and enhance learning. The series of posts is based on interviews with seven alumni from the School of Engineering and Olin Business School who have been mentors for students at Washington University. In my prior blog posts on mentoring, I brought together their ideas to build a definition of what a mentor was and explored what mentors do to help bring out the best in others.

In this post, I wanted to know what they suggest people do to get the most out of having a mentor.

It is important for protégés to feel empowered to “take the lead” with their mentors. Recognize that leaders around you are willing to help. “Don’t hesitate to reach out to people,” said Dante Cannarozzi, BSAS ‘01/MSCS ‘03. “I think you’ll discover most people are very receptive to being asked for advice.”

Sally Roth, EMBA ‘95, added to that advice, encouraging protégés to “be prepared to own the relationship. That is, it is incumbent upon the protégé, not the mentor, to build and maintain a trusting relationship.”

Mike Ferman, BSBA ’68, suggested protégés “set expectations with your mentor upfront. Identify how you should both communicate with each other and how frequently. Do not expect them to do things for you.” Haroon Taqi, BSCS ’90/MSCS ’95, encouraged protégés to “reach out to them and follow through to make sure that the meetings happened.”

Of course, you should also “know what you want to optimize” about yourself, observed Mark Pydynowski, BSBA ’04. He added that “the best mentors have expensive time; do not waste it by being unprepared.” That is why it is important for protégés to “chart a course” for their development journey. Think about where you see yourself in three years and get your mentor’s help in identifying what you want to learn or improve to get there.

Once you figure out what you want to learn, it helps to “open your mind” to learning. David Murphy, EMBA ’18, said that “you need to listen for your internal biases and turn them off. You’re actively seeking out growth, which may require you to learn to identify and focus on your weaknesses.”

Ferman added that protégés need to be “open to change and listening to new ideas. Being open and transparent with them about your goals and objectives, and my fears and concerns.” Finally, to truly grow and learn when working with a mentor, it helps to “stretch yourself” and take some risks. Murphy suggested that “getting out of your comfort zone and out of your own way are crucial steps in true growth.”

One thing to make sure you do is thank your mentors and let them know the impact they had on you. Taqi said that “in the end, I made sure I thanked them for their time.” Mentoring is a gift that you cannot repay. What you can do is make sure that the time the mentor invested in you made a difference. And, you can look for someone you can mentor and “pay it forward.”

“Mentorship & Leader Development,” a workshop presented by Olin Business School Executive Education, will be Nov. 6 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get more details and register. Nemanick is author of The Mentor’s Way.




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.