Tag: Research Centers

Paul, Elke, Roger, and Fran Koch at today

The Koch Center for Family Business has officially changed its name to the Koch Center for Family Enterprise.

In 2019, The Koch Family—Paul A. (BSBA ’61, JD ’64, MBA ’68) and his wife, Elke; Roger L. (BSBA ’64, MBA ’66) and his wife, Fran —provided gifts and commitments of more than $9 million to create the center and its associated directorship and professor of practice.

They made the investment to create a center dedicated to studying the distinctive features of family-owned businesses and serving the family business community with programs and insights for improving business practice.

The family also wanted to raise awareness about the complexities and opportunities in family business, and to engage students in understanding the rich career potential within the family business ecosystem.

Peter Boumgarden

In 2021, Peter Boumgarden was appointed as the center’s director and the Koch Family Professor of Practice. At that time, he refreshed the strategic plan and vision for the center. He widened its scope to include not only family business research and practice, but also family philanthropy and investment activities. The center’s new name intends to reflect the new direction and broader impact of the Koch Center.

Multiple angles

Boumgarden said that to understand the “purpose and performance” of family enterprise, one must look at ownership from multiple angles.

“This means paying attention to family owners looking to continue their legacy to the next generation,” he said. “But it also means exploring family offices and their direct investment portfolios, family philanthropists seeking to impact the world through their acquired wealth, and even students and alumni looking to pursue business building, acquisition and ownership.”

The challenges of strategic ownership are widespread and complex, and the Koch Center for Family Enterprise is well-positioned to explore and disseminate insights with a foundation in academic research and strong links to the family business community.

Variety of programs

The Koch Center for Family Enterprise oversees a variety of programs for both students and the St. Louis business community and is an important part of Olin. Among the programs it oversees are an annual symposium, a student club, a case study-driven course featuring family business practitioners as lecturers, and student practicum projects with owners of family businesses.

Dean Michael Mazzeo

The Koch Center also manages an executive education workshop for owners, student-led academic work across a variety of enterprises and a new program called Philanthropy Forward. Philanthropy Forward works with strategic philanthropists to define and refine their theory of impact and change.

“The Koch family’s vision for a center focused on such a vital segment of our economy, paired with Professor Boumgarden’s strategic commitment to guiding its direction, is emblematic of what drew me to WashU Olin,” said Mike Mazzeo, dean of the school.

“I’m delighted to see that vision and collaboration reflected in the work to accurately express the Koch Center’s mission and scope with this new name.”

Top photo: The Kochs attend the Family Business Symposium in 2018.

Jian Cai

Since 2016, Jian Cai, a senior lecturer in finance at WashU Olin, has advised student practicum teams through the Wells Fargo Advisors Center for Finance and Accounting Research (WFA-CFAR). In a discussion with Tatiana Vdovina, a CFAR PhD Scholar and PhD candidate in finance, Cai talked about the challenges and rewards of guiding students through real-world consulting projects:

What types of companies have you advised in quantitative finance and fintech?


When the practicum program was still in an early stage, two teams consulted with Build-a-Bear (Workshop). In the first year, the company wanted to figure out how to improve their supplies purchasing process. The next year, a team of seven worked on a post-audit analysis of their newly opened stores and presented it to the CFO and an executive committee. Both teams were invited to their flagship store at the Galleria Mall and built our own bears!

Our next client was Detalus, a local investment company. The main project we did with them was to establish a red flag system that would indicate when a company they invested in was predicted to have a credit rating downgrade.

We completed four projects with Neocova, a local startup fintech firm that provides AI services to community banks. (Among those projects were) a predictive model for community banks’ credit rating and an anti-money laundering (AML) model.

Most recently, my team worked with MARKIT/S&P Global Market Intelligence to evaluate the market potential for loan-level probability of default and loss given default modeling. The team won the Quantitative Finance Practicum Showcase because of the sophistication of our analysis and modeling.

What are the biggest challenges you face with a team of master’s students during a 14-week practicum?

For all projects, the first challenge is to translate a business situation or issue the client wants to address into a tangible research question. Most students have not had any industry experience by the time they work on the project. With a lot of motivation and strong technical skills, students tend to be eager to start on data analysis and coding before seeing the actual purpose of the project. So I try to pull them back and help them see the big picture first.

While every semester and every project is different, one thing that is always the same is that time goes by very fast and we need to keep track of the timeline and project scope constantly.

What gives you the most satisfaction in advising student practicum teams?

Being able to solve a seemingly impossible problem makes me happy and intellectually inspired!

For the community banking project (for Neocova), I felt stuck not knowing how to show (that) a group with perceived low credit quality actually has strong creditworthiness. One of our faculty members (the late Radha Gopalan) suggested developing a credit rating predictive model using data we had on rated banks, then making projections on mostly unrated community banks. Thanks to his brilliant idea, we were able to solve the problem proposed by the client quickly.

Ultimately, hearing from students years later and seeing their careers take off makes me happy.

