Tag: Research Centers



“Data can be used for great good to make a significant positive difference in our communities and our lives… but not without some problems.”

– Naveen Pinjani, Sr. Director Big Data Analytics at Daugherty Business Solutions

At the Data for Good conference on October 5, speaker Naveen Pinjani, along with consultant Jonathan Leek, dynamically kicked off a panel on the Vacancy Collaborative. The Vacancy Collaborative’s mission is to address St. Louis’s vacant property issue and perfectly reflects the conference’s core goal: to celebrate the combination of values-based-leadership and analytics.

Leek knew two things before the creation of the Vacancy Collaborative: He was a skilled data analyst and he wanted to help the community. Knowing this and the brutal fact that about 15 percent of all land in St. Louis is vacant, he put his skills to use.

Addressing this issue has been complicated. Leek asked, “How do we address what we can’t understand?” The data problem presented was that there are city employees who are doing the best they can, but aren’t trained in using and analyzing data. Leek recognized that systems are often put in place by those unfamiliar with data best practices. Along with volunteers, Leek set out to use his data skills to tackle the basics—how many vacant properties/lots exist, where they’re located, and what to prioritize.

Over the past year, the Vacancy Collaborative has combined four data sets, cleaned them up, and defined what each set means. They are on their way to incredible impact. The volunteer aspect of the project comes with its pros and cons; Leek explained its lack of bureaucracy is great, along with the autocratic decision-making process, but there’s a lack of input from domain experts and limited tools, resources and time.

Even with the negatives, the Vacancy Collaborative was able to convince Cindy Riordan, CIO of the city of St. Louis. Riodan said, “The vacancy data lit a spark with our [the City of St. Louis] staff.”

The vacancy issue affects the entire city from crime rates, to public health, to the city budget. The Vacancy Collaborative is now working on refining its web portal and even expanding to new data sets unrelated to vacancy. If you’re interested in reading more, check out STLVacancy.com.

Sarah Podolsky, BSBA ’19, wrote this on behalf of the Bauer Leadership Center. Pictured above: Jonathan Leek, a consultant with Daugherty Business Solutions and volunteer with the Vacancy Project, presents to the Data for Good audience.




Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library in Simon Hall on October 12.

Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen
during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library
in Simon Hall on October 12.

When Ron Allen first arrived on WashU’s campus for a new job as business school librarian, there wasn’t one—at least, not one adequate to serve a world-class business school.

In 1986, Robert Virgil was dean, on a mission to raise Olin Business School’s profile among global business schools. Simon Hall was under construction and a new, state-of-the-art business library was part of the plan to help propel Olin to new heights. Allen was to be the first to build the library from a tiny nook and to hold an endowed directorship for the position as the Asa F. Seay Librarian.

“There was a sense of starting from nothing and growing this library into a first-rate service for faculty and students,” Allen recalled on October 5, on the occasion of his retirement from WashU, 33 years after his arrival. The New York City native—who confessed that “I don’t know if I could have identified St. Louis on a map”—spent three decades building, defending, and morphing the library through changes in leadership and technology.

“He was a change agent like nobody else over the course of his career,” said Ron King, Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting, in his tribute remarks. “The heart of the school was the library.”

At an event in the ornate reading room at the Al and Ruth Kopolow Business Library, three former deans and Todd Milbourn, vice dean and Hubert C. and Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance, shared their recollections of Allen’s career and contributions.

Milbourn recalled how Allen “got me wired in” as a brand new faculty member in the business school when he arrived, describing Allen as a partner in research who would find and help faculty exploit new data sets for their work.

Former deans Stuart Greenbaum and Mahendra Gupta recalled occasions when they tried to commandeer space from the library to accommodate expanding programs at Olin—attempts Allen rebuffed every time.

“You fell in love with the place when you walked into Kopolow,” Greenbaum said, crediting Allen with the environment he’d created. Gupta built on that remark, calling the library “the intellectual future of the school.”

When Allen came to WashU to run the business library, it was a standalone entity. It’s since been absorbed as part of the WashU library system. He said he’s come to terms with the idea of retirement and is looking forward to downsizing from a house to a Central West End apartment and his Florida condo.

“His handprint is all over this library and the way it was shaped and developed,” said former Dean Robert Virgil. “It was why our students wanted to stay here and study here.”




Cliff Holekamp

One day, we may think of the Holekamp family as the Johnny Appleseed of Olin’s startup ecosystem.

