Tag: Undergraduate

Annelise Morgan and Ryan Farhat-Sabet, BSBA

In early spring, Betsy Morgan spent five hours on the phone with Bob Harbison as he dictated four years’ worth of preschool enrollment numbers from Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Harbison, a retired early childhood education activist, was the only person on earth with the data Morgan sought—and he wasn’t about to let it out of his sight.

Madison Stoecker and Betsy Morgan, BSBA ’19.

Thus began the extended two-day phone call with Morgan, BSBA ’19, as she gathered data for her project in Management 490. The elite, yearlong honors seminar is offered by invitation only to top undergraduates eager to take a deep plunge into research methods—a capstone course that only seven students took in the 2018-19 academic year.

“I wanted to spend my senior year creating a piece of knowledge, working with someone I could trust,” Morgan said. “It was a lot of work. There were times when I said, ‘Why did I do this?’ But I feel retroactively proud that we did it.”

Morgan partnered with another 2019 graduate, Madison Stoecker, on a project to measure the long-term educational outcomes for students in Oklahoma’s universal preschool program—a program that’s drawn considerable press over the years. But, Morgan and Stoecker said, it hadn’t been analyzed for its effectiveness.

Ironically, the marathon data-dictation session didn’t provide useful data for their project. But the pair’s research unveiled good news for the state’s program: Students’ average ACT scores showed a statistically significant increase for all counties in Oklahoma. For lower-income counties, the effect was 50 percent higher than the average.

Seven students, three major projects

Marisa Ippolito, Hank Michalski and Aneesha Bandarpalle, BSBA ’19.

Morgan and Stoecker’s project was one of three that seven BSBA students took on in the course. “These are students who have excelled and demonstrated their ability to do independent work in close consultation with some of our most rigorous researchers,” said Bill Bottom, the Joyce and Howard Wood Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and one of four professors who tag-team the course.

Marisa Ippolito, Hank Michalski and Aneesha Bandarpalle partnered on a paper examining the way teams are formed—and the dynamics when international students are involved in forming teams. Annelise Morgan and Ryan Farhat-Sabet dug into data from the Chicago Police Department to examine the effects of implicit racial bias in the distribution of parking tickets.

In the team project, the students analyzed data they collected from a survey of 229 students in an on-campus lab. They found that people want to work with people who are similar to themselves—regardless of whether they were American or “international.” But mostly, students wanted to work with teammates who practiced “good behavior” as a teammate in class. They recommended that professors always assign students to groups to avoid built-in bias against international students.

In the Chicago parking ticket project, students found no clear trends beyond the fact that white police officers tended to be biased in how they ticketed in different ZIP codes: white officers were less likely to ticket in white areas than in black or Hispanic areas.

The cadence of the course

Students in the course spend their first semester rotating among the four professors: Bottom; Tat Chan, professor of marketing; Bernardo Silveira, assistant professor of economics; and Ohad Kadan, H. Frederick Hagemann, Jr. Professor of Finance and Vice Dean for Education and Globalization.

Each introduces students to a different aspect of the strategy and techniques for academic research. Throughout the semester, the students look for research topics that pique their interest and consult with the instructors to hone their topics.

“These are rigorous, empirical projects,” Chan said, “Science in general is sort of a team sport. They each do one proposal for each faculty member and as a group, we discuss the merits of each of these proposals for projects.”

“It’s very entrepreneurial,” Silveira said. “I don’t suggest topics. They come up with their projects. It’s hard to find that at the undergraduate level, with this level of maturity and sophistication.”

‘Unbelievable experience’

Why would senior BSBA students spend their final year in such a grueling course when they could be coasting toward graduation?

“Challenging yourself and being intellectually curious just for the sake of being curious is very underrated,” Farhat-Sabet said. “We’re still focusing on ourselves through this project, but it’s a different side of ourselves. It’s a challenge for sure, but I can say I’ve had this experience.”

