Tag: Research Centers



Life as a senior executive and single mom of five young children—for many, this may be seen as impossible. But for Laura Freeman, it’s a reality she did not let hinder her career success.

Laura recently shared her story, strong work ethic, and her people-centered career with our Women and Leadership course. As the chief people officer for St. Louis-based Schnucks, she has a lot of experience working in manufacturing and service-based industries related to food and customer service.

Throughout her career, Laura has also maintained her personal values and thirst for learning. Laura passionately spoke to our class for nearly two hours and left us with a few key takeaways:

Listen more than you talk

As a business school student, it is easy to believe we can have a greater impact in contributing to a discussion rather than listening to what others have to say. Laura debunked this misconception and emphasized the importance of listening.

She has been in high-level positions at various companies with a high turnover rate. She applied her listening skills to find out what was important to employees in order to retain them. She believes that regardless of a person’s background, their input has value, and if she did not listen, she would be out of touch with how to improve the retention rate—which has a direct effect on the brand’s success.

When she was a vice president at Wendy’s, an employee told her she did not feel included in the company image. The remark made Laura look closer into making all employees feel part of the image. If Laura had not been open to listening, Wendy’s may not have focused as much on creating an inclusive environment.

Enact servant leadership

Laura said serving others is one of the most valuable traits to employ on the job. It helps those around you and creates a better work environment. She is invested in other people’s success and loves to see them succeed.

This is a clear part of her “brand statement” and it has helped her to create jobs that people enjoy. She does not focus on just helping employees extrinsically through wages or benefits, but also intrinsically.

Laura makes each employee realize the importance of their job. When speaking on this, Laura revealed how she tells store managers the great responsibility they have and the many lives they impact.

Pick a company with values matching your own

Laura has always looked at a company’s culture and values when deciding to make a transition in her career. Schnucks drew her in with its values and Wendy’s was founded on the phrase, “do the right thing.”

These aspects fit with Laura’s emphasis on serving others while also being challenged in her position to not pick the easy route, but the one that is right.

Guest Blogger: Kennedy Kelly-Hooks, BSBA ’19.




Last semester, Richard Payton served as a United Way Board Fellow for Sherwood Forest, a year-round youth development organization. The project was part of the Center for Experiential Learning’s United Way Board Fellows Program, which partners students with local agencies supported by the United Way of Greater St. Louis. The students serve as a consultant and a voting member of the organization’s board, providing a unique experience for students interested in social impact.

Richard truly immersed himself in his client’s mission to transform the lives of children in need, and he came away from the experience with a strong sense of applied learning and a better appreciation for youth development in the community. Learn more about his experience as a board fellow, and his advice for students interested in the program:

Who is your client and what interested you about working with them?

Richard: I’ve had the good fortune to sit on the board of Sherwood Forest, a youth development agency that uses a resident summer camp in the Ozarks and year-round programming to help kids from underserved communities reach their fullest potential. I worked in K-12 education for 8 years before enrolling in Olin’s PMBA program, and I love the outdoors, so Sherwood Forest is a natural fit for me.

Two girls who are a part of the Sherwood Forest community.

How do you hope to provide impact to your client?

Richard: Lots of youth development agencies target kids from underserved communities, but I can’t think of another that is anchored in a resident summer camp experience. It’s easy to call Sherwood Forest a “summer camp,” but there’s a lot more to it. With my Board Fellows project, my aim is to help Sherwood Forest better communicate “the why behind the what” to stakeholders—in other words, to better explain the theory and evidence behind the agency’s work so that parents, families, donors, and funders understand the sophisticated and evidence-based thinking behind the agency’s service model.

How does the CEL Board Fellows experience differ from other classes?

Richard: One of the reasons I applied to WashU’s part-time MBA program was the experiential opportunities at the CEL. The hands-on experience has been incredibly valuable, especially in considering how I can apply concepts that I learned in courses that were focused on critical thinking, communication, and strategy. This experience has been different from other courses because of that experiential element, as well as the opportunity to draw from what I learned in so many different courses.

What has been the highlight of your experience?

Richard: In addition to its amazing staff and board members, I’ve also met many students who “grew up” with Sherwood Forest. Hearing about how much Sherwood Forest impacted their lives and how excited they were for college and their careers was really inspiring. Since nonprofit work can often be intangible, these stories were so compelling.

What advice would you give to students interested in becoming a United Way Board Fellow?

Richard: Know that your assigned project is just one component of the Board Fellows experience—another big piece is learning about the agency and its work, and how nonprofits function. That being said, spend as much time with the agency as possible—board meetings, committee meetings, fundraising events, etc. Make sure you see the agency “in action.” I spent a day at Sherwood’s summer camp in the Ozarks and it really brought the agency’s work to life.




In November, our Women in Leadership course had the privilege of meeting Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartsch, the President and CEO of FOCUS St. Louis, a premier leadership organization that prepares diverse leaders to work cooperatively in the St. Louis region. Dr. Akande-Bartsch spoke candidly about her background and what she has learned about leadership, starting her presentation with the adage: “The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.”

Her point being: Regardless of where you start, leadership is taking note of what’s happening in the world and showing up. Committing to at least one goal—to learn as much as you can—can change your perspective, and ultimately, your career path.

These beliefs are both a reflection of her upbringing and her passion for trying new things. Dr. Akande-Bartsch had an international education, attending school in Ghana and then completing her undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate in the United States. She then encouraged other undergraduate students to see the world for themselves by recruiting them to study abroad.

Not only did Dr. Akande-Bartsch share her love for travel with these students, she also shared in the adventure of learning. By being open to new possibilities and assuming positive intention, one can really develop their leadership skills through self-reflection and self-confidence.

I noticed this in Dr. Akande-Bartsch’s mastery of the art of storytelling. As she walked us through her various titles and job responsibilities, it was clear that she had a deep understanding of herself and her core values. She recognized she was a driver and an agent of change, which ultimately led her to assume her current leadership position at FOCUS St. Louis.

Problem-solving is a key component of being a leader, both in our workplaces and greater communities. It was refreshing that Dr. Akande-Bartsch pointed out the importance of recognizing your own limitations. Being willing to delegate and coach others is pivotal when aligning personal and organizational values.

Dr. Akande-Bartsch’s spirit, positivity, and commitment to being a life-long learner are all qualities I’d like to emulate. How exactly does she do it? Well, her rituals include listening to NPR, taking phone calls during her morning commute, and hiking. She described her life as not in balance, but in a constant state of movement. I believe that Dr. Akande-Bartsch is the epitome of what it means to commit to an impact-driven career.

For those of you unfamiliar with the work of FOCUS St. Louis, I highly encourage you to follow the great initiatives the organization is undertaking—with Dr. Akande-Bartsch at the helm.

Dr. Akande-Bartsch, thank you again for attending the Women and Leadership class.

Guest Blogger: Olivia Williams, MBA ’18




In October, the Women in Leadership class, taught by Professor Hillary Anger Elfenbein, welcomed Katie Fogertey, Vice President of Global Investment Research at Goldman Sachs. Katie discussed her experience as a woman in a male-dominated industry and what it takes to be a strong, successful leader and mentor.

The night began with a glimpse into Katie’s journey to Goldman Sachs. In 2004, Katie graduated from WashU, where she worked full-time during her senior year to help finance her education. Following graduation, she joined Goldman Sachs in the Global Investment Research Department, producing models to forecast industry trends and working on IPOs and secondary offerings. She spent three years in equities strategies, identifying investment opportunities and derivative strategies. In 2010, Katie was promoted to Vice President in Global Investment Research and is the lead author of “Weekly Options Watch.”

Katie was not just handed these opportunities; rather, she worked extremely hard in each and every role. Whether it was a project with a professor, an internship or a full-time job, Katie focused on learning everything she could to be the best, and utilizing data to support ideas she presented. Katie’s confidence, expertise, and focus on data-driven decisions has allowed her to succeed in the workplace. She told the class that regardless of who was in the room, data will always win.

Katie is a true inspiration and incorporates value-based leadership into her life on a daily basis. Katie’s driving force rests on her knowledge and expertise in global investment research, her integrity, focus on collaboration, and her love for mentoring other women in the financial industry.

Katie left our class with three general takeaways: be confident in your knowledge, be bold and challenge yourself every day, and follow your personal and professional goals.

Guest Blogger: Perri Goldberg, MBA ’18




Students involved in the Center for Experiential Learning Practicum have a unique opportunity to consult for large Fortune 500 companies. One such notable partner is Red Bull, which the CEL collaborated with last spring.

The Red Bull consulting team was tasked with leveraging analytics to align consumer and retailer views of business performance. By building a comprehensive understanding of how different demographic and geographic segments intersect and engage across the full spectrum of the business, Red Bull can acquire new customers and identify better metrics for measuring success. Students worked directly with Josh Muncke, Director of Data Science at Red Bull. His previous experience in data analytics at Deloitte and IBM made him a great resource and mentor to the team.

During after the team’s work, the CEL talked directly with Josh about his experience, in order to continue improving as an organization and as student consultants. To begin, we wanted to better understand the unique value and perspective CEL students could provide.

Josh said students showed a fresh way of thinking about our consumer/user groups and found opportunities within them.” Beyond simply recognizing opportunities, the consultants identified metrics for measuring the success of pursuing those opportunities. This team of consultants delivered solutions rather than simply identifying problems.

CEL Red Bull Team working on site in California.

Josh’s feedback also helped us identify areas for growth as consultants: knowledge of more robust analytical tools and increased communication.

An understanding of data analytics tools is becoming increasingly more important in the workplace. While Excel is a great foundation, student consultants should be prepared to utilize more robust, professional-grade analysis tools when working with clients.

Josh also sympathized with the challenges that come from distance. The student team traveled to Santa Monica, California to meet in person with Josh, but increasing the number of video conference check-ins and on-site visits can better ensure alignment between the team and the client. Distance can be difficult, but using technology to our advantage can help decrease this gap.

However, the most important metric for success is: Would the client hire our student consultants again? Josh “definitely” would.

Like any team, our consultants faced challenges, but Josh believes the team’s output will help Red Bull drive more coordinated sales and marketing tactics at a regional level. We are excited to see how we can further our partnership with Red Bull and their incredible brand marketing tactics.

Guest Blogger: Allison Halpern, BSBA ’18, CEL Marketing Student Associate


Olin Business School Blog Olin Business School Blog