Tag: Undergraduate

It’s a familiar tune by now: We can’t host this annual event in person, so what do we do? Can we even have it virtually? What are we going to do?

Those were all questions Jackie Carter, Diversity & Inclusion Programs Manager, and WashU Olin’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee asked as they began to prepare for the sixth annual Diversity & Inclusion Expo. Typically held during the dean’s welcome back event, the expo brings together groups from Olin and throughout the university to showcase resources and ways students, faculty members or staff members can get involved with multicultural, justice and equity efforts.

Carter and her team’s decision ultimately came down to the importance of such an event for the WashU Olin community: “Diversity, equity inclusion work is not one-person work, and it’s not about just having affinity groups,” she said. And this experience was an opportunity to showcase the depth and the value of diversity and inclusion at Olin.

Over the course of 90 minutes, 18 groups opened Zoom meeting spaces as faculty, staff and students visited and learned about the resources and clubs they can get involved with.

For Carter, the annual expo is an important space for students, faculty and staff to bring their beginning-of-the-year energy and enthusiasm to get involved and learn about opportunities and resources they might not know about.

And for those who attended, that’s exactly what they got. Staff and students reflected on the experience:

“ I learned that the creation of space for faculty and staff voices to be heard came from years of them being silenced and not being heard. Finally the administration realized that faculty and staff needed to be brought to the table, especially concerning HR issues and issues that are inherently unique to that population. It was good to know that faculty and staff are being thought about. In my previous position, that didn’t exist. Without a diverse workplace, diverse ideas and thoughts can’t emerge.” Leia Burroughs, event specialist, graduate programs

“I had the chance to talk to undergraduate students who wanted to know how to engage with the Latin American community in St. Louis. It was refreshing to see people who wanted to connect, share interests and keep a positive attitude.” Gabriel Samanez, MBA ’21, president, Latin American Business Association

“The Diversity and Inclusion Expo was a great opportunity to connect with students and faculty to share our plans for D&I work this year, and learn about what others are doing as well. We’re looking forward to partnering with other groups on campus to host events throughout the year that champion diversity and inclusion efforts.” Alex Halfpap, MBA ’21, president, Olin Women in Business

“In times like these, Olin Black is a space for dialogue and action. We were excited to meet students and staff who are just as passionate about Olin Black’s mission as much as we are. In an hour and 30 minutes we were able to converse with admission personnel, recruiting coaches, and students who want to create a meaningful inclusive and diverse Olin.” Fanta Kaba and Déjá Miles, officers, Olin Black MBA Association

“We showed our determination to continue the tradition of diversity at the Greater China Club.” Lin Cheng, MBA ’21, vice president, Greater China Club

“I think this event was valuable because we are surrounded by diversity in our community and it’s our responsibility to keep pushing the needle in ensuring we are living equitable lives. The D&I expo helped to bring us together and showed that students in the community are committed to growing into well-rounded leaders who would acknowledge the diverse perspectives around them while creating an environment for equity and justice to thrive.” Itohan Enadeghe, co-president, Olin Africa Business Club

Though this year’s event looked and felt different than previous years,  Carter is pleased with the results—though she knows this event is just the beginning each year of developing relationships with students, faculty and staff who are determined to embrace diversity and inclusion.

“My hope for WashU Olin is that we can be a place of true inclusion and belonging. That regardless of my race, my background, my gender, I’ll feel a part of it,” she said.

“And that we can all understand that equality isn’t something being taken away from someone else. If I make something better for someone else, it makes the whole better.”  

Andrew Wu (BSBA ’22) wrote this for the Olin Blog. He’s majoring in computer science and finance and is a technology fellow at Bear Studios.


A word that has been stuck in my head since I began thinking about life after high school. Like many of my peers, I was stuck trying to figure out what career path would be the best fit.

It seemed easy enough: pick a major that would give me the best employment opportunities after graduation. But when it came time to submit my university applications, I was stuck with two questions. What is my purpose? What career best fits that purpose?