And while their projects might not appear on the surface to have any direct bearing on their business school education, the students all appreciated the applicability of their work to the careers they were about to begin.

With graduation behind them, the seven students are all dispersing to new jobs in the next few weeks. Ippolito will be a consultant with Deloitte starting September 30 in Cleveland; Michalski starts August 19 as a category specialist for Jet.com in Hoboken, New Jersey; Bandarpalle will be a consultant with McKinsey & Company in Chicago starting August 9.

Morgan will be a consultant with Deloitte in New York; Farhat-Sabet is moving to Washington, DC, to work for boutique tech consulting firm CapTech.

Stoecker starts September 27 with McKinsey in Chicago; Morgan starts today at Boston Consulting Group.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Ippolito said. “It was experiential learning and to have help from our advisers—you don’t always have that perspective.”

Pictured at top: Annelise Morgan and Ryan Farhat-Sabet, BSBA ’19, present their work on bias in Chicago parking tickets from their honors thesis course.

Suzana Deng

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Suzana Deng, BSBA ’17. Suzana is an eCommerce Analyst at Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I am an eCommerce Analyst at Nestle, helping to grow and optimize the online channel for the world’s largest food and beverage company. This includes evaluating marketing activations, identifying opportunities in organic search/share of voice, and analyzing business performance. All while trying to resist the freshly baked Toll House cookies. My Olin education has provided me with a foundational understanding of business and opened the door to many exciting opportunities.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

I first discovered my love of marketing in Professor Sawhill’s Principles of Marketing class, and it was reinforced later when I took his Marketing Strategy course. A defining moment was when Professor Sawhill held up a box of Cheerios and said they’re just little oat circles that taste like cardboard – the added value comes from the emotional connection the brand evokes in customers. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by brand management and hope to make it a part of my career someday.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I’ve been back on campus recruiting for Jet and also have several people from Olin on my team at work – best of all, I met my boyfriend at WashU (we were both marketing/operation supply chain management majors at Olin) and we’ve been experiencing East Coast life together.

Why is business education important?

Business education gives you a very holistic understanding of how organizations effectively leverage their strengths and resources to meet their objectives – whether it’s a corporation or non-profit – so it’s a great base for any career path.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

As a student it was never fun to hear, but I can confirm that networking / forming connections is extremely important to have a successful career. In the workplace, be sure you’re building and maintaining good relationships every day – you never know when these can come in handy. In addition, be a resource to others when you can – it’s all about give and take.

The St. Louis Business Journal released its 2019 “30 Under 30” list featuring five Olin alumni: Daphne Benzaquen, Breona Butler, Brian Chao, Joseph McDonald and Phillip Sangokoya. Here’s a summary with links to each honoree’s full write-up on the Business Journal website.

Daphne Benzaquen, PMBA ’17, at 29 years old is the creative designer and CEO of daph., a lifestyle brand in which high-quality baby alpaca fur and llama leather pieces are created and 20% of sales are donated to Peruvian and St. Louis communities. In addition to daph., Benzaquen founded The Chomp blog and Daphne Benzaquen Consulting. She also serves as community director of ThriveCo.

Breona Butler, PMBA ’18, at 27 years old is an IT portfolio manager at Keefe Commissary Network. Butler pursued her MBA to bridge the gap between business and technology. Through her ability to understand business and technology, she has helped reduce her department’s costs by 15%.

Brian Chao, BSBA ’12, MBA ’13, at 29 years old is the chief financial officer at the Starkloff Disability Institute. Prior to accepting this position, Chao had been a passionate supporter of the Institute. Through his position at Starkloff Disability Institute, Chao has helped to raise more the $1 million in a year for the first time.

Joseph McDonald, EN ’15, MBA ’15, at 27 years old is the co-founder and COO at Epharmix, a digital health care company. Epharmix, which McDonald launched following graduating WashU, “simplifies proactive patient engagement for providers, payers and employers.”

