Tag: Professional MBA

Anjan Thakor is an economist with purpose—and the business world is catching on. Thakor’s research covers wide ground, from corporate finance to banking and corporate governance. However, the John E Simon Professor of Finance’s most recent endeavor got more personal: How can an organization connect its employees to its overall purpose, encouraging them to dive in and give their all along the way?

Along with Robert E. Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Thakor’s wisdom is featured on the cover of the Harvard Business Review’s July-August edition.

Thakor and Quinn begin by introducing readers to Gerry Anderson, president of DTE Energy, who struggled to engage his employees following the Great Recession of 2008. Having been taught that good economics mean treating employees first by their own self interest, Anderson was reluctant to use empty rhetoric about meaning—much like many firm leaders Thakor and Quinn investigated.

However, the researchers tell, a shift in focus that challenged employees to embrace purpose turned out to be a major success. Thakor and Quinn’s research seeks to provide a framework company leaders can use to develop, embrace, and implement a purpose that drives their organization.


The biggest problem Thakor and Quinn find is that the companies they consult for wait until a point of crisis to find a company purpose. Encouraging a break from the “cynical ‘transactional’ view of employee motivation,” though, can be taken at any time—the sooner, the better. The researchers set up an eight-step process for finding, implementing, and connecting a purpose for employees—one that includes such steps as “envision an inspired workforce,” “recognize the need for authenticity,” and “connect the people to the purpose.”

The most important theme that runs through these eight steps? Be authentic, real, and passionate. Thakor and Quinn have seen companies thrive and fail—and they know the perils of a haphazard campaign based on feel-good words and uninspired drivel. Purpose, for them, is something entirely different. It’s a sense of passion—a vision for a corporation that inspires employees, turns them into leaders, and treats them as intelligent, autonomous human beings.

The work Thakor and Quinn are asking companies to undertake is not easy—it’s part of a process that involves humility, openness, and risk. But these researchers believe in the beauty of an impassioned, purpose-driven company—and they’re hoping to change the business world, for good.

Graduation for the 2018 master of science in leadership class at Brookings.

Joining the members of the 2018 master of science in leadership class from
the Olin Brookings Executive Education programme.

I think everyone who works at WashU gets the question from friends and acquaintances, “Does work slow down for you over the summer?” For Olin faculty and staff members, I’m guessing the quick answer is “No.”

Granted, the day-to-day activities, interactions and even locations may be different in the summer months than during the academic year, but from my viewpoint, the Olin team’s focus on supporting the mission of the school remains strong throughout the year.

Since the final chords of Pomp and Circumstance ended in spring, Olin faculty and staff have been hard at work encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation on a global stage, promoting Olin in worldwide media, growing our academic and research programs, expanding services for our students, connecting with alumni around the world…and teaching me the finer points of the backyard game of cornhole (I hear washers is the next game I need to learn.).

My busy Olin summer began with a May 31 conference on “New Approaches to Biomedical Innovation,” a workshop arranged by Anjan Thakor that drew participants from around the world. I was privileged to introduce the keynote speaker, Greg Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative.

Soon after, I had the opportunity to appear on a BBC business news programme to discuss the importance of the MBA. Indeed, my time with Aaron Heslehurst on “Talking Business” included some sparring over the relevance of the MBA when many tech entrepreneurs have built businesses without such a credential.

But it also offered the opportunity to widely share the Olin name and our commitment to identifying and cultivating our students’ potential—and our unique approach to preparing leaders equipped to synthesize huge amounts of data through a values-based lens.
Promoting our name, our reputation and our thought leadership also gives us the opportunity to participate in the national debate, as when American Public Media’s Marketplace programme recently turned to Olin’s Asaf Manela for his perspective on proprietary trading in a story about The Volcker Rule.

I also had the opportunity to visit Brookings for another joyful event, a graduation ceremony for recipients of the master of science in leadership program through our joint Brookings Executive Education programme. It was the first time that the President of the Brookings Institution and a Dean from Washington University participated in a graduation ceremony together in nearly 100 years.

Dean Grandpa with Madeleine.

Dean Grandpa with Madeleine.

The themes of leadership and career preparation continued in Tel Aviv in late June, where I participated in a panel discussion on “Producing Ideas and Talent of the Future” at the Israel Summer Business Academy with Steve Malter and Aaron Bobick, dean of WashU’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, and Provost Holden Thorp.

Next month, my whirlwind summer concludes with a trip to Shanghai to visit EMBA students in our programme with Fudan University. That journey will include a number of visits with China-based alumni, who remain important ambassadors for Olin as they launch, build and flourish in their careers.

While there is great Olin energy around the world—from growing degree programs, research activities and practicum projects on at least five continents, I am excited that the momentum continues to build in St. Louis as we grow our capacity to serve our students and alumni.

I’ve very much enjoyed meeting some of the new people that have recently joined Olin and I look forward to continuing to get to know more Olin faculty, staff and students…perhaps over a game of washers.

On the topic of backyard fun and games, I hope you have a chance to connect with friends and family over the summer months. The best moment for me this summer has been spending time with my first grandchild, Madeleine, in Sydney, Australia.

I’ve already started recruiting her for Washington University Class of 2040.

“The Desk of the Dean” appears monthly.

