Tag: Specialized Masters

Mark Taylor, approximately 10 years old in Warwickshire, England.
Mark Taylor, approximately 10 years old in Warwickshire, England.

On most Friday nights in the 1970s, you might find teenage Mark Taylor outside a pub in the UK’s working-class Warwickshire community hawking “American hotdogs” to the patrons who had just tipped back a pint or two.

Taylor made the circuit throughout the weekend, from the pub until 2 a.m., to the soccer ground on Saturday afternoon, to a nightclub on Saturday night, pocketing 20% of the proceeds to cover basic needs—school supplies, clothes and a few meals here and there.

Taylor knew he needed to ease the burden on his parents and three brothers—who either worked for—or were destined to work for—the local auto plant in the gritty industrial town. He had different dreams in mind.

Skip ahead six years. With innumerable hotdogs and a year working as a tutor behind him, Taylor had become the first in his family to complete the British equivalent of high school. With straight A’s on his exit exams—and intervention by a visionary headmaster—Taylor became the first in his family to attend college.

And not just any college: The oldest campus in the English-speaking world—tracing its origins to the 11th century—Oxford University, where Taylor had earned a seat to study philosophy, politics and economics.

Mark Taylor with his parents in Warwickshire, England.

“I suppose arriving at Oxford and being able to measure myself against people with different backgrounds—that was the first time I realized how transformational this could be,” Taylor said, recalling his early days at university. “Without financial assistance, it would not have been possible.”

That financial assistance came in the form of British government-sponsored scholarships available to high-achieving students who had been accepted by a university. With straight A’s on his exams, a seat at Oxford and working-class parents, Taylor not only qualified to have his fees covered, but he received a small government stipend to help with living expenses during his studies.

“You’d get one check at the start of each term, so you had to be very careful not to blow the lot in the first week,” Taylor said.

Taylor is particularly keen on the importance of undergraduate scholarships, which he views as the first and most formidable barrier. Once he had earned his undergraduate degree, Taylor was able to leverage that to get his first job in a professional career track.

From there, he could finance his further education, including a master’s in economics at Oxford, a PhD in economics from the University of London, a higher doctorate in finance from from the University of Warwick and a master’s in English renaissance and romantic literature from the University of Liverpool.

“For me, education was a totally transformational experience,” said Taylor. “The difference is not only in material well-being, but also in terms of ways you can enjoy and view the world in different ways.”

Learn more about the ways Olin works with scholarship recipients and donors—and learn how you can become one—on WashU Olin’s scholarship page.


In the first week of October, Anne Petersen was in the passenger seat driving through upstate New York when she noticed her email was starting to blow up.

The Weston Career Center coach was on vacation with her husband when inquiries started to roll in from an email the career center had just sent to thousands of WashU Olin alumni. “You’ll always be able to partner with the Weston Career Center for lifetime career support,” the email said, inviting alumni to seek support whenever they needed it.

Seek they did. More than 50 Olin alumni reached out within the week that the email blast and video went out. Some were recent alumni, out only a year or two. Some had left as long ago as the 1960s.

“The emails started coming and the phone started ringing immediately. It was more than we anticipated,” Petersen said. “I don’t think alums were aware of our coaching services and the breadth of resources available. They also didn’t realize that we work with alums across the country via phone or Skype, as well as in person in St. Louis.”

Existing services—and new ones

The email campaign and related video were designed to remind Olin alumni of the career coaching resources available to them long after they walked away with their diploma. Coaching, career assessment, personal branding, resume and LinkedIn profile building, interview preparation, networking and negotiation—all services alumni can continue to get from the Weston Career Center.

That day in October, Petersen started responding to alumni seeking ideas about making a career pivot or changing geographies. She set up later appointments with some and worked with Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of the Weston Career Center, who fielded inquiries and connected alums with experienced coaches on the WCC team—including Frans Van Oudenallen, Mary Houlihan and Kathie McCloskey.

“They’ve run the gamut from young alums, undergrads, MBAs, specialized masters, senior citizens, mothers that were out of the workforce,” Petersen said. “It’s been a great process. We have had the opportunity to work with a lot of fascinating alums.”

Once Olin, Always Olin

A number of them have started by taking advantage of the WCC’s career leader assessment, a survey instrument that normally costs $75—but is available to alumni free of charge.

“It gives alums insight regarding their interests, motivations, skills, potential career directions and company culture matches,” Petersen said.Petersen said. The response to the email has been gratifying for the WCC team, who had sensed the services were not well-known enough or that alumni from outside St. Louis might be reticent to take advantage of them.