Phillip Sangokoya, BSBA ’11, at 29 years old is the specialty finance relationship manager and the assistant vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation. In three months, Sangokoya has “underwritten and/or closed over $10 million in investments to organizations advancing social impact, small business growth and real estate.” In addition, he also is the co-founder of BRAND of St. Louis.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Laira Torres-Ruiz, BSBA ’17. Laira works for Guggenheim Partners in New York City as an investment banking analyst.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I’m an investment banker at Guggenheim Partners, mainly working on Retail M&A transactions. Olin gave me access to the most inquisitive and inspiring people – from distinguished professors to fellow peers – whose perspective, mentorship and encouragement helped me find the intersection of my passions and abilities in financial services. Finance is broader and more applicable than I could’ve ever imagined. I owe my interest in the field (and success in recruiting into it) to those that took the time to share their perspective and give me much needed advice.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

Staci Thomas – without a doubt (so much that the BSBA 2017 class gave her the teaching award at Commencement). We spend so much of our undergraduate years focusing on aggregating skills that we lose perspective on how these form part of a greater story – be it a week-long project, a client relationship, a personal brand or a career. Staci’s Management Communication helps students gain invaluable managerial perspectives, transforming us from experts in skills to well-rounded business strategists (that also have hard skills as part of their toolkit). She also does this in the most engaging of ways too. I still remember one of the projects was pitching a product I really disliked and receiving peer feedback on it. Those skills – thinking quickly on my feet, adapting to an audience, articulating a message concisely, speaking confidently – are the ones that have really made a difference in my career.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I’m thankful that I’ve kept in touch with those that made WashU so special. Olin does community very well, and that does not end after graduation. Alumni keep the spirit of collaboration alive, engaging with both the network and the University itself. I know I can call on any of my fellow alumni for advice or a referral. For example, fellow alumni guided me through the private equity recruiting process, which helped me succeed in securing my next position at Thomas H. Lee Partners in Boston. We also have a commitment to giving back to the school, which I live out by donating to scholarships and prioritizing campus recruiting for Guggenheim.

Why is business education important?

Someone once told me that “business is the art of getting things done”. While that’s too simple to capture the true relevance and importance of an undergraduate business education, I like what it’s conveying. Business education provides a framework to organize, tackle and solve problems. It’s more than financial modeling and marketing plans: it’s also communication skills, leading efficient meetings and a basic professional skillset. Some of my classmates went to less traditional fields like teaching and non-profit; they’re building thriving careers, part of which they to their business foundation. Many of my peers from other academic divisions regret not having been more exposed to business, but none of my Olin classmates has regretted being fully immersed in the experience.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

WashU is a safe place, so take more risks. Sign up for classes that will actually teach you something new (they’re often harder and not required). Go for that internship with notoriously challenging interviews (the worst thing they can say is no). Pick up a minor just because it’s interesting. Study abroad. Run for a position. Not everything has to have a “resume purpose”, so don’t get caught up with what others tell you you’re supposed to be doing. It’s often the most well-rounded and open-minded people that get ahead. Pass-fail is always an option, but going back in time isn’t.

Julie Wang is a rising sophomore in the Olin Business School studying Marketing and Economics & Strategy. Julie works as Strategy Fellow for Bear Studios, an undergraduate, student-run consulting and design firm.

Julie Wang, BSBA ’22, is studying marketing and economics & strategy. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

We always ask ourselves: What’s next? After one chapter ends, what’s the next one?

These are questions that I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past year, as one natural “chapter” of my life — high school — closed and a new one started at Washington University in St. Louis. As I approached the last page on graduation day, I realized how I content I was with that chapter. The ending to this part of the story brought me to a destination toward which I had been working for so long and it all seemed to perfectly set me up to write the next four years.

To my surprise, I got to campus in the fall and the words started to fail me. Although I had years of experience as the author of my own life novel, I realized that for once in my life, I didn’t exactly know where the plot was going next.

What I prided myself on so much in high school — knowing clearly who I am and what I wanted to do—seemed to crumble when an environment filled with new people and opportunities tested me. I started to ask myself questions that had no answers.