In my junior year of high school, I had narrowed my options down to biomedical engineering, computer science and finance. Over the summer, I brought up my concerns with my uncle, and in an attempt to help me he took me on a tour of his office at the Apple Park. I remember looking around in awe of the modern design, the massive communal field, and the people riding by on Apple-branded bicycles. Everything looked so immaculate. Even the pebbles looked like they were manually affixed to the path. It felt perfect.

But as we were about to enter his office, a section of the staircase caught my eye. Instead of leading to the main doors, it veered off to the side, straight into a bush. I turned to my uncle to make a joke of such a pointless slab of concrete. He took one look, laughed and said. “Have you never found yourself trying to find a place to sit outside, but when you sat down on a staircase you felt like you were blocking someone’s path? That’s what that staircase is for. Not for walking, but for sitting.”

While touring the park didn’t help me make my decision, that one small, seemingly insignificant interaction has been essential to my university experience so far. Eventually, I decided on biomedical engineering as my major and committed to WashU. thinking that I would graduate and become a biomedical engineer.

But during my first semester, I learned that many of the graduates in my major went on to do very similar things post-graduation, the majority going into medical or graduate school, consulting or industry. As I sat in the lecture halls with my peers, the same two questions kept nagging me. Would I truly find my own purpose following that same path, or like that staircase, could I redefine my own purpose? By doing so, would I inadvertently limit my opportunities?

To find some answers, I decided to take classes for the other majors that I considered—computer science and finance. After a few weeks I immediately knew that this was the better path. I was much more engrossed with the material, so I soon found myself switching to computer science and adding a second major in finance from Olin.

Going down a more uncertain path has allowed me to see new opportunities to reconcile these two areas of interest that otherwise I would not have been able to discover. One such opportunity was Bear Studios, a student-run consulting firm. During my sophomore year I saw that Bear Studios was recruiting, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put my skills to the test. I successfully applied to be a technology fellow, and now I’ve had opportunities to leverage my passions and help St. Louis entrepreneurs.

Even now, going into junior year, I am still not able to confidently define my own purpose and passions. But by reminding myself that this time in university is an incredible opportunity to grow alongside like-minded individuals with unique dreams and aspirations, I have been able to continue searching for those definitions.

By actively branching out to explore new interests and applying what I’ve learned in different ways, I am creating my own path.

JD Ross

An online real estate marketplace cofounded by WashU Olin alum JD Ross will gain a $1 billion infusion in an acquisition that values the company at nearly $5 billion.

Ross, BSBA ’12, cofounded Opendoor in 2014. He was responsible for building the prototype of its online platform and worked until 2018 as the company’s head of product development, where he built out the product development team.

Opendoor is an online home marketplace that offers homeowners a means to sell their houses instantly, without the heartache of weeks or months on the real estate market. Today, Ross is a partner with San Francisco-based venture capital/private equity firm Atomic.

“I want to take a quick moment to share deep appreciation for everyone who put their heart into getting Opendoor to where it is,” Ross said in a tweet posted on Wednesday, noting that his appreciation extended to “teammates and investors who took a leap of faith with your careers, and the customers who took a bet on a new concept and guided us along the way.”

CNBC reported the acquisition of Opendoor on Tuesday, interviewing Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital Hedosophia II. The deal essentially rolls Opendoor into Social Capital, his publicly traded “special purpose acquisition company.” Proceeds from that firm’s April IPO, along with a $600 million infusion from a group of investors that includes Palihapitiya and funds managed by BlackRock, will total just over $1 billion for Opendoor in the acquisition.

“The company is transforming the $1.6 trillion residential real estate market by combining superior user experience, streamlined operations and machine learning to create a seamless digital experience,” Palihapitiya told CNBC.

CNBC reported that the $4.8 billion valuation for Opendoor is nearly equal to the company’s 2019 revenue. Opendoor operates in 21 markets and says it sold more than 18,000 homes last year. “Homeowners get a quote, through an algorithm, and can sell their houses directly to the company,” CNBC reported. “Opendoor may make some fixes and then put the house on the market to sell. The spread between what the home is bought for and sold is a part of how Opendoor generates revenue.”

