Tag: Specialized Masters



Purina CEL team (left to right): Lucy Sun, MSAA

This spring, our team of two MBAs and five specialized masters students had the opportunity to work on a data-driven consulting engagement for our client, Nestlé Purina PetCare, through the company’s partnership with Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning and the Center for Analytics and Business Insights.

With a rich history in pet care, Purina is a globally competitive leader that makes world-class products and drives pet nutrition forward through research. For our project, Purina tasked us with providing recommendations for changing consumer perceptions about senior pet nutrition to increase sales in the senior pet food category.

Our team was very excited for the chance to tackle a real-world marketing project. Team member Margaret Cai, MSCA ’20, shared that she was initially interested in working on the Purina project because it “…provided a fantastic opportunity for me to develop my thoughts and create valuable suggestions.”

Under the guidance of faculty advisors—Professor Michael Wall, Professor Seethu Seetharaman, and Professor Meng Liu—our team was able to pair what we’ve learned in the classroom with data insights and industry research to develop a marketing strategy for senior pet food.

A new virtual reality

What started out as a normal semester took a turn when our campus had to react to the COVID-19 pandemic. For our CEL team, this posed unexpected challenges and disrupted our normal working environment—quite suddenly, we had to account for having team members across four time zones.

While half of our team was still in St. Louis, other team members returned to family homes in Columbus, Ohio; Big Sky, Montana; and Vancouver, British Columbia. We had gone from sharing conference rooms to being spread across two countries!

Despite our new situation and rapidly changing policies around COVID-19, we wanted to make sure that we could still deliver an excellent work product to our client. Our team moved quickly to adjust plans and work processes to accommodate our new reality.

Fortunately, we were able to use tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom video conferencing to help our remote team collaborate effectively. Being able to speak with other CEL teams and share our experiences also helped us all find ways to navigate our new environment and manage our projects.

Team member Kevin Jin, MSCA ’20, said, “In this special period, the CEL program gave me not only experience with a real business project, but also emotional support from team members and faculty.”

Real-world experience

In early May, the team was able to virtually present key insights and recommendations to about 30 Purina team members. With positive feedback from Purina and enthusiastic discussion, it was a wonderful conclusion to the semester.

WashU practicum students virtually shared their final presentation with the Purina team.

Navigating this unique experience with our clients at Purina provided a great learning opportunity for the student team. Team lead Leslie Ramey, MBA ’20, said, “I think the uncertainty we faced during the semester helped us focus more on building relationships to support our project work. The circumstances definitely pushed me further as a leader, and thanks to great support from Purina and the CEL, we were all able to have a positive experience.”

Team member Angela Li, MSCA ’20, said the project gave her a new perspective because she found that real business problems were more complicated than those faced in the classroom and this drove the team to be creative in their approach.

“[The project] gave me a chance to apply the knowledge and skills I learned from school to the real business world…. This experience allowed me to take a glance at my future career life, and consequently helped me prepare for it better.” Lucy Sun, MSAA ’20, agreed and said the project also helped improve communication skills.

“We needed to express our ideas and thoughts with team members and also explain our results and findings with our clients” she said. “After this project, we all could communicate very effectively.” 

For other students hoping to engage in a CEL practicum project, team member Margaret Cai said her top piece of advice is “the more you devote yourself, the more you learn,” which is a lesson our whole team will take with us into our future careers.

Pictured at top: Purina CEL team (left to right): Lucy Sun, MSAA ’20, Margaret Cai, MSCA ’20, Leslie Ann Ramey, MBA ’20, Shantanu Pande, MBA ’21, Kevin Jin, MSCA ’20, Angela Li, MSCA ’20 and Dominique Nie, MSCA ’20.




Though the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down campus and eliminated the possibility of in-person celebrations, WashU Olin still plans to recognize all our graduating students this year.

Washington University’s Chancellor Andrew Martin announced his creation of an Alternate Commencement Committee on April 17. That committee will examine the best way to honor the class of 2020 throughout WashU when it becomes safe to do so. While no formal announcements have been made, the committee plans to have more information available soon.

