Tag: Undergraduate

Anjan Thakor is an economist with purpose—and the business world is catching on. Thakor’s research covers wide ground, from corporate finance to banking and corporate governance. However, the John E Simon Professor of Finance’s most recent endeavor got more personal: How can an organization connect its employees to its overall purpose, encouraging them to dive in and give their all along the way?

Along with Robert E. Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Thakor’s wisdom is featured on the cover of the Harvard Business Review’s July-August edition.

Thakor and Quinn begin by introducing readers to Gerry Anderson, president of DTE Energy, who struggled to engage his employees following the Great Recession of 2008. Having been taught that good economics mean treating employees first by their own self interest, Anderson was reluctant to use empty rhetoric about meaning—much like many firm leaders Thakor and Quinn investigated.

However, the researchers tell, a shift in focus that challenged employees to embrace purpose turned out to be a major success. Thakor and Quinn’s research seeks to provide a framework company leaders can use to develop, embrace, and implement a purpose that drives their organization.


The biggest problem Thakor and Quinn find is that the companies they consult for wait until a point of crisis to find a company purpose. Encouraging a break from the “cynical ‘transactional’ view of employee motivation,” though, can be taken at any time—the sooner, the better. The researchers set up an eight-step process for finding, implementing, and connecting a purpose for employees—one that includes such steps as “envision an inspired workforce,” “recognize the need for authenticity,” and “connect the people to the purpose.”

The most important theme that runs through these eight steps? Be authentic, real, and passionate. Thakor and Quinn have seen companies thrive and fail—and they know the perils of a haphazard campaign based on feel-good words and uninspired drivel. Purpose, for them, is something entirely different. It’s a sense of passion—a vision for a corporation that inspires employees, turns them into leaders, and treats them as intelligent, autonomous human beings.

The work Thakor and Quinn are asking companies to undertake is not easy—it’s part of a process that involves humility, openness, and risk. But these researchers believe in the beauty of an impassioned, purpose-driven company—and they’re hoping to change the business world, for good.

Cheese fondue with friends from the IFE program at Le Refuge des Fondus.

Danni Yang, who is working on a second major at Olin as a BA candidate in economics and healthcare management, wrote this post after participating in the Paris Internship Program in spring 2018. The program entails academic coursework, an intense research paper in French, and an internship  abroad.

Paris is a city that I have a love-hate relationship with. You go in thinking the famed city of lights will be your Midnight in Paris, your Paris, je t’aime, a city of elegance and sophistication, wine and cheese, all set under the twinkling stars of the Tour Eiffel at night.

My first week in Paris, the weather was miserable.

A record windstorm almost prevented my plane from landing. It rained steadily throughout the week and the sun showed no signs of ever coming back out again. The gray fog that perpetually covered the Paris skyline resembled the famed gloomy London weather, but no one ever talks about how the same is true for Paris.

It would only be the harbinger for the record snowfall that would shut down the city in the following months, as public transit ground to a halt and cars were stuck outside city bounds in standstill, L.A.-worthy traffic jams.

To top this all off, my phone was stolen at the end of my first week coming out of the Père Lachaise metro station escalator. Combined with getting to wait two hours to file a police report, having to give my account of the incident completely in French and fighting with my French cell phone provider on the international calls made using my stolen SIM card, I can confidently advise that it would be a good idea to bring a back-up phone with you when you study abroad, just in case.

But things get better

People say French people are unfriendly, and I can definitely see where they’re coming from. Restaurant waiters bring hands-off service to a whole new level, leading to several ironic occasions of having to chase them down just to pay the bill.

There’s no concept of personal space on the metro and people in general have permanent RBF. The smell of cigarette smoke is omnipresent and the streets are littered with cigarette butts and dog excrement. (At this point, I am 99% sure that this is the reason why most Parisians walk with their heads down, alert for the next unwelcome morceau de merde.)

I’m not sure really at what point things began to change, when being a tourist diverged from being someone who truly lives within another culture. Perhaps it’s the first time someone asks you for directions on navigating the Paris metro during your morning commute, the first time you can successfully order at a resto or even the first time you find yourself giving a dirty look to the loud American tourists on the public transit—realizing that was you once upon a time.

I love the small, family-owned storefronts in Paris, the tiny boutiques with their carefully customized storefronts, the neighborhood boulangeries that have a daily selection of freshly baked breads and pastries. I love the rich culture of Paris; with the student discount, going to art museums and pretending to be cultured for the perfect Insta post won’t break the bank.

Beyond the big-name museums like the Georges Pompidou, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, there are countless smaller museums you can explore in your free time. There’s always something to do or somewhere to go.

Foodies and friends

Most of all, I love the culture of food in Paris. The stereotype of French people having three-hour dinners is mostly true. While most people won’t eat for three hours in daily life, many Parisians can be found smoking and enjoying a glass of wine on the café terraces every day of the week like clockwork after work ends.

