Tag: Undergraduate

Dean Mark Taylor recently announced the speakers for Olin Business School’s graduation recognition ceremonies on May 18.

It gives me great pleasure to announce this year’s keynote speakers for Olin’s Undergraduate Graduation Recognition Ceremony and Olin’s Graduate Graduation Recognition Ceremony.

Razzy Ghomeshi

Razzy Ghomeshi

The undergraduate ceremony speaker will be Razzy Ghomeshi, BSBA ’09. The ceremony will take place on Friday, May 18, at 11:30 p.m. in the Athletic Complex, Field House.

In a very short time, Razzy Ghomeshi has built a widely recognized reputation for reliability, helpfulness, and investment savvy. In the nine years since graduating from WashU’s Olin Business School, he’s risen rapidly through the ranks at RBC Capital Markets, where he started a few weeks after earning his degree.

Today, Ghomeshi, 30, is managing director at RBC, heading up US investment-grade trading for the company. His rise began within two years of starting at RBC when he earned his own trading book and consistently notched the highest profit-and-loss and trading volumes across the investment-grade trading desk.

Five years later, he was running the desk. Business Insider highlighted Ghomeshi’s financial acumen when it named him a “Wall Street Rising Star” in October 2017. Finance industry analytics firm Greenwich Associates has named Ghomeshi one of its “most helpful traders on Wall Street” three times in his short career.

Sandeep Chugani

Sandeep Chugani

The graduate programs speaker will be Sandeep Chugani, EN ’89, MBA ’91. The ceremony will be on Friday, May 18, at 3:00 p.m. in the Athletic Complex, Field House.

Sandeep Chugani, senior partner and managing director for Boston Consulting Group, leads the firm’s Miami office. The range of his consulting expertise is broad, drawing on experience in developing more effective organizations, creating strategies for corporate transformations and turnarounds, creating paths for organizational growth, improving clients’ merchandise and marketing efforts, and optimizing corporate cash-flow performance.

Previously, Chugani has led BCG’s practices in transformation and retail in North America. Before joining BCG, he was a senior partner at A.T. Kearney and a managing director (partner) at DiamondCluster International, working in the consumer products and retail practice.

Chugani serves on Olin’s National Council and regularly visits the Washington University campus to advise students with insights on the consulting and client landscape, what it takes to be successful in consulting, and to engage in regular Q&A segments.

Get full details about both ceremonies at the graduation pages:

Ryan Courson and his mother, Danna Courson.

Eight years ago, Ryan Cameron Courson was sizing up a cap and gown as he prepared to receive his Olin business administration degree after only three years.

“Travel each path with conviction while being cognizant of the impact you have on others,” Courson urged his fellow graduates in his commencement speech. “For one day, you may be the greatness that inspires someone to walk across this stage.”

Courson with his siblings, Cole Courson, BSBA 2019, and sister XXXXXX.

Courson with his siblings, Cole Courson, BSBA 2019,
and sister, Lindsey Fish.

Now, Courson is doing just that. He’s funded a scholarship in the name of his mother, Danna Courson. He appears by video conference regularly to teach a finance course for undergraduates. He mentors students.

“He’s also a really good person,” said Glenn MacDonald, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy and one of Courson’s mentors. “He just helps everyone.”

All this, while rocketing to the C-suite for a major global shipping company. Courson became CFO for Seaspan Corp., the world’s largest containership lessor, on May 5.

The Wall Street Journal feature about him dwelled on Courson’s youth—he earned the post at age 29—but the focus doesn’t concern him. He’s comfortable in his own skin and grateful for the guidance, mentorship, and experience he gained through the help of many mentors—most especially, his mother.

“My mother is a critical component of what success I’ve had,” Courson said. “She has been an advocate of education since I was very young.” In fact, he considers the Danna Courson Annual Scholarship, awarded to one Olin student each year “with high need,” an extension of his mother’s work.

“I don’t think of this scholarship as my doing, but rather as a continuation of my mother’s efforts,” he said. “This is the effect of her efforts 15 years ago, and this is the next evolution of that.”

If He’s Not Doing, He’s Teaching

Courson credits his mother—a school teacher—for his love of education and admits that if he weren’t an investor, he’d want to teach full-time. He lobbied hard for the public equity investing class he now teaches from a makeshift home studio—a challenging dive into thoroughly evaluating equity investments that requires a dozen or more hours of work outside class for as few as half a dozen students a year.

“I’m very fortunate to count him among one of my mentors,” said Colin McCune, ArtSci ’18, who worked this semester as a teaching assistant in Courson’s class. “He’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. When I found out he was offering a class, I just jumped on it.”

From his background in investment banking and finance, Courson taps into a network of colleagues who come to his video studio and serve as guest speakers, evaluating student presentations as if they were recommending investments for a private equity firm.

“The university gets great exposure from real investors speaking to students, the students get valuable experience, and I enjoy seeing some of my mentors and friends give their time and knowledge to these students,” Courson said.

Mentors and Mother

Courson’s success has come in spite of an important setback his mother and other mentors helped him navigate. Today—and eight years ago in his commencement address—Courson is quick to credit a high school football coach, a St. Louis businessman, a philanthropist he met at age 18, and others with providing the coaching and mentoring that led him to his career. He also counts MacDonald among the most influential people in his life.

“If he doesn’t understand something, he has to figure out how it works,” MacDonald said. “If he finds out he doesn’t understand something, that’s not a tolerable state for him.”

In the final analysis, however, for Courson, it’s all about mother. He notes that others shouldn’t gauge their success by his own rise to the upper echelons of corporate leadership.

“I am a big believer that success is something that is and should be personally defined,” he said. “One of the most successful people in the world is my mother. She raised three amazing kids and she did it in some difficult circumstances — but she wasn’t the one featured in The Wall Street Journal.”

Pictured above: Ryan with his mother, Danna Courson.

Jacob Mohrmann, BSBA’16, chief marketing officer, and Andrew Glantz, BSBA

Jacob Mohrmann, BSBA’16, chief marketing officer of GiftAMeal, provided this update to the Olin Blog.

Washington University student startup GiftAMeal has recently published results from a seven-month-long case study with two locations of St. Louis’ Rich & Charlie’s restaurant.

The company—founded on campus by Olin business students and now operated by alumni—found from its research that customers who used GiftAMeal consistently spent 24 percent more per check compared to standard guests. Additionally, guests returned 45 percent more frequently and even tipped staff 14 percent more.

GiftAMeal markets a mobile phone app that promotes “socially conscious eating” by allowing users to donate to local food pantries when they eat at partnering restaurants. The service is available in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit.

“These results validated the trends we observed in the power of social impact when we decided to create GiftAMeal,” said Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17, founder and CEO of GiftAMeal. “At the end of the day, we want to provide financial returns for our partner restaurants and prove that they can connect with customers in a way that does not require constant price-slashing and discounting.”

Rich & Charlie’s owner, Emil Pozzo, said “the positive feedback from customers has been really exciting to see. The staff has embraced the program as well. They see it as an easy way to help those in need.”

Other Updates on GiftAMeal

The past month has been one of the most successful in GiftAMeal’s history:

  • We won two major grants ($13,359 from the Skandalaris Center and $5,000 from Dartmouth).
  • Buffalo legislators reached out to us to pitch GiftAMeal expanding to their area.
  • We reached 118,781 meals provided in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit.
  • We became a Top 100 Finalist in the 2018 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.

We received a letter from legislators in Buffalo requesting that we expand to their region. We are in talks with them. It is an honor just to see grassroots interest and enthusiasm for our business in an area of the country we have not previously explored.

Just a week later, we heard that we were selected to receive a grant for $13,359 from the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Right after that, we received word that we won the Dartmouth Founder’s Grant for $5,000. Given by Dartmouth College, the grant backs startups with ambitious entrepreneurial plans that have demonstrated a high commitment to learning and execution.

Most recently, after asking our users to vote for us out of thousands of companies, we were chosen as a Top 100 Finalist in the FedEx Small Business Grant Competition. We look forward to hearing from them in the coming weeks to see if we made the Top 10.

Last, but certainly not least, we recently tallied