What do you want to major in? At the moment, I thought I couldn’t possibly pick a major without knowing what I want to do post-graduation. What are you going to be involved with on campus? A question I once thought to be effortless to answer suddenly seemed just as enigmatic as the other.

All my life, it’s been one chapter after the next. I saw life in a way that seemingly reduced my options, because if something didn’t contribute to the next chapter, then it wasn’t anything at all. I limited my growth to my academic and extracurricular environments; when those chapters ended, I thought I was left with little to substantiate my “story.” If I didn’t have a destination, it seemed like I didn’t have a purpose.

Coming into college without a single ounce of confidence in what I want to do in the near future opened my mind to the idea that perhaps I don’t need to be certain about the contents of the next chapter to begin writing my story. This shift in perspective allowed me to find opportunities I otherwise may have never discovered if I had confined myself to a single mindset.

Refocusing my direction led me to consider Bear Studios, a student-led consulting and design firm that was recruiting strategy fellows for its consulting practice at the time. I had little idea as to what consulting entailed but was intrigued by the opportunity to interact with real-world businesses in the St. Louis area.

Before coming to college, I had never envisioned myself as a consultant—it wasn’t a part of my story. Yet, participating in Bear Studios has since been one of the most formative learning experiences of my first year.

During my second semester, I also decided to take a step out of my comfort zone by rushing a business fraternity. Although I wasn’t sure what was to be of my experience, the organization has shaped my growth tremendously, building my first-year story and introducing me to new ideas, opportunities, and networks on campus and in the business world.

Now, with the end of my first year of college and the start of summer break, I am faced with a re-evaluation of how I want to sustain my learning in these next few months.

Sometimes, it’s still difficult to grapple with my goal-oriented and destination-focused past self—because not knowing can truly be intimidating. But if there’s anything I do know now, it’s that I want to see life not in chapters, but as a continuum of personal growth and sustained learning. We don’t need a new “chapter” to start new projects or grow in different ways and we certainly don’t need to know how our story ends to begin writing it now.

Pictured above: Julie pictured with members of her professional fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi.

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin Alumni. Today we hear from Justin Wexler, BSBA ’15. Justin is combining his finance and marketing skills in his role as the Director of Corporate Development at AnchorFree.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I’ve spent the last 4 years in venture capital (first at Technology Crossover Ventures then at WndrCo). I am now the Director of Corporate Development at AnchorFree (WndrCo’s largest portfolio company). In my career, both finance and marketing skills have been critically important. Finance is important for analyzing deals and marketing is just as important as I’m often promoting my firm to entrepreneurs (in order to get them excited about receiving investment from us). Olin Business School’s 4 year undergrad program allowed me to major in finance and marketing; the fact that I was a business school student from the first day of freshman year led to me being well-prepared for working in business by the time I graduated from Wash U.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

I remember a course on branding that I still think about all the time. In most cases, branding is really what differentiates a product or service from being a commodity. It’s why you spend so much on sneakers or pick a particular pair of earphones. Ever since that course, I’ve made it a point to develop my own personal brand and reputation. Without that, I don’t think I would have been recruited for my first, second, or third roles out of college. Olin taught me the importance of making a lasting impact on anyone I meet because you never know when you’ll run into that person again.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

There are lots of great alumni events in San Francisco! It’s an awesome way to stay connected with the Olin community while being on the West Coast.

Why is business education important?

I really believe that a business education is relevant for really anything in life. Even if you plan on grad school or something outside of traditional “business,” understanding the principles of accounting, finance, and marketing are all important skills that really every adult should possess.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

Get very involved in student groups on campus. When I was a sophomore, I started a public speaking club on campus. It was just me when it started out… but eventually grew to over 300 students. That experience really helped hone my leadership skills and my passion for entrepreneurship. Student groups are a great way to “practice” because in a few years, the stakes will be much higher in the “real world.”