Three students in the most recent practicum team I advised (for S&P) found nice jobs within three months after completing the project. One is now at Morningstar in New York, and another is working at Goldman Sachs. Starting their careers with the experience that they got from the project is awesome to observe.

Read Cai’s full interview and learn more about how student practicum projects have translated into hands-on student experience while providing tangible business benefits to clients.

Pictured at top: Jian Cai’s student practicum team, which worked on projects for Build-A-Bear Workshop, celebrated with newly made stuffed toys.

Woman finger touching virtual screen with forex diagrams and graphs. Digital financial data analysis and global statistics. Concept of managing big data.

Business leaders need to hone a diverse range of skills and qualities before they can raise a successful business. They need to open their toolbox and see an array of skills and lived experiences that they can select and wield in any new situation. Understanding and using big data is one of those tools that no leader should be without. 

While many skills can be learned through work experience, certain ones, such as big data management, can be learned through a classroom MBA experience with knowledgeable guidance and instruction. The faculty members at Olin Business School at WashU are well-versed in both managing data and making empowered decisions based on data.

The business value of big data and data-driven leadership skills

Why is the Managing Big Data course such a key feature of the Olin MBA?

The course evolved in response to the world becoming increasingly reliant on data. We live in a digital age, and data is one of organizations’ most valuable assets. Data-driven decisions guide modern successful businesses; they collect vast amounts of data from various sources—customer interactions, social media and almost every other online channel—in order to accurately interpret and predict what their audience needs and wants.

The business value of big data is massive because the benefits of data-driven decision-making are so various and transformative. Data on its own is pretty meaningless, but when mined for its insights, it can suddenly prove and demonstrate all sorts of truths about businesses and their audiences.

Big data management isn’t just how organizations work now; it’s also how they win. Companies that effectively manage and analyze their data gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. They can make better-informed decisions, develop targeted marketing strategies and identify new business opportunities.

This is why the Managing Big Data course is a crucial stepping stone for students preparing to work in an environment where they will need data analytics skills to survive. At Olin, we have created many courses that put data at the heart of business, but Managing Big Data is one of the most foundational courses for learning how to gain insight into customer behavior and pursue better business strategies.

What does the managing big data course teach students?

As this course has evolved, it has reacted to how students are learning and thinking in today’s business world. When we first started talking about big data, students didn’t know how to store, manipulate and retrieve data that didn’t fit into their computing machines. The term “cloud computing” was around, but students didn’t yet understand its advantages.

We introduced the course to answer these questions. As industries race to get more data, the demand for such skills grows, and students need big data skills to get their feet in the door. To better prepare students to face the challenges and decisions they will make leading their organizations, Managing Big Data focuses on how to:

Continue learning as big data evolves

Students need to know how to learn data analytics. The learning process will continue as they graduate and grow their businesses because data itself is growing all the time. The course equips leaders with the skills to analyze large volumes of data and extract meaningful insights to inform decision-making. By learning to use these tools and techniques, students also learn how to apply their education in the real world and continue to learn from those real-life experiences.

Understand customer behavior

In today’s business environment, understanding customer behavior is crucial for success. This course teaches leaders how to analyze customer data and identify patterns and trends in customer behavior, which can inform marketing strategies and product development decisions. By understanding customer behavior, leaders can make more informed decisions that align with the needs and preferences of their target markets.

Effectively manage risk

Managing risk is a critical business function in today’s world, where bold decisions are often needed to sustain a company in a difficult economy. Managing Big Data teaches leaders to use data analytics to identify potential risks and develop mitigation strategies. By understanding the potential risks associated with different actions and decisions, leaders can gain a bird’s eye view of their businesses and chart the best course to address or avoid problems.

Big data is not just a current trend but also the future of business. The volume and complexity of data will only continue to grow and become an important influencing factor in business decisions. If students can learn to leverage big data, they will be well-positioned to succeed in the marketplace.

Peter Boumgarten contributed this post to the Olin Blog. He is the Koch Family Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise and director of the Koch Center for Family Enterprise.

This summer, Bart Hamilton and I have an opportunity to work with the Koch Center’s inaugural set of Family Enterprise Scholars. The five students and their respective projects are listed below. If you have relevant insight and expertise in any of these areas, do reach out, as we would love to put you in touch with these scholars!

The group is paid to work on research tied to family enterprise. They will learn about a huge swath of the US economy—closely held businesses—and bring some rigor to a space often missed in our research work. We hope that the program creates opportunities to signal expertise generated by working on a big problem in partnership with a faculty member.

Michael Roytburd

Michael Roytburd, MBA 2024, is working with me and Mark Hand (University of Texas, Arlington) on a project to better understand owner motivations at times of transition. This project will ultimately create a community-facing tool to help owners better understand what they are trying to optimize for when facing any kind of succession (management, ownership, or control) and how the options in front of them (family succession, ESOP, sale, etc.) map onto these drivers.

Vincent Nguyen

Vincent Nguyen, MBA 2023, will return to WashU to finish his MD on the other side of Forest Park from Olin. Before he does this, he’s working to help segment different strategies within the private equity space and using this segmentation to discern what does and does not create value in healthcare roll-ups.

