Tag: Undergraduate

Christina Xue, BSBA ’21, was the student speaker at the virtual undergraduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 21, 2021, selected by her peers. Here is what she had to say to her fellow graduates.

Thank you, Dean Taylor, for the kind introduction. Students, faculty, family and friends: I am incredibly honored to be the student speaker for our graduating class of 2021 and to share a bit of my story and reflections with all of you.

When I first came to WashU— I was definitely apprehensive. Being born and raised in New Jersey, I was convinced I wanted to stay in my Northeast bubble forever. Coming to the Midwest, which seemed like the great unknown, had never been part of my life plans. I honestly couldn’t even place Missouri or St. Louis on a map. But—I learned to adapt, as we all did.

Now, after reflecting upon the past four years at WashU, I’m glad that I left comfort zone. This university has taught me a multitude of lessons, but one of the most important ones is to expect and embrace change. Change can be big or small. For example, change is realizing that College Hall is now called Risa Commons. Change is declaring a history minor and realizing I have to do hundreds of pages of reading every week. Change is when, at the age of 4, my mom told me I would be a big sister and I didn’t quite understand what that meant. Change is watching my older sister get married this past year. Change is immigrating to a new country, as my parents did when they were only a few years older than I am now. Change is graduating.

‘The vitality of my support network’

People often say that one’s college years are some of the formative in their life, a platitude I find to hold true. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all evolved in some regard during the past few years— in the way we think, our beliefs and values, the knowledge we hold. For some of us, our sense of fashion and hairstyles have definitely changed for the better.

And of course, this past year alone has been the most transformative that our generation has and probably will ever, witness during our lifetimes. In a time where the unthinkable became reality, I realized the vitality of my support network during these moments of change and unpredictability. My family, roommates, and close friends have served not only as a pillar of stability, but as a motivating force in encouraging me to pursue my dreams and having the courage to step outside my comfort zone. They are the ones I laugh with about nothing and everything, the ones I cry to when a MEC exam didn’t go too well, and the ones I go to when I need brutally honest advice.

I hope that you all have found your support network during these past four years, and that you have a deeper appreciation for those people after the tragedies and hardships this past year has brought us. I hope that this support network follows you after we graduate, because while the grades and assignments we have may fade in our memories, the experiences and relationships we’ve made can be everlasting.

‘Resilience, courage and strength’

As we graduate and begin our journey as real adults, I hope that change takes us in exciting directions, be it grad school, jobs, or new locations. I also know, that after this past year, we are uniquely equipped to handle change however it may manifest itself. We have shown resilience, displayed courage, and have become stronger as a WashU community through the hardships and pandemic that have plagued our country and world at large.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” As this new dawn approaches, I hope that WashU has prepared you with the strength and intellectual curiosity you need to embrace change and leave your own mark on the world. I hope that life is full of change for you in the best ways possible.

Thank you.




Ally Gerard, BSBA ’22, who was recently elected president of Olin’s Business of Sports Society, describes the origins of her interest in sports business and exciting plans for her upcoming term.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I was always intrigued by the sports and entertainment industry. I was never an athlete in the traditional sense (instead opting for a 12-year run at Irish dancing), but with nearly a dozen professional and collegiate teams in Southern California, there was never a night of sports-free television.

Soon enough, that avid fandom evolved into a profound passion for the business, at which point a top-notch Midwest university with a budding sports business program piqued my interest.

When I told people—even family and friends—I would be studying sports business at WashU, they questioned my academic and professional interests. “So … you just want to be on TV?” “Interviewing players after the game?” “Is your goal to be like Jerry Maguire? Moneyball?”

I heard it all. In an ecosystem so consumed by Hollywood and cinematic wanderlust, nobody really understood my ambitions or could envision a place for females in top front office roles, given popular cultures’ skewed representation of the industry at large.

Supported inside and outside the classroom

In just three years, my sports business acumen has developed exponentially, through the support of Patrick Rishe, director of Olin’s sports business program, and my peers in BOSS. The Business of Sports Society was founded in October 2019 to help WashU students learn about and gain real-world experience in the sports and entertainment industry.

While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted much of our initial goals for the organization, I am beyond proud of the way our club has pivoted and thrived in the virtual environment.

I was elected president in October 2020 with the intention of promoting experiential learning, mentoring and working opportunities. We were able to quickly form a strong and passionate executive board, and we spent weeks this winter reflecting on the original direction of BOSS and altering our objectives to cater to the remote setting.

Over the past eight months, BOSS has launched four pro-bono sports consulting projects, welcomed eight industry leaders as guest speakers at biweekly meetings, and sent six student representatives to the 2020 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the holy grail of sports business conventions.

Spreading their wings at the SSAC

As a first-year student, I had the privilege of attending the SSAC in person in Boston in 2019, and after assuming the role of president I was committed to providing this opportunity (albeit virtual) for more of my peers. After appealing for funding from the Olin BSBA office, we were able to secure six conference tickets for our members to attend this unforgettable two-day virtual learning experience.

Between panels, presentations and networking events with the likes of Jessica Gelman, Daryl Morey, Mark Cuban and more, SSAC celebrated the resiliency of the industry and its ability to innovate moving forward. Our very own Devlin Sullivan, BSBA ’22, even won the prestigious MLB Hackathon Event in the student category!

