Tag: Undergraduate

When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Nick Mueller, BSBA ’22, who acted as team lead working with GO! St. Louis.

Tell us about your summer project.

I worked with three other students as team lead for GO! St. Louis, a nonprofit running organization that promotes health and fitness in the St. Louis area by hosting running events such as marathons, half-marathons, 10K races, 5K, races, etc. as well as some biking and hiking events.  We worked to mitigate the detrimental effects of COVID-19 on our organization’s ability to continue its operations. 

In what ways has this CEL experience been helpful in applying your education or sharpening your skills?

This CEL experience gave me the opportunity to lead a team of my peers through a professional yet low-stress consulting engagement. We worked closely with a faculty member who provided feedback throughout the project, but gave us a great deal of discretion in how we approach it.  This freedom replicated the independence of a post-graduation consulting job and forced me to apply my own education and creativity, while the guidance I received helped me discover and improve upon my weaknesses. As a result, I emerged from each task as a more confident and competent consultant. 

What was a “day in the life” of this CEL program?

Each week began with a class on Monday and a check-in with our faculty advisor on Tuesday.  During this check-in, we discussed our objectives for the week and how we would accomplish them.  For the remainder of the week, the student team worked on our own doing research, crafting messages, meeting with experts (runners, PR specialists, etc.), completing our deliverables, and other required tasks.  During this time, we typically met about once day, and we were always allowed to contact our faculty member for questions or assistance.  On Sundays, we submitted a weekly update that outlined what we accomplished that week and what we hoped to do next week. 

What was it like working with a real-world client?

We met with our client on Zoom every two weeks and communicated via email or text whenever necessary.  Our Zoom meetings included our faculty member as well, who gave us feedback after the meeting.  Faculty feedback on client meetings was especially helpful in teaching me the professional courtesies and leadership skills that display confidence and competence in a business setting. It really taught me how to how to deal with a client, how to lead meetings both with a student team and with clients.

We speak of Olin as a values-based, data-driven business school. Have you seen that in action?

Absolutely.  Both clients I have worked with through the CEL have had a precise mission.  My first client promoted literacy among African American children and positive images of African American culture.  My second client was focused on promoting fitness, health, and exercise in the St. Louis community – a mission complicated by COVID-19, but more critical than ever in the wake of social distancing and people becoming more reclusive.  The Center for Experiential Learning chooses its partnerships carefully, and I believe the missions of these organizations reflect the values of Olin Business School, such as social reform and community engagement. 

The faculty in this program have placed strong emphasis on the importance of using data to formulate and justify recommendations. Furthermore, our Monday classes typically feature guest speakers and our most recent class was led by a panel of business analysts who gave a lesson on data visualization and communication. 

What surprised you about the experience?

I was surprised by the way we were able to do it all virtually without any problems. When the summer came around, I believe there was a good deal of skepticism regarding how feasible this would really be, to do a project like this all over Zoom. But I was pleasantly surprised by how it all turned out. And I think that the faculty, as well as the students, did a great job in pivoting and being flexible with everything.




Jordan Finkelstein, BSBA

Students in Steve Malter’s Business of Presidential Elections course were given an exciting window into the real-life application of class material on November 16. They took part in a discussion with Olin alum Jordan Finkelstein, part of the team for one of the most-watched political campaigns of the century.

Students heard Finkelstein, BSBA ’16, discuss his time as the chief of staff on the paid media team on Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, and were able to ask him questions about subjects ranging from the logic behind the advertising team’s creative decisions, to how Finkelstein’s time at Olin prepared him to work in a creative business environment.

After a brief introduction and recap of his experiences following election night, Finkelstein kicked off his presentation with a bit of encouragement for business students interested in politics. Political campaigns, Finkelstein says, aren’t just interesting to political science majors; they can also be described as “the fastest growing startups in America.”

He compared the fundraising speed of the Biden campaign to various popular startups, such as Squarespace and Twitter. Finkelstein explained how the campaign raised and spent a billion dollars in seven months, whereas conventional startups take at least a year just to raise the money.