Mealtime is so important, in fact, that being on your phone while eating is considered extremely rude. Lunch and dinner are especially important times to talk and develop a sense of community with your school or work colleagues and family members. I 100 percent believe that I made some of my closest friends abroad through conversations over a meal or a coffee break.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that ultimately, Paris isn’t a city that’s easy to fall in love with (or, at least, it wasn’t easy for me). It’s a big, urban center and it’s smoke-filled, a little dirty on the edges and cold on the outside, but in the end, I can honestly say that without a doubt, I loved my study abroad experience.

I met so many new people—French, American or otherwise—whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I traveled to so many countries with rich cultures that span centuries and saw the monuments behind the history books you read throughout high school.

Most of all, I learned to love a city that was not part of an English-speaking country. It’s hard to live day-to-day and work full-time in a country that speaks a language that isn’t the one you grow up speaking. You begin to feel like your intelligence has been reduced to the limits of your foreign vocabulary. But being pushed out of my comfort zone forced me to grow beyond them and any Anglo-centric preconceptions I may have had before.

Paris is a city I had to grow to know and love, and ultimately, that’s what caused me to grow both personally and professionally. It’s true that my experience studying abroad in Paris wasn’t filled with the polished, movie-screen glitz and glamour we expect after watching all those classic Hollywood movies, but la vie en rose and the rose-tinted glasses aside? Throughout these past five months, I’ve found Paris does still have its little magical moments in the end after all.

It’s just up to you to find them.

Pictured at top: Cheese fondue with friends from the IFE program at Le Refuge des Fondus. Danni Yang at right.

Shannon Saffer, BSBA ’19, participated in the Asia Pacific Internship Program, in which students spend six weeks studying in Sydney, Australia, and participating in a one-week study tour to Japan with company visits. The program concludes with an internship in either Hong Kong, Singapore, or Sydney. Shannon interned at Jimmy Choo in Hong Kong.

It seems strange now to look back and reflect on my time abroad. When I signed up for
the Asia Pacific program, I was simply hoping for a chance to see the world. What I never expected was how much personal growth I would accomplish in the process. Before going abroad, I really had no clue what I wanted to do for my professional career.

I had no set plans or life goals, I just knew that if I was patient enough, I would either figure it all out or let everything work itself out on its own. I chose an internship in retail because it was an industry that interested me and it seemed like a great way to see what the industry was actually like.

I mentioned in my expectations paper that I wanted to see if retail was the industry for me, and ultimately I have decided that while I love the industry, I want to use what I have learned and shift to the tech industry.

One of my most interesting projects at Jimmy Choo was to analyze Korea’s e-commerce space and how luxury competitors are performing in this newer market.

The tech connection to retail

This project helped me understand that what interests me most in retail is how technology is shaping the industry. Ultimately this understanding has allowed me to gain insight into my future goals and career aspirations.

Within the next year, I hope to have moved to San Francisco. I will either work at a tech company, or I will use my retail background to work for a retail company in the area with the hopes of networking my way into the tech industry in some form. I already have two companies in mind and have spoken with the recruiters.

I have already had to articulate my international experience to future employers and typically I have focused on two things: my newfound love for personal challenges and the strengthening of my ability to multitask and prioritize projects. Being abroad has allowed me to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I have described how I chose to go to Asia for my abroad program because I knew that the cultures were so different to what I have known. I knew I was going to be challenged and I would become a better person for it. I found this to be true and now I love challenges as they are a great opportunity for personal growth. In a professional setting, this means taking on new, bigger projects and effectively problem solving in unique ways.

Practical introduction to multitasking, prioritizing

My work at Jimmy Choo specifically taught me how to effectively multitask and prioritize my projects accordingly. My days were stuffed with projects and tasks, which forced me to look at the task and determine what was needed immediately, what could wait and, if it could wait, for how long. This intense multitasking also demanded strict organizational skills.

I have never had a problem staying organized as I tend to be meticulous, however, with the running back and forth and constant unloading of tasks, I had to get creative and find ways to remain efficient and still ensure the tasks were correct and on time.

I also previously mentioned my desire to better understand the cultural differences within the workplace. What I had overestimated was how present these differences would actually be. What I found was that my office was pretty similar to the United States but, of course, there were some differences.

The largest regarded communication styles. My teams used email and Whatsapp, and I found emails were very formal and used a lot of “kindly” and “please.” On the other hand, Whatsapp was treated just like texting and much more casual. I don’t feel I got particularly close with my team, however, I was definitely friendly.

I think this is because I sat at a different desk area so that I wasn’t always communicating with my team in a way that went beyond our day-to-day work. While this was unfortunate, I was able to build a foundation of friendship based on the few personal conversations we shared along the way, which was reflected in their responses to my thank you messages.

