Tag: Undergraduate

The classmates of Lexi Jackson, BSBA ’20, chose her to deliver the student speech at their graduation recognition ceremony this year. This is the speech she delivered.

To the Olin Business School Class of 2020, I am honored to be addressing you today from my small Missouri hometown to the corners of the universe you all call your home.

For those that may not know me, my name is Lexi Jackson, I am a double major in organization and strategic management and political science, and I feel just the way I am sure all of you feel right now: reflective. We are reflecting on our past four years and the abrupt end that we could have never expected.

We are contemplating our future plans and how they may have dramatically changed within the past few weeks.

Most of all, however, we are considering how our time at the Olin Business School has cultivated a new knowledge base, connected us to tomorrow’s leaders, and prepared us to enter this world that is more rapidly-changing than ever before.

Early memories from Olin

I remember my first day at the Olin Business School. I walked by the BSBA office only to be greeted by Dean LaRose and Dean Malter who both knew my name (even when I, admittedly, hadn’t yet learned theirs). I remember my sophomore year when Professor McLaughlin sat down with me in the Einstein Bagel’s atrium to learn about my passion for public service and non-profit work and to share some advice of his own.

I remember BSBA adviser Analisa Ortiz visiting our cohort in Chile while we were studying abroad our Junior Spring, sending her heartfelt condolences to learn about the passing of my father just a few weeks before. I remember walking around at the senior social just a few weeks before spring break, reconnecting with various former group project members, MGT 100 class members, and the people who had become to feel more like family members than peers.

These memories do not just happen at every business school. But Olin isn’t like any other business school. We are graduating from a business school that emphasizes ethical leadership above any profit-seeking motives. We are graduating from a business school that recognizes the global impact of our actions, and does not work to benefit one country alone.

We are graduating from a business school that inspires the entrepreneurial change maker in all of us—whether we are starting our own company or simply innovating an existing workplace from the inside out.

Succeeding in a post-COVID world

These are the skills we will need to succeed not only in the COVID and post-COVID worlds, but throughout our careers in the public and private sectors. As Olin graduates, we will be leaders in our companies and organizations—leaders that are not afraid to take calculated risks to produce change or to make the right decision no matter its impact on the bottom line. The type of leaders this world desperately needs.

So, class of 2020, as you watch this speech today and receive your diploma from a postal worker that you can only imagine to be Dean Taylor, I encourage you to continue the reflection that quarantine has naturally begun.

Reflect on the memories that Olin has brought you—the functional AND dysfunctional group settings, the sunsets through the Bauer Hall windows that cast a shadow on another problem set started a bit too late, the waves from professors, friends, and peers in the endless Simon hallways.

Reflect on the lessons Olin has taught you—the values-based, data-driven approach to learning and leadership that makes our community unlike any other.

And reflect on the role YOU will play in enacting change at every stage in your life and career. They say COVID-19 will make the history books, but so will we. Congratulations to the Olin Business School Class of 2020! Let’s go make history!




Brock Mullen, BSBA ’23, wrote this for the Olin Blog. He is majoring in finance and Chinese.

We all have difficulty processing change – not knowing what the future holds can be intimidating. However, by embracing differences and learning to love them, we can improve our future.

Confronting change

On my first day at WashU, my dorm went through a roll call to make sure everyone had moved in. While waiting to be called, I realized I had never heard almost any of the names being called out: “Ezinne,” “Ishana,” “Hans,” “Karinne.” These were nothing like the names from back home; I was used to the five Jakes and seven Graces I had grown up with since preschool. I later recognized I had been presented with the first major change of my college experience, and I knew there would be a lot more heading my way.

My hometown of Parker, Colorado, is quite different from WashU. Parker is virtually homogenous racially, politically and economically. I got used to being around people just like me, so it was uncomfortable to be around so much newness. In my initial shock, I wasn’t sure how to address the variety of novel perspectives now presenting themselves as names, ideologies and more. I knew that this change was happening whether I wanted it to or not. I needed to learn how to cope.

Coping with change

I spent a lot of time reflecting on my new experiences. Soon after processing the new faces, ideas and perspectives, I came to realize that college is about more than learning from lectures and textbooks. It’s about learning how to handle change. Life is not predictable. So, in order to take full advantage of my life and time at WashU, I needed to master the skill that is processing and internalizing change.

To grasp change and make it easier to handle, I always look for the positive in every situation. There is always something good to cling to! Through my optimism, I enhance my ability to accept change. Focusing on the benefits, especially when facing inevitably uncomfortable situations, will allow you to overcome them and seize the opportunity to learn.

Chasing change

Since learning how to embrace change, I have been the recipient of seemingly endless benefits. Still, it’s not easy to immediately absorb and accept the changes thrust upon my day-to-day. It is through consistent reflection that I continue to learn so much about other cultures, people, and lifestyles different from mine back in Parker. By seeking out opportunities to engage with change, I am a more well-rounded person and better prepared to tackle the future challenges of my life.




One day, early in the coronavirus crisis, one of Camryn Okere’s favorite off-campus restaurants closed forever. And that’s when she realized she had to do something.