Thanks to a $500,000 gift from Cliff Holekamp and his father Bill Holekamp, known as the Holekamp Seed Fund, Olin now offers up to 20 grants a year of $1,000 to students who need a small injection of capital to get a startup business off the ground.

“I’m just interested in having all of our entrepreneurship students take action on their ideas and that they have the support to pursue a passion,” said Holekamp, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship at Olin.

The idea for the Holekamp Seed Fund grew out of his experience with startup competitions, which typically hear from a variety of student proposals, but only reward one or two with funding. “The thought is to flip that around,” Holekamp said. “What if we were to think of it as seeding a large number of students with small checks? It’s about moving a student to action.”

It’s Holekamp’s dream that these relatively small grants will stimulate an even more vibrant startup scene on the WashU campus. The outline for the Holekamp Seed Fund suggests that the next Varsity Tutors, Schoology, or ePharmix—established firms that launched as student-run startups—will get their first investment from Olin.

He only asks for two things of the students.

First, he expects students to demonstrate a serious commitment to launching their idea. Applications won’t be judged on the potential long-term viability of the idea, but rather on how passionate the student is about giving the idea a go.

One reason for that stipulation? Eventually, students may learn their idea isn’t viable. Or, perhaps, they’ll uncover a better, more promising opportunity along the way. “Entrepreneurship should be liberating,” Holekamp said. “It shouldn’t be a cage.”

Second, Holekamp will ask recipients of the $1,000 grants to consider paying them forward after they’ve had a chance to pursue their own idea. Though not a requirement, he hopes students will consider pledging $200 a year over five years back to the seed fund or to the Olin Annual Fund.

“I’m not aware of any other schools doing something with this ‘pay-it-forward’ element,” he said. “I know of schools that do loans or give out cash prizes.” The component of building a vibrant startup community on campus was important to the Holekamp family’s conception of the idea.

“The idea behind this fund is wonderfully innovative—befitting Cliff, his family, WashU and the entrepreneurial spirit of the St. Louis community,” Dean Mark Taylor said. “This fund will provide a nudge to student entrepreneurs and it may well entice them as successful alums to likewise lend a hand to students who follow them. It’s an innovation win-win.”

Students can apply on the Holekamp Seed Fund website with the expectation that they will have a face-to-face interview with Holekamp. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, so students can apply at any time. A three-person panel—Holekamp; his father, Bill; and Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA ’16, and principal at Cultivation Capital—will review applications. They’ll be assuring the applications come from Olin students who are ready to incorporate as a business and can demonstrate a personal commitment to the idea.

Applicants must have completed at least one semester in an Olin graduate program or course, or they must be a rising junior who is majoring in business or has participated in an Olin entrepreneurship course.

“It’s enough to get them motivated, get started, get incorporated and begin creating something,” Holekamp said. “Sometimes the hardest milestone is the first—going from nothing to something.”




More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman poet Virgil famously said, “Fortune favours the bold.” In today’s vernacular, he would have said, “Go big or go home.” At Olin, we’re going big. And we’re going bold.

We’re doing it by launching a sweeping renovation of the full-time WashU Olin MBA. Students who arrive in mid-2019 will be the first to embark on what is arguably the most global MBA programme anywhere in the world.

Two weeks after they arrive for orientation and introductory classwork in late June—yes, that early—every first-year MBA student will depart for an around-the-world immersion in global business. And I’m not speaking metaphorically. The summer semester continues with a week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Then two weeks in Barcelona. Then 17 days in Shanghai.

Students will dive deeply into the fundamental principles of business management in the context of each country’s local economy. Morning classes move to afternoon projects as students roll up their sleeves and apply their knowledge, doing research and analyzing real-world business problems with local executives. This isn’t academic tourism. It’s not a St. Louis class transferred to Spain or China. It’s serious work gaining cultural intelligence about global business and leadership issues.

When students return to St. Louis, they’ll be equipped to continue their core classes in strategy, economics, accounting, marketing, finance, and operations—but with global context and the perspective of several economic systems. Plus, they’ll have forged deep bonds with their classmates, a foundation to support, grow and advance one another throughout their Olin careers.

Additionally, students can accelerate their programme under our new model, moving more quickly to the job market, or pair their MBA with a specialized master’s degree.