Ultimately, I absolutely loved my internship and appreciate how lucky I was to have the opportunity to work for Jimmy Choo. I worked on awesome projects and got to attend special events.

I got an inside look at the industry and have even learned how international companies like Jimmy Choo function and collaborate across offices around the world.

While I know not everyone in the program ended up with an internship they were passionate about, I have returned home happy with the knowledge that I am forever changed by my experience.

Graduation for the 2018 master of science in leadership class at Brookings.

Joining the members of the 2018 master of science in leadership class from
the Olin Brookings Executive Education programme.

I think everyone who works at WashU gets the question from friends and acquaintances, “Does work slow down for you over the summer?” For Olin faculty and staff members, I’m guessing the quick answer is “No.”

Granted, the day-to-day activities, interactions and even locations may be different in the summer months than during the academic year, but from my viewpoint, the Olin team’s focus on supporting the mission of the school remains strong throughout the year.

Since the final chords of Pomp and Circumstance ended in spring, Olin faculty and staff have been hard at work encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation on a global stage, promoting Olin in worldwide media, growing our academic and research programs, expanding services for our students, connecting with alumni around the world…and teaching me the finer points of the backyard game of cornhole (I hear washers is the next game I need to learn.).

My busy Olin summer began with a May 31 conference on “New Approaches to Biomedical Innovation,” a workshop arranged by Anjan Thakor that drew participants from around the world. I was privileged to introduce the keynote speaker, Greg Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative.

Soon after, I had the opportunity to appear on a BBC business news programme to discuss the importance of the MBA. Indeed, my time with Aaron Heslehurst on “Talking Business” included some sparring over the relevance of the MBA when many tech entrepreneurs have built businesses without such a credential.

But it also offered the opportunity to widely share the Olin name and our commitment to identifying and cultivating our students’ potential—and our unique approach to preparing leaders equipped to synthesize huge amounts of data through a values-based lens.
Promoting our name, our reputation and our thought leadership also gives us the opportunity to participate in the national debate, as when American Public Media’s Marketplace programme recently turned to Olin’s Asaf Manela for his perspective on proprietary trading in a story about The Volcker Rule.

I also had the opportunity to visit Brookings for another joyful event, a graduation ceremony for recipients of the master of science in leadership program through our joint Brookings Executive Education programme. It was the first time that the President of the Brookings Institution and a Dean from Washington University participated in a graduation ceremony together in nearly 100 years.

Dean Grandpa with Madeleine.

Dean Grandpa with Madeleine.

The themes of leadership and career preparation continued in Tel Aviv in late June, where I participated in a panel discussion on “Producing Ideas and Talent of the Future” at the Israel Summer Business Academy with Steve Malter and Aaron Bobick, dean of WashU’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, and Provost Holden Thorp.

Next month, my whirlwind summer concludes with a trip to Shanghai to visit EMBA students in our programme with Fudan University. That journey will include a number of visits with China-based alumni, who remain important ambassadors for Olin as they launch, build and flourish in their careers.

While there is great Olin energy around the world—from growing degree programs, research activities and practicum projects on at least five continents, I am excited that the momentum continues to build in St. Louis as we grow our capacity to serve our students and alumni.

I’ve very much enjoyed meeting some of the new people that have recently joined Olin and I look forward to continuing to get to know more Olin faculty, staff and students…perhaps over a game of washers.

On the topic of backyard fun and games, I hope you have a chance to connect with friends and family over the summer months. The best moment for me this summer has been spending time with my first grandchild, Madeleine, in Sydney, Australia.

I’ve already started recruiting her for Washington University Class of 2040.

“The Desk of the Dean” appears monthly.

An incoming Olin freshman has already been recognized with a $36,000 award for creating a business that provides “upcycled” used clothing for homeless youth in the LGBTQ community near his home.

Dillon Eisman, who starts at Olin in the fall, was one of 15 high school students from around the country to receive the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, first bestowed in 2007 to recognize leadership and social outreach among Jewish teens. The Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam” means “repairing the world.”

Eisman, from Malibu, Calif., founded Sew Swag to update used clothing and provide it to older teens and younger adults living in shelters — work he began at age 14 and work that required him to teach himself to sew.

According to a story about Eisman in The Orange County Register, the idea grew from a tour he took of a nearby shelter for LGBTQ after he founded the gay-straight alliance at his high school.

“The fact that these kids don’t have that simple pleasure upset me,” he told the Register. “One of them said they hadn’t had a jacket in like six months. It’s not something you think about, someone my own age who is freezing at night because they don’t have a jacket. It was heartbreaking.”

Eisman told the Register that because he has a full tuition merit scholarship at WashU, he’ll apply his Diller award toward supporting Sew Swag.

Read more of Eisman’s story on The Orange County Register or see his profile on the International Diller Teen Fellows website.

Olin Business School Blog Olin Business School Blog