Biden’s digital strategy team definitely wasn’t driven by political knowledge alone, says Finkelstein; in fact, it required a business mindset to create and run an $875 million TV, digital, and radio program, a feat accomplished mostly in-house and largely without the help of an advertising agency.

Raising and spending money—fast

The speed with which political campaigns must raise money, create useable concepts, and spend money is shocking, and lead Finkelstein’s team to produce over 800 advertisements for TV alone over the course of the campaign, just 300 of which were actually aired.

A sizeable portion of these advertising programs, Finkelstein explained, were directed toward voter mobilization and education, including an entire ad campaign centered on teaching voters how to return mail-in ballots in their respective states. These efforts contributed to a voter turnout that is higher than the country has seen in over a century.

After describing how the Biden campaign’s digital strategy team worked, as well as their general advertising strategy, Finkelstein opened the floor to questions from students.

Valuing Olin’s marketing preparation

Students grilled Finkelstein about subjects from the genesis of the campaign’s flyswatter merch following the infamous vice presidential debate to his opinions on the Trump campaign’s marketing strategy, but toward the end of the discussion, the class asked how Finkelstein’s time with Olin prepared him to work in a creative business environment.

He mostly credited his practical education to learning he pursued outside the classroom. Dedicating yourself to working with peers in on-campus programs, Finkelstein says, prepares you for working with other young people on a campaign.

Finkelstein swears by his notes from a market research class he took while at Olin, saying he still looks back at them to this day.

Finkelstein’s experience can be used as a model for any Olin student interested in politics, and is an exciting example of how an Olin education can be leveraged in any field.

Pictured at top: Jordan Finkelstein, BSBA ’16, speaking to students in Steve Malter’s Business of Presidential Elections course in November 2020.




During his time at WashU, Rick Liu has become fascinated by the process of building a successful business. Rick, who is pursuing a joint degree in business and computer science, has spent the last six months growing this longtime interest into a successful podcast called The Seed—The Startup Journey.

As Rick, BS ’22, explains in the introductory video on his YouTube channel, he realized the best way to learn entrepreneurship—short of actually starting a business—is to hear other people talk about their startups. This curiosity prompted him to find a way to bring the stories of successful entrepreneurs into the life of everyday people interested in exploring the process of starting and running a business.

So far, Rick has interviewed 21 entrepreneurs who have shared the tale of how they got where they are now. He has interviewed businesspeople from all over the world—from here in St. Louis, to Canada, to Taiwan—on his podcast.

I asked Rick about his top three takeaways since starting The Seed, and he told me that, while he’s learned a lot more than just three things, the most important lessons he’s learned revolve around three key ideas: passion, connections and persistence.

Rick told me that most entrepreneurs he’s spoken to have told him that passion is essential. As an entrepreneur, “if the problem is personal to you, you’ll be motivated to wake up even when you don’t feel like it,” Rick says.

Many founders have also told The Seed about the importance of making friends in the business world. Rick cites the particular example of Kaldi’s Coffee co-founder Suzanne Langlois, who told him that it was a connection with someone who’d been hired to bulldoze a building full of furniture who got her first Kaldi’s location its set of tables and chairs.

Finally, Rick has learned that starting small and sticking by your ideas is crucial for success in entrepreneurship and, coincidentally, the podcasting world as well.

Rick’s podcast encourages his listeners to learn with him from those who are successful in the industry, and makes the intricacies of building a business digestible and fun to learn. Anyone interested in startups and entrepreneurship can check out Liu’s podcast, The Seed—The Startup Journey, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, or Spotify. The Seed is also present on Instagram and has an independent website.




Michael Spiro, BSBA ’21, recently spoke with St. Louis native Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI; former president of Y Combinator) for his newsletter/podcast, The Takeoff, which he runs with fellow WashU undergrads Lukas Steinbock and Roshan Chandna.