After Bobo Noodle House shuttered, and as other small businesses were suffering, the soon-to-graduate WashU BSBA student knew she could help. Two weeks later, she’d recruited WashU classmates and business students from a dozen other schools to join her. Rem and Company was born.

“Seeing a local business I love permanently close was heartbreaking,” Okere said. “When I see problems in my everyday life, my community and my environments, I am inspired to work to implement change.” 

In just a few weeks, Okere’s initiative — “a social impact initiative focusing on keeping doors open and dreams alive” — has helped small businesses stay up to date on industry trends, learn new approaches from peers, build networks and adapt as the world changes. In many ways, Rem and Company has begun solving problems on two fronts.

On one front, as small businesses and nonprofits fight for their lives through the global pandemic, students and recent graduates are banding together to offer free consulting support to help proprietors engage with customers, reimagine business models and diversify product offerings.

At the same time, as the crisis wreaks havoc on corporate hiring, those same students are confronting a summer without jobs and internships by putting their education into practice.

“So many students are sitting at home right now and they don’t feel valued,” said Okere, who named the initiative after the stage of sleep in which people tend to dream vividly—because the coronavirus pandemic is something of a nightmare. “Our mission and core values provide many individuals—especially students uncertain about their next career steps—with a sense of value and purpose.”

From zero to helping in weeks

From conceiving Rem and Company to launch took about two weeks. Today, more than 80 students and recent graduates have banded together, representing schools including Wharton, Harvard, Duke, Northwestern, Columbia, Vanderbilt, and, of course, WashU Olin.

The fledgling cooperative, which stays connected through Slack and Google Drive, is also drawing on experienced mentors from organizations such as Google, McKinsey & Co., Morgan Stanley and The Wall Street Journal.

“The real idea is to empower the students,” said Janine Toro, user experience designer and researcher for The Wall Street Journal, who managed Okere when she was a summer intern last year. “She’s picking the projects and assigning the right people to them. I’m more of the resource provider for now.”

Toro isn’t surprised that Okere so quickly got her inspiration up and running. “I was referring to her as the person who I will work for in five years,” she said. “When I first met her, I could tell she was very driven.”

At least six small businesses as close to WashU as St. Louis and as far as India have signed on for consulting support. Okere spends a lot of time outlining initial client needs and coordinating team assignments, evaluating which volunteers have the complementary expertise to support which projects. Their consulting teams provide small businesses with the opportunity to identify and prioritize business issues, propose innovative strategies and execute.

Engaging with customers

“I’m very super excited to have some support,” said Ann Lederman, executive director for The Buddy Fund, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that provides athletic equipment to organizations serving at-risk youth. As the sole employee of the 58-year-old organization, “My position has been taxed in the areas of branding, board engagement and being present online.”

She’s seeking help from Rem and Company to maintain donor relationships and prepare for the possibility that the organization’s largest annual fundraiser—a golf tournament—might not be able to happen in September as planned.

Rem and Company helped a Philadelphia-area rock-climbing company develop an innovative engagement strategy around virtual experiences. Student teams have also worked with small businesses or nonprofits in New York, Connecticut, DC, and other US cities, as well as international locations such as India and Finland.

The cooperative is focusing for now on organizations within the fashion, nonprofit, dining and fitness industries. Once she and her colleagues weather the pandemic, Okere said her next steps might be to develop a long-term business plan and eventually see how Rem and Company can get funding.

“It’s been amazing to see this all mobilize in such a short amount of time and the outpouring of support from the WashU community,” Okere said. “I’m not someone who is going to just sit around.”

To learn more about the ways Washington University students, faculty, staff and alumni are caring for one another and our communities, visit #WashUtogether.




The first-of-its-kind event honored the best of 100 video elevator pitches submitted by 243 students across programs.

Olin’s first BIG IdeaBounce pitch competition held a virtual celebration on Wednesday, April 22, to announce 64 prizes.

The competition split a $20,000 prize pool sponsored by the National Security and Innovation Network between graduate and undergraduate first and second place winners, plus 50 runners up.


The 100 teams, including 243 students across programs, each submitted a two-minute elevator pitch-style video describing their innovative product idea. Pitches were then reviewed by a panel of 87 judges, including alumni and St. Louis entrepreneurs and funders like Carl Casale, Maxine Clark and Valerie Toothman.

Submissions came from Olin and non-Olin students in every grade and program, including students in the first-year Management 150 course who pitched a product as part of their final projects.

Dean Mark Taylor speaks before the BIG IdeaBound awardees are announced.

“Entrepreneurship is one of our core pillars at Olin—and we’re proud of the entrepreneurial ecosystem St. Louis has achieved,” Dean Mark P. Taylor said during program to reveal the winners. “Being part of that is so important to the school—and this contest has in its first year proven to be a great way to bring us together and celebrate the creation of new business ideas.”