Ross, named an Olin “emerging leader” in 2017, shared the story of his many forays into entrepreneurship—starting as a 13-year-old—in an Olin Business magazine story from 2015.

“If you tell me there’s a problem to solve, I love that,” Ross told Olin Business five years ago.

See the 2017 Olin Emerging Leaders video

Erin Noh, BSBA

Erin Noh, AB ’21, is one of two recipients of Olin’s $2,500 stipend for the business of the arts minor. Noh snagged summer internships at both Almost 30 and Hawke Media. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

In which area of the arts are you focused? Why?

I am a graphic designer with experience in digital marketing and branding. I love working in this field because I can use my creative skills to deliver a message or purpose to a target audience. Visual marketing allows me to combine my eye for art and passion for marketing. I work in diverse creative fields, including print and logo design, branding and social media.

How do you envision your career path going forward?

I hope to pursue a career path in digital marketing or brand management after graduation. I am open to both larger advertising firms or in-house agencies related to the lifestyle or fashion industry. Because I love working collaboratively with different individuals and teams, I prefer larger work environments that foster this interaction.

How did you find the minor in the business of the arts program? Can you speak yet to the ways it has influenced the vision you have for your career?

My friend who is pursuing fine art major in the Sam Fox School introduced me to the business of the arts minor last year when it first became one of the Olin Business School programs. After talking to my Sam Fox adviser, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to learn about and prepare for pursuing a career in the creative field.

A sample of Erin Noh's work from Almost 30.
A sample of Erin Noh’s work from Almost 30.

One key takeaway for me is that I need to be self-aware of my own interests, passions and purpose. Although I always knew I wanted to do something related to art or design, thoroughly thinking about potential career paths helped me to realize that I want to create designs that further a purpose or advertise ideas.

In addition, I not only learned so many new business and management principles but also ways to implement the ideas to my own life. In particular, the core class “business of the arts” was a whole course designed for students to think about their career paths as creatives, and set action steps that can be taken to make those goals a reality.

The program has motivated me to be more proactive about pursuing my career path by encouraging me to research diverse occupations and conduct informational interviews to gain more industry insight. I definitely became much more confident in my career direction and learned about realistic measures I can take to get closer to my vision.

What drew you to the program?

I was drawn to the business of the arts minor because I wanted to learn about art-focused business management principles. Because I want to start working at a company or design firm right after graduation, I thought it would be an opportunity for me to gain knowledge of business fundamentals and management tools.

This would allow me to make more informed decisions related to my finances as I move forward. I also wanted to learn about ways that I can make maximal use of my skills, interests and experiences in design.

How did you land the internship? How did that experience influence your plans for the future?

My business of the arts minor adviser, Sandra Philius, forwarded an application for a graphic design intern position for Almost 30, a lifestyle podcast based in LA. I was so grateful that she informed me of this opportunity. The position was exactly what I was looking for: a designer that creates social media posts and digital marketing collateral.

After the application and interview process, I became a part of an 11-member team that works collaboratively to promote the podcast brand. I strengthened the brand identity by designing new social media marketing templates.

Additionally, when I was about  three weeks in with Almost 30, a hiring manager for Hawke Media, a full-service marketing consultancy, reached out to me through LinkedIn and asked for an interview. I had applied a few months back and was happy to hear back, as I had strongly been drawn to their work.

The workdays and hours of the two companies don’t overlap. It has been very manageable and fun to work with so many different individuals. I love that Hawke Media is a larger scale advertising firm, as I get to interact with diverse teams and individuals.

I am responsible for designing creative assets promoting E-Commerce Week LA. This event focuses on highlighting Los Angeles’ wealth of e-commerce brands and the people behind them.

Through my experiences so far, I realized I definitely love creating designs for various digital platforms that people interact with. After graduation, I hope to continue pursuing this path as a graphic designer. I would prefer to work for a lifestyle or fashion company. I am grateful for my internship opportunities as I can get real-life work experience and learn more about what kind of projects I am passionate about.