In the interview, Sam and Michael discuss Sam’s experience dropping out of Stanford to pursue a startup, the benefits of participating in YC, the importance of long-term thinking, the benefits of joining and founding a company early in your career, “getting good at sales,” risk-taking and more. Sam also shares his favorite food dish in St. Louis (Hint: it’s on The Loop).

Michael’s favorite quotes from the conversation:

  • On learning about startups: “Honestly, the best way to learn about a startup is just doing one. The first one may not work out, though sometimes it really does phenomenally well, but I think just getting going is super valuable.”
  • On OpenAI: “I certainly believe I will have much more of an effect with OpenAI than anything else I’ve ever done or will do in my career…make, develop, and deploy into the world super powerful general AI. We all think that this will be the most important technological development in a very long time, possibly in human history… but I will say I think in four years we’ll have systems that are world-changing.”
  • On playing a long-term game: “Learning how to avoid the distraction of short term games, particularly games that even if you win, you still lose, is a very valuable skill.”
  • On getting good at sales: “But, the fun kind of sales is convincing someone of something that you deeply believe in. And when you think about it that way, at least when I think about it that way, that sounds cool and definitely something that is important to me to get good at.”
  • On knowing when something is working: “Most things don’t work, but when something is truly legitimately working, it is unmistakable.”

You can find the full interview here: Sam Altman X The Takeoff

Sam Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, an AI research and deployment company working to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. Prior to joining OpenAI, Sam was President of Y Combinator, the world’s leading startup accelerator. Sam’s blog can be found, here and his Twitter here.”




Dolapu Ojutiku, MBA ’21, writes today about his summer consulting experience at Liberty Mutual. He was invited to return to Liberty Mutual full-time after graduation. His contribution is part of a series by students sharing their summer internship experiences with the Olin blog.

My internship has been one of the highlights of my MBA experience so far. I spent my summer working at Liberty Mutual as a consultant in the corporate development program. I worked on a project that had real impact on the company. I did an assessment of one of our largest vendors to streamline processes and evaluate opportunities for improvements. One of my contributions that is being implemented is a scorecard that provides better insights into the performance of our vendors. It was an eventful summer and I’m pleased to be joining the company full time after graduation. 

My internship was originally intended to be in person but ended up being virtual due to work-from-home policies as a result of the coronavirus. I initially wasn’t sure what to expect, but the company did a great job of creating ways to engage with us and build community virtually. Some examples of this include a virtual town hall with the CEO to address racial injustice in the US, an executive speaker lunch series for the interns, and a virtual baking event with Joanne Chang (Boston’s Flour Bakery), a former management consultant turned chef.

Olin did a great job preparing me. I started working with my career coach at the time, Jeff Stockton, before I had even arrived on campus to start my program. I was able to participate in the Consortium Orientation Program in Houston last summer and had to get ready for recruiting much earlier than usual. The WCC team—as well as my academic advisor, Ashley Macrander—were also a good support system throughout my first year.

I found that a lot of the frameworks we learned during Seth Carnahan’s strategy class turned out to be valuable for my internship. Two other classes that really helped me succeed were “Negotiation,” by Hillary Anger Elfenbein, and “Power & Politics” by Peter Boumgarden. Lessons from those classes came in handy when negotiating with cross-functional teams and influencing people to buy-in to my project.

My advice for students about the interview process is to try to network as much as possible, since you never know who might end up being your advocate in discussions that you’re not part of. I also found value in starting case prep very early on; I attended the Management Consulted workshop as well as some of the OSCA case sessions and found them to be very helpful in supplementing my case prep. In my personal experience, preparing well for the consulting case interview made other interviews easier.

In hindsight, I realize that a lot of the pillars we value at Olin helped prepare me for my internship. I had to be entrepreneurial and take ownership for the direction and outcome of my project. I also needed to make sure that decisions I made were supported by data, but not without considering the effect it had on our customers and the values they’ve come to expect from the company.