Jennifer Whitten

Jennifer Whitten will join Olin as associate dean and director of the Weston Career Center on July 9. Jennifer comes to Olin from Arizona State University, where she is the director of career services and  instructor in the MBA program at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

At ASU, Jennifer managed career support for a portfolio of four MBA platforms, 10 masters’ platforms and alumni career services. Under her leadership, the W. P. Carey Career Center has seen significant increases in student engagement and employment percentages as well as growth and expansion of employer relationships and activities.

Aside from a stint in Arizona state government focused on creating a career management program for over 35,000 state employees, Jennifer has spent nearly two decades in higher education, serving undergraduate and graduate students in both academic advising and career development and placement roles.

By coming to Washington University, Jennifer is returning to her Midwestern roots and she will bring with her the experience and drive to lead a nimble Weston Career Center team that is focused on preparing our students not only for their first job but for their careers well into the future, connecting with our strong alumni network, and expanding the opportunities available to our students through proactive business development.

I am grateful for the efforts of the Weston Career Center Director search committee chaired by Senior Associate Deans Steve Malter and Patrick Moreton as well as the valuable feedback from many members of the Olin community throughout this search process. I also want to say a special thank you to Karen Heise for her excellent work serving as the interim director of the Weston Career Center.

This is a segment of Dean Mark Taylor’s appearance Monday morning, June 11, 2018, on “Talking Business with Aaron Heslehurst,” a BBC TV program that airs globally (at 8:30 a.m. in St. Louis). Jonathan Josephs (@jonathanjosephs on Twitter), who identifies himself as a BBC journalist and senior producer at BBC World Business, posted the clip in his Twitter feed.

We’ll update this post when we can find a shareable version of the entire interview.

Left, Skae and Hammack at their reception at the Missouri Athletic Club. Right, Gauthier and Triplett on graduation day.

Conventional wisdom says students in the Professional MBA program—while committed to advancing their careers—are also at the right age to invest in their future, if you know what we mean.

Maybe Madeline Triplett can explain it a little better.

“Everyone is trying to push ahead in their careers, but we’re young,” she said. “You’re trying to have some semblance of a social life while you’re working and going to school.”

Things are bound to happen. Introductions. Networking. A little “due diligence.” Then, bang! A merger. For PMBA Class 38, things happened. Twice.

Triplett met John Gauthier. About a year into the program, they started dating, hit it off, and are headed to Graham Chapel on Dec. 15 for their wedding. Meanwhile, two of their PMBA 38 classmates, Alexandra Hammack and John Skae, beat them to the altar with their own wedding on March 11, 2017.

For Jan Snow, director of graduate programs student affairs, two couples in one class is unusual. But it turns out that the PMBA program is something of an an incubator for relationships. Snow says the students are just at the right age when they might be looking for a relationship.

“We had one pair that I put in a team together,” Snow said. “They ended up getting married.” They were from Class 33. In fact, Snow came up with the names of three other married PMBA couples without breaking a sweat.

Love at First Case

It didn’t take long for Gauthier to notice his future fiancee. Soon after they started attending classes together, “I always noticed her responses in class were similar,” he said. “We found similar takeaways.” But, alas, he and Triplett ran in different friend groups among the fellow PMBAs.

For Skae, his future mate caught his eye during orientation weekend for the class. He and Hammack soon realized they had a lot in common—beginning with the overlapping network of friends they had in St. Louis. “Everywhere we turned, we we found we had these connections,” Skae said.

“We started hanging out outside of class in October,” he said. “We knew pretty quickly this was something serious.” The couple “came out” to their classmates during a class trip aboard a “pirate ship” arranged by a classmate with connections to the boating industry — and a Missouri River cruise.

The stress of the crisis communications project helped them see the durability of their relationship, Hammack said. “We decided if we could get through this weekend, we could get through anything,” she said. “It was very stressful.”

Gauthier and Triplett finally found the spark after he moved to Clayton’s DeMun neighborhood and noticed her out for a run. The pair got engaged a year ago on Memorial Day weekend in Michigan, on a boat trip where Triplett had spent her summers growing up.

“She’ll say that it was a surprise and that she was hopeful it was coming,” he said. “I was playing it very cool. She actually packed my bag, and because she did that, she didn’t think I had a ring.”

Family Traditions

With one pair hitched and the other fast approaching the aisle, they both reflect on the history that drove their plans. Triplett’s parents, for example, are both WashU alums. That, along with their meeting on campus, persuaded them to nab Graham Chapel for their upcoming nuptials.

Skae finished his final class in March the weekend before the wedding at Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton with a reception at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis – just as Hammack’s parents had done 30 years earlier, also in March.

Today, Hammack works at Square as small- and medium-sized business sales manager, while Skae is an investment analyst for NorthMarq Capital. Meanwhile, Triplett is marketing manager at Hunter Engineering Company, chaired by another WashU alum, Steve Brauer. Gauthier is mergers and acquisitions manager for Lanter Delivery Systems.

“Going into WashU, I knew from people who had been in the program that people are at the same stage of life as I am,” Gauthier said. “I expected I would meet a lot of cool people—friends—not a potential bride.”

Pictured above: Left, Skae and Hammack at their reception at the Missouri Athletic Club. Right, Gauthier and Triplett on graduation day.

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