What’s the most surprising takeaway from your coursework or your internship?

While taking Management 200 as a part of the minor requirement, I learned about what it means to have a “business mindset,” which is something I never really thought about before. I was surprised to learn that this mindset requires both the ability to think strategically and realistically, as well as having the necessary interpersonal skills.

Some of the soft skills required in this mindset are open-mindedness, communication and collaboration.

During my internship, I learned about the interconnected nature of different departments and roles within a business. When I first joined the internship teams, I thought I would be working closely only with other designers or members of the creative team. But to my surprise, I regularly interact with a wide range of people such as the copywriter, social media manager and partnerships director.

As for my internship with Almost 30, the two hosts of the show are actually heavily involved in all of the production and design decisions. I learned how diverse departments of a business are closely connected to each other and although the roles may be different, everyone is working toward the same goal.

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 Ally Gerard, BSBA ’22, who worked on competitive analysis for Institutiform Technology.

The late playwright Jonathan Larson wrote, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” In the face of adversity and these times of tribulation, it isn’t enough to sit idly by and accept our circumstances. We must constantly create opportunity and value for ourselves and for others. 

Ally Gerard

Larson’s words rang ever so true this summer of 2020, and I truly have the WashU and St. Louis communities to thank for that. 

In April, on the eve of spring semester reading week, I lost my maternal grandmother to a nearly 30-year battle with breast cancer. My family was devastated. To make matters worse, several days later, I received official news that my summer internship program was canceled due to uncertainties of the pandemic and the future of professional sports seasons. 

So much stability, so many plans were ripped out from underneath me, and I had to pivot. When I heard about the CEL summer program, it just felt meant to be. 

I was coming off a spring semester in the Small Business Initiative and had a great experience participating in that course and leading that team. I enjoyed the client communication and collaboration, as well as the opportunity to apply my Olin education to real-life business situations in the St. Louis community. That being said, I came into this summer experience with high expectations because, at this point, I knew the CEL well and really trusted the professors leading the charge on this summer initiative. 

Unsurprisingly, it did meet those high expectations. Maybe I just lucked out with the most amazing and supportive teammates, client and faculty advisor, but I really just consider that a testament to the unparalleled community Olin has fostered over the years.

This summer, I had the pleasure of leading the student team of Zach Fisher, BSBA ’22; Helen Hu, MS ’20; and Yiqiao Wang, MS ’20; with guidance from Professor John Horn. Our group consulted for Insituform Technologies, a subsidiary of Aegion Corporation. Insituform specializes in pipeline installation and rehabilitation, offering its renowned cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) technology across numerous North American regions. 

Throughout the seven-week engagement, our group conducted regional competitive analyses to understand Insituform’s bid performance, bid aggressiveness, and competitive threats on the regional level. We also evaluated how certain elements of a project (such as pipe diameter and prime-contractor or subcontractor roles) affected Insituform’s win percentage for these municipality bids.

All this research built up to our final deliverable, which was an Excel model that predicted the project backlog of one of Insituform’s largest national competitors. It was a very complex, data-heavy undertaking; however, we were able to create a functional model that will be of benefit to Insituform’s competitive strategy moving forward. 

However, tragedy hit again just two days before our final presentation, when I received news that my maternal grandfather passed away from an unexpected heart attack. I actually found out during a CEL team meeting. It was a true shock and incredibly overwhelming to grapple with while preparing to present our final findings to the client. 

Despite the emotional obstacle, I will never forget the immense love and support I received from my student team, our faculty advisor, and our program manager Amy Soell. They gave me strength and made me so proud, again, to be an Olin student.

Life handed me a basketful of lemons this summer, and the CEL really helped facilitate a transformative lemonade-making process. I will always be thankful to Olin for innovating and executing this unforgettable professional learning opportunity, and I look forward to reconnecting with my teammates and faculty advisor in the fall!