The winners

Doug Villhard, director of entrepreneurship for WashU Olin, announced the award of four top prizes, including first- and second-place awards for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Graduate awards

First place: Pareto

The pitch: An innovative solution to the multi-billion dollar problem of infusion drug wasting every year. Pitched by Mitchell Lynn, Rachel Heymach and Kelley Coalier

Second place: Lifted Pouches

The pitch: A pre-workout supplement in pouch form. Pitched by Derek Leiter, Tyler Edwards and Irina Grekova

Undergraduate awards

First place: 3Dux Design

The pitch: An architectural modeling system consisting of cardboard connectors and curriculum that supports STEM education globally. Pitched by Ayana Klein

Second place: Alms Banking

The pitch: A credit union that generates revenue and donates it to charities. Pitched by Chase Kallhoff

Runners up

Villhard announced 50 runners up, a mix of undergraduate and graduate student projects who each received a small grant.

Runners up listed in order from first to 50th.

Sanitek | A health club yoga mat sanitation solution.

Z Education | Education consulting focusing on helping Chinese students find universities in the United States.

Empower Through Health | Empowering marginalized societies to achieve self-sufficiency.

Sirona | A digital health platform where medical data can be accessed at any time, anywhere.

Localize | Simply connecting users to volunteer opportunities.

SpanAbility | Virtual reality games for stroke rehabilitation.

Halo | A durable, yet fashionable bracelet that tests for drink-spiking drugs.

True You | Concierge name-change service for individuals to claim or reclaim their identity after a major life event.

Me’ver Crisis Volunteers | Fast-reacting flexible crisis aid.

SexyQ | A sex tech platform focused on communications and self-exploration.

democracy | A fashion design incubator for designers and creators who need a catalyzing push to start their career.

Presence | Bonding activity subscription boxes backed by teachers, psychologists and child psychiatrists.

Create Space | An easily accessible studio space for artists and creatives.

Welldrinks | A bar ordering and experience app.

Man Up | An easy-to-use makeup kit designed for men.

NAAPCO | National Association of American Peer Counseling Organizations.

Caralyst | Optimally matching patients and physicians based on identity, personal characteristics and communication styles.

St. Louis Online Farmstore | An online farm store with local delivery.

Talking Teddy | A teddy bear that uses smart technology to speak to children and teach them new languages.

Smart Hanger | Multi-directional adjustable clothing hanger.

Umma | An umbrella sharing system on college campuses.

Happy Chinese Gray | A tech-based social entrepreneur to support Chinese-American family caregivers of older adults.

Peak | Online dating platform for non-neurotypical people.

MEZ Eatery | Traditional Mexican restaurant dedicated to producing a variety of wholesome plant-based meals.

CRESTE | Increasing accessibility to commercial real estate investing.

Dgit | Disruptive Green Innovative Technology; provides the primary communication channel between property managers and tenants.

The Villow | A vibrating alarm clock pillow.

Lure Consultant | An app that recommends lures for fishing conditions.

Recipher | A pen that records what you write and reads it back to you.

Golden Roots | A curation of natural skincare products made with essential African ingredients.

Kenzora Consulting | In-store retail consulting.

Airborn | Emergency response drone medical delivery system.

Elefante | An intentional co-working and community space for all identities.

Indian Clothing Rentals | Online Indian clothing rental company.

Tap-In | Magnetic strip that can attach to students’ phones and serve as a key.

THEMPS Cannabis Temp Staffing | Temp staffing for the cannabis industry with a focus on social equity.

Toao Design House | Casual, personal and sustainable fashion dedicated to giving clients stylistic agency to form their identity.

Flow (Drink) | A juice-based, healthy energy drink.

Lil Kings & Queens | Children and teens clothing line for African American kids.

Honeymoon Chocolates | Bean-to-bar chocolate sweetened with raw honey.

RELocator | Website that helps with home buying by providing digital tours of urban neighborhoods for people who are relocating to new cities.

Flow (Supply Chain) | The new way to make fashion closed-loop.

ModBars | Customizable snack bars.

TalentShare | A platform where students can exchange their talents and teach each other.

Student Financial Literacy Platform | All-in-one platform for students to learn about and make good financial decisions.

BREEKZI | Beats and music services marketplace.

PeerPoint Helpline | A helpline that provides support and resources to students who are experiencing domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RackAttach | A universal bike rack that fastens to the bike and lets you attach to any car and ride.

Epitrac | The low-cost, high-tech Epi-Pen alternative.

Kantame | Vehicle exportation.

Honorable mentions

Ten projects that didn’t receive a prize, but merited attention.

Listed from first to 10th place within this category.

Shorte | A short-film curated streaming service.

UpDog | A dog boarding facility with airport transportation services.

EHS+ | Remote, real-time control of environmental, health and safety standards in manufacturing facilities via low-cost sensors.

The Sand Fan | A machine to remove sand from your feet using highly pressurized air.

Indigenous Fashion Products | A digital platform selling indigenous products transparently, educating people and giving back to the community.

TrainMates | A platform to connect fitness trainers and trainees.

Food Truck Gameday | A service that inceases the visibility of black and migrant business owners at Major League Soccer games.

Oystar | Giving African students access to educational opportunities in the United States.

WashU Innovators | Leak-proof contact case.

The Helpful Horn | A  multi-sound car horn for different driving situations.

Congratulations to the winners of Olin’s first BIG IdeaBounce competition!




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.