As we continue to grow and progress as an organization, I look forward to future BOSS leaders providing these unique and memorable experiences for our members. Though I will soon transition BOSS leadership to the next generation of sports business change-makers, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to serve this wildly passionate and genuine community.

“BOSS has opened up endless doors for me,” said soon-to-be BOSS Vice President Eashan Kothari, BSBA ’24. “I have already learned endless amounts of information about this intricate industry, and I am grateful for the advice across a variety of topics that will help me succeed in life.”




Leah Wren Hardgrove came to Washington University in St. Louis with the desire to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for people with disabilities.

Born legally blind, Hardgrove grew up understanding that society was not built for her.

“I would not be who I am without my disability, and I would never choose to not have my disability. The discomfort I’ve experienced is what motivates me to make the world a better place,” Hardgrove said.

She envisioned going to law school, but discovered a different path though business. Her “aha” moment came when Starbucks announced its eco-friendly plan to eliminate plastic straws.

“It wasn’t legislation; the company had the power. And it had a ripple effect on others,” said Hardgrove, noting the move came at a cost: some people with disabilities need straws. “Clearly, if I want to make lasting societal changes, I need to be in business.” 

Hardgrove is set to graduate in May with dual degrees in marketing and organization and strategic management from Olin Business School. Marketing, she said, has the power to normalize disabilities through better representation. Yet many aspects of marketing — like print ads — are not accessible for people with certain disabilities.

Hardgrove was selected as a Lime Connect Fellow, a highly competitive leadership development program, where she connected with other student leaders with disabilities. She also interned at Google, where she contributed to an accessible marketing guide for advertisers and hosted talks about good representation in media.

“Google is the industry leader. If they adopt accessibility practices, it will have a domino effect on others,” she said. 

At Washington University, Hardgrove was a thrower for the track and field team and a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. Over the last year, she has made and donated face masks with a clear plastic mouth covering so others can read lips.

After graduation, Hardgrove returns to Google, where she will serve as associate product manager. “Society is not built to include people with visible and invisible disabilities, and I’m going to change that through strategic product development, people management and brand management,” she said. “Nobody should feel less valuable because of a physical or developmental difference.”

Leah Hardgrove, a member of the track and field team, will work at Google to make products more accessible for people with disabilities. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)




In the past decade, the art world has witnessed the rise of historical, museum-quality blockbuster exhibitions in commercial art galleries.

They are a sign of a changing environment. Traditional roles are interchangeable and boundaries are blurring. Why and how are these expensive shows conceived and put together? What is their goal? And what are the results for the galleries that organize them?

Valentina Castellani, former director of New York’s Gagosian Gallery, discussed these questions and more in the inaugural Women and the Kemper Public Lecture on February 20.

In her talk, “Blurring the Boundaries: The Rise of Blockbuster Museum-Quality Exhibitions in Commercial Galleries,” she focused the Gagosian exhibitions Picasso: Mosqueteros and Piero Manzoni: A Retrospective.

Women and the Kemper and Olin Business School cosponsored the event. Olin offers a minor in the Business of the Arts. Visit olin.wustl.edu/arts, or contact us at 314-935-3329, sandraphilius@wustl.edu.

Watch the event and Castellani’s lecture here:

Photo: Frances Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo




Russ Shaw, BSBA ’85, was one of three people the Queen of England recognized as a commander of the British Empire in 2021. Shaw received the honor for his contributions to technology and business in London. Here, he describes how his Olin education helped him get there.

My Olin education covered four years, receiving a BSBA and majoring in accounting and receiving minors in economics and Spanish. I also participated in a number of extracurricular activities, with a particular highlight being a student representative to the Washington University Board of Trustees.

I certainly used the knowledge gained in my coursework in many aspects of my career. Some of the standout courses for me were macroeconomics, statistics, finance, marketing and a great course in leadership during my senior year.

My days are never the same as founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. I meet with many startups, scale-ups and investors across many tech hubs around the world. I talk to journalists and do media interviews frequently, and I am in contact with various UK government agencies.

Many tech hubs

Through Global Tech Advocates I have travelled to many tech hubs both large and not-so-large, meeting amazing entrepreneurs with great visions and aspirations. I have hosted tech events spanning from San Francisco and New York to Shanghai, Bangalore, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Bogotá, Madrid, Shenzhen, Milan, Stockholm and, of course, London.

A key part of my role is to put the spotlight on critical issues that impact tech ecosystems. This includes issues around talent, diversity & inclusion, digital skills, infrastructure and access to funding.

I was honoured to be recognised by the Queen in her New Year’s Honours list as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).  This is one of the highest levels of recognition in the United Kingdom by Her Majesty. The CBE has been awarded for service to business and technology.  I was honoured to meet Queen Elizabeth several years ago when she and Prince Philip hosted a technology reception at Buckingham Palace.

In terms of advice as students embark on their careers, I always say that there are two components that are integral to any career journey: reputation and network of contacts.  Both need to be nurtured and developed throughout a career. I also encourage students to travel and see the world, to keep expanding their horizons and to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.