In the meantime, WashU Olin will move forward with virtual graduation recognition ceremonies that supplement, but do not replace, the university-wide celebration. On May 8 and May 15, Olin will release virtual graduation videos for each planned ceremony at the time of the original event.

Olin professor Hilary Anger Elfenbein wore her regalia to record her speech from home.

Each video celebration will include remarks from Dean Mark P. Taylor and Chancellor Andrew Martin, student speakers, announcements of student award recipients and remarks from the Reid Teaching Award winners. Though the degree candidates will not be able to “walk” during the ceremonies, their names will scroll on the screen during the presentations.

Videos will be made available at the time of each ceremony on the Olin graduation web page. Each ceremony will stream on Olin’s Facebook page, YouTube Channel and Instagram.  

Schedule of Ceremonies

Friday, May 8

  • EMBA Class 53, 10:30 a.m.
  • Executive Education: EMBA & WashU at Brookings master of science in leadership, 10:30 a.m.

Friday, May 15

  • BSBA, 11:30 a.m.
  • Graduate programs, 3 p.m.

We welcome any photos or reflections from your participation in our graduation ceremonies. Please share any images or videos with us @wustlbusiness and use #WashU20. Though this isn’t the ceremony any of us expected, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2020.




Shivani Jain, MBA ’21, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

The student consultant team: Ashish Vora (MBA ’20), Shivani Jain (MBA ’21), Yaohong Chen (SMP ’21), and Bruno Moreira Yamamura (MBA ’20)

In the fall semester, 2019, we, a group of four MBA and specialized master’s candidates, became a part of the St. Louis Impact Initiative (SLII), an organization known for “Bridging the gap: Empowering Entrepreneurs Together.”

It lies under the philanthropic arm of the BALSA Group, which supports first-time entrepreneurs in the St. Louis area by providing necessary support and resources to grow their enterprise.

We dedicated ourselves as student consultants to Karen Rogier, inventor, and sole proprietor of a unique product—the moving device by the commercial name of MOVEREZE. The name comes from the ease of gliding heavy boxes down the stairs.

Karen, our enthusiastic client, has a story of her own behind this bootstrapping venture of bringing the product to life. She was struck with the idea while helping her son and daughter-in-law move boxes from their apartment to their new home.

Using the MOVEREZE device, they were able to conveniently carry multiple boxes at once, saving time and reducing the effort of going up and down the stairs. Karen wishes to “bring her invention to the masses.” We feel energized every time we talk to her, and she responds with a refreshing attitude to succeed in this endeavor. 

Our team performed extensive market research suggesting that there’s no such product available currently; its simple design and ease of use by any age group or gender struck a chord with the focus group during the product testing we held at Olin Business School last month. This patented product looks similar to a yoga mat, with handles on both the ends to stack heavy boxes and pull them down the stairs single-handedly beating the brow sweat.

It is crafted to provide long term durability and can be effortlessly rolled and stored in any corner of your house or car, not requiring a dedicated space and is hazard-proof. It’s worth a buy for those tough moving or shopping days. It’s even nice and warm picnic days when you want to carry heavy picnic baskets to your car or your child’s car seat or stroller down the stairs with ease even if you’re not a regular gym-goer.

Karen Rogier with members of the consulting team

Moreover, it’s a boon, especially for those of us who live by ourselves or in a building without elevators. We are currently helping Karen market the product and bring the business to life.

This moving device is now available to be purchased on the website and we are working to partner with other retail and online stores to make it widely available. Check her website to buy the device and show her some support by spreading a word about this wonderful product to your friends and family.

Are you an angel investor or professional and want to know more about this enterprise or support Karen in building her business through marketing strategies or social media promotion? Please contact us!




Preston Tharp, MBA

This was posted on behalf of team lead Franklyn Nnakwue and his teammates Prateek Deval, Ryan Sun, Aria Ren, Amy Yu and Cathy Wang.