Paige Copenhaver

Paige Copenhaver is a rising second year at Haverford College studying mathematical economics and German. She’s working closely with Hamilton and me to understand what leads to a higher likelihood of success for previous start-ups out of St. Louis’ ArchGrants incubator. One factor that comes to mind is ownership of the founding team (e.g., husband and wife, brothers, outside family and friend investors) and how that interacts with the support they receive.

Claire Dempsey

Claire Dempsey, MBA/MSW 2023, is working with me and recent Olin alum Margaret Margaret Schnuck Rogers, MBA 2023, on a new program in partnership with the Chancellor’s office called Philanthropy-forward. She’s working on mapping the different schools of thought in philanthropy as the Koch Center team creates a model to help individual and family philanthropies be more strategic in giving.

Jessica Timerman

Jessica Timerman, MSW/MBA 2024, is working with the center on two projects. She is supporting the development of the Olin-wide case competition called “Values and Data from the Owner’s Box.” The case focuses on the Taylor family and their attempt in an MLS franchise to balance financial and non-financial ownership objectives. This case competition will run later this year and be open to undergrad and grad teams nationwide. She’s also helping develop a survey to better understand the behavior of family offices, a significant and growing part of the financial market.

Pictured from top left clockwise: Paige Copenhaver, Claire Dempsey, Vincent Nguyen, Michael Roytburd and Jessica Timerman.


The Data for Good conference is an event for members of the business community at large. The concept of the event focuses on how businesses can move forward using data while also staying true to values that promote good in the world.

During this event, Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights (CABI) shared its framework for developing data-driven strategies for the benefit of St. Louis companies looking to create their own sustainable prosperity in their communities and in the region as a whole.

The pillars of this conference are also core to the Olin MBA program. We are on a mission to discover a more values-driven approach to data and help shape the next generation of business leaders with “good data” leadership in mind. The conference asks us how we can move beyond using data for good as a concept and discover first-hand how data can be used to responsibly solve critical business, civic, and social issues.

Why has “data for good” become a call to action?

Business has reached a particular moment in history where the amount and quality of data available is unprecedented. Vast quantities of data pass through organizations every day, ready to be collected and used to their advantage.

Yet, businesses also stand at a crossroads in terms of how to best make use of data and how to maintain longevity. Corporate data responsibility is still in its formative years as leaders are realizing that not all data is created equal. Data can be used in negative ways, and misused data can expose a company to harmful attacks and breaches of privacy. What we realize is that we need leaders who are trained to understand the power and responsibility associated with the enormous amount of data available today.

In order to use data for good, businesses must become more aware of the changing landscape around the collection and utilization of data. Consumers are more educated on this issue than ever, and they have increasingly high expectations for how companies treat their information. And alongside consumer changes are public policy shifts. Regulations are being crafted all the time to outline data management ethics that protect consumers and provide guidance to businesses.

How can an online MBA program create better data leaders?

The same values-driven pillars that are guiding the Data for Good conference also guide us at Olin.

Students in Olin’s MBA program learn about social and civic goals at the same time as they practice creating positive business outcomes. They learn, from the beginning, to think of themselves as leaders of social change as well as leaders of prosperous businesses. They learn what it means to be a responsible business leader.

At the CABI research center, our research projects all have a “data for good” focus and aim to solve complex community and societal issues. For example, one of those projects was aimed at combating the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States. This is a current and demanding issue, one that surrounds many of our students’ hometowns and counties. During the project, we utilized advanced analytics and data modeling techniques very similar to those used in a business setting. The same strategies used to create growth in a business are used to create momentum for change.

The outlook we espouse is that successful leaders can take a consistent approach to very different goals, problems, and intended outcomes. That outlook involves first setting up a clearly defined objective or set of objectives. What do you want to achieve? What is the ideal scenario and the next ideal?

See the full 2023 symposium

The full 2023 Data for Good Symposium

From there, students learn to determine which key results must be achieved to realize those objectives. How will we know if we have succeeded? Then, with those core pieces of information at their disposal, leaders can establish the specific activities they can perform or initiate that are likely to enable those desired results.

What does data have to do with this methodology? Well, at each point of the strategy, data and technology can be used to help: to help guide the process, help speed things along and add insight. Most importantly, each step we take with data is guided by the objectives and values we’ve set up already; this is how we know what our priorities are.

Culture is key to the courses we teach and how we teach them. The word culture comes from the same French and Latin roots as the word cultivate; this is an action word — cultivation requires a continuous, careful force. This is how we think about crafting culture at Olin. 

We nurture a culture of leading with values. Everything — from the questions we ask to the data-driven actions we take — must be guided by values. Tools are there to help us, but we must first know how to use them for good. And we want to share the knowledge to carefully wield those tools with not just our students but also our community.

Pictured above: Olin’s Seethu Seetharaman, director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights and W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing, outlines a data-driven process the center developed to guide economic development decisions in St. Louis. The presentation was at the March 2023 Data for Good symposium.