“They very much are commenting about the idea of ‘Once Olin, Always Olin’— the idea that it’s for me at any stage of your career,” Petersen said. “They felt like, ‘This does pertain to me—no matter where I am.'”

Looking for career help as an Olin alum? Contact Anne Petersen for career coaching resources (annepetersen@wustl.edu or 314-935-8951), or Jen Whitten (jwhitten@wustl.edu or 314-935-8970) to discuss WCC’s resources or any questions you might have. For remote coaching, the WCC is prepared to connect via Skype, phone or in person.




Sandy Sun, MSSCM

A three-member team of WashU business analytics students vanquished at least 49 other teams in the 2019 Teradata Data Challenge in Denver last month. Their victory was the second in consecutive years by an Olin team in the prestigious competition, which draws entries from around the globe.

“We didn’t really expect to win,” said Sandy Sun, MSSCA ’19. “It was exciting and amazing.”

Sandy Sun, MSSCM '19, delivering her team's presentation at the 2019 global Teradata analytics competition in Denver.
Sandy Sun, MSSCM ’19, delivering her team’s presentation at the 2019 global Teradata analytics competition in Denver.

The winning team included Sun, Jingxuan Zhou, MSCA ’19, and Peiyilin Shen, MSFTA ’19. They delivered their presentation—after months of work developing their solutions—on October 20 and learned of their victory the next day. The company—which provides database and analytics-related software, products, and services—received more than 50 submissions from around the world and chose 16 teams as finalists to compete in Denver, Colorado, at the Teradata Universe Conference.

In an email, Sun said the team’s challenge focused on a client, Hire Heroes, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing free support to veterans and military spouses as they transition to the civilian workforce.

“To better support its operation and services, the organization really needs donations to make a difference,” Sun wrote. “Hence, we chose ‘donor development’ as our topic, trying to provide some data-driven business recommendations to improve its current development.”

Zhou said the project, which the team had been working on since May, depended on their ability to clean and analyze more than 100,000 records spread across several data sets. The team’s faculty advisers were Olin professors Xiang Hui and Seethu Seetharaman, director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights and faculty director of the specialized master’s in business analytics program.

The team organized the organization’s donor lifecycle into acquisition, retention and recurrence. Through their analysis, they were able to develop strategies they believed would support Hire Heroes to positively impact more heroes.

“The analytics are easy for us. It’s translating it into business insights that is difficulty,” Sun said. “That may be why we won. We needed to make sure our client knew what we were doing.”

A five-member team of customer analytics students won the same competition last year, defeating 44 teams in the global competition.

The 2019 team worked hard to present its ideas by telling a story so the audience would find it easy to understand. “After all, technical skills in data analysis, machine learning are always just tools to gain insights,” Sun said. “The ability to show results to untechnical people is equally important.”




The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni (and Dean Taylor) faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

In 2007 and 2008, as world markets tumbled into history’s worst global financial crisis, Mark Taylor was managing the European arm of a $10 billion global hedge fund—and 95 percent of his clients were pension funds. The crisis demanded staff reductions in his team, and with returns down, remaining employees took massive hits to their incentive-based compensation.

“How do you motivate a staff when you’re in the middle of a financial crisis?” Taylor asked. Part of the answer: Leverage as much data as possible to analyze long- term fundamentals—recognizing that the crisis had rendered much conventional analysis unworkable. The goal: Stem losses and preserve as much wealth as possible.

But another part of the answer meant Taylor had to reinforce for his team the reasons they came to work every day.

“This was other people’s money. If we walked away, people’s pension funds could disappear,” he said. When he met with pension fund trustees, he asked them to invite some of the retirees themselves, placing them across the table from his own junior and senior staff members.

His team responded positively to the motivation. And in the darkest moment, Taylor said, his fund was down about 10 percent when world markets were down 40 percent. The fund rebounded sharply the next year.




Sara Hannah

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

Mike Budden was relentless. And Sara Hannah, BSBA ’01, recognized the potential impact. So that’s why the first global branch of the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

The South African leadership consultant had attended a BW workshop three years earlier, and was using some of its principles in his own work. Budden had stayed in touch with Hannah, trying to persuade her to open the institute—with its people- centric principles—in his hometown.

Hannah, managing partner of the Berry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute, initially wasn’t so sure. “It made absolutely no sense for us to do business in Cape Town,” she said. The currency exchange rate was unfavorable. It would be the institute’s first foray into an overseas market. Budden was already there.

Yet other data was compelling: “When we looked at the economic and government situation in South Africa, we saw that business is the way to touch the lives of people,” Hannah said. Not government or NGOs. Business.

The institute made a minimum two-year commitment in Cape Town. “We believe we measure success by the way we touch the lives of people,” Hannah said.