As a group of MBAs and specialized master students at Olin Business School, we worked on one of the most challenging analytics projects. Our client, Direct Supply, has a long relationship with Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning and Center for Analytics and Business Insights.

Direct Supply is a company that specializes in providing equipment, e-commerce, and service solutions to the senior living industry. With 35 years of history, it has many customers. For this project, we focused on the business’s products. Our goal was to leverage data to draw insights that Direct Supply could use to improve customer experience and operational performance.

Field trip to Direct Supply

To better understand Direct Supply’s business model, the team went on a one-day field trip to Milwaukee, where Direct Supply is located. After the interaction with the sales team, marketing team, data science team and supply chain team, we had a more robust understanding of the business and the ways our project could be transformative

We also understood that the project is not solely about writing code and answering the questions, but also about testing the viability of our recommendations.

Real-world challenge and timely adjustment

As we dug deeper into the project, we found that the initial hypothesis that we were working with wasn’t feasible. “Welcome to the real world,” said our professor, Seethu Seetharaman. As we sought to pivot our analysis, Professor Seethu and Professor Michael Wall offered us a lot of help in redefining the questions and finding other approaches to solving the problem. We finally figured out an alternative approach that could fulfill Direct Supply’s initial goal.

Projects won’t always go smoothly as planned, and challenges would always appear along the journey. The faculty advisors, CEL committee and CEL fellow were helpful in ensuring that the team was on the right track.

This was a precious experience for the team. The project offered us a great opportunity to get involved in solving real-world business problems. It was definitely the highlight of our academic experience at WashU.

Pictured at top: A client representative; Preston Tharp, MBA ’20; Nithin Ramachandran, client; Aria Ren, MSCA ’19; Franklyn Nnakwue, MBA ’20; Cathy Wang, MSCA ’19; Ryan Sun, MSCA ’19; Amy Yu, MSCA ’19; Michael Wall, CEL/CABI faculty adviser; Prateek Deval, MBA ’20; Seethu Seetharman, CEL/CABI faculty adviser.




Shirley (Jingxuan) Zhou, MSCA ’19, wrote this on behalf of her team for the Center for Experiential Learning.

Edward Jones, a full-service brokerage firm with a high reputation, concentrates on working with serious, long-term investors across both the United States and Canada. With more than 18,000 financial advisers, the company helps clients make sense of investing. At Edward Jones, each financial adviser has their own website, allowing clients to get to know more about the advisers and their business.

During the past four months, a team of two MBA and four MSCA students cooperated closely with Edward Jones’s marketing team and analytics team to explore customer behavior on these sites and measure the effectiveness of the advisers’ microsites.

In the meantime, professor Seethu Seetharaman and Michael Wall also provided constructive guidance on data processing and marketing strategies, ensuring the project was at the right track.

Using data analytics to make an impact

The whole process could be divided into four steps:

  • Identify if customized microsites provide benefits over standard microsites.
  • If they do, explore the optimal level of customization.
  • Discover driving factors that lead to customization by an adviser.
  • Provide business insights and recommendations obtained through the analysis to improve microsite performance.

On December 5, the team visited the headquarter of Edward Jones, delivering the final presentations to both marketing team and analytics team. According to different audiences, the team had different focuses. After showing the data analysis results, key insights and recommendations, both teams were impressed about their work.

Real-world experience

The CEL practicum has offered the team a great opportunity to apply data analytics skills to real business world. While leveraging the analytical skills and business sense to help Edward Jones better optimize its business-decision process, the team also gained a lot of experience and knowledge on team collaboration and communication. This is definitely an amazing experience for every team member.

Pictured above: Madhuri Mada, MBA ’20; Gaurav Malik, MBA/MSCA, x’20; Sabrina Alexandre, MSCA ’19; Shirley Zhou, MSCA ’19; Katherine Yin, MSCA ’19; and Max Jiang, MSCA ’19.


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.