Why embark on such a sweeping change to Olin’s flagship program? The answer, quite simply, is that we must practise what we preach. The world is shrinking. Leadership challenges are expanding. As we urge students to do, we must anticipate what the market will demand in the future—then think big and act boldly to confront the challenge. Tinkering around the margins won’t do.

We paired that principle with data. We informed our work with the help of Boston Consulting Group, which researched the needs of students and companies in the future. They interviewed current students, prospective students, faculty, corporate recruiters, and more, generating data about the requirements of a redesigned MBA programme.

In some ways, we’ve been building to this for a while. Recent MBA classes have had expanding global opportunities through the Center for Experiential Learning and the Brookings MBA capstone experience. This spring, we plan to pilot some of the global components of the redesigned curriculum, though details are yet to be ironed out.

On the Olin website now, there’s more detail available about our MBA renovation—designed with BCG, taught by world class experts on three continents, one truly global MBA. It is a renovation, I firmly believe, that will be favoured by fortune—for Olin and our students.




In one of Olin Business School’s newest magazine ads, white text pops from a field of rich red in type that evokes a sense of strength and wonder. Just a few words, strategically aligned on the page, draw the reader into a story of unknown origin—and clear gravity.

“When the cost of goods comes at a cost … we pause.”

Within that pause, Olin invites readers to consider the consequences of the decisions they’ll make and the preparation WashU offers for a business world demanding principled, evidence-based leadership.

Within that pause lies the mission of Olin Business School, its promise to students and the marketplace, and the pillars that underpin our strategic plan.

And from within that pause comes the bold voice of Olin Business School’s new brand identity, articulating what we are, what we stand for, and how our strategic plan sets us apart among the world’s top schools.

“We’re making a bold claim on what’s always been in our DNA: That we develop business leaders who create change, for good,” said Dean Mark Taylor, architect of Olin’s strategic plan. “It’s important for all of us to take ownership of this idea so we can clearly articulate our point of view on business education, attract the right kind of talent, and be a distinctive voice in the marketplace, as drivers of global change.”

See the video below to get a better understanding about how Olin will position itself with its brand messaging.

Launching the new Olin brand

Marketing & Communications prepares for the brand launch event.

Marketing & Communications prepares
for the brand launch event.

The formal announcement of Olin’s new brand strategy came today in a schoolwide event drawing together faculty and staff. With video presentations, digital signs, a champagne toast, and speeches from the dean and a faculty leader, participants heard how the business school will use its brand messaging to talk about the elements of our strategic plan, our vision, our mission, our values, and our strategic priorities.

Dean Taylor stressed the importance of our strategic pillars — particularly the idea that Olin develops values-based, data-driven decision-makers.

“The truth behind those words isn’t new at all. We’ve taken a deep dive into how we want to think and talk about ourselves,” he said, adding to the crowd of faculty and staff assembled for the event “it’s vital that we all take ownership of our brand.”

The crowd applauded after watching the brand identity video (see above).

Stuart Bunderson, co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center and Olin’s George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance, reinforced the message: “We want every Olin student to say first, what do the data say and second, what values are at play here” when they are making business-oriented decisions.

After the speeches and a champagne toast, Olin employees dispersed to pick up swag bags, enjoy street food from a group of food trucks on Snow Way, romp at a selfie station, and take headshots that may be used in Olin branding campaigns down the road.

More details about the branding

The messaging comes together in a simple positioning statement that boldly declares who we are and how we’re different from other top business schools: “As a premier educator of business professionals, Olin Business School champions better decision-making by preparing and coaching a new academy of leaders who will change the world, for good.”

We do this through our pillars of excellence, the elements that drive our approach to preparing leaders:

  • Values Based and Data Driven
  • Globally Oriented
  • Experiential
  • Entrepreneurial

The brand work also offered an opportunity to address another niggling challenge: Our school’s eight-word, 55-character name. New guidelines offer a more streamlined identity: “WashU Olin Business School,” captured in a more casual brand “mark”—a variation on the formal logo—that we will use as a “nickname” for the school when the full name is also visible elsewhere.

We’ve also taken care to ensure that Olin’s brand aligns with the WashU master brand. The university is often the front door to the business school, so it’s important that the two entities align. Our story starts with the core idea of the master brand, but extends that idea in a relevant and meaningful way.

More information about the strategic plan and the brand messaging strategy is available on the Marketing & Communications section of Campus Groups, where visitors can download logos, templates, and fonts, as well as see guidance on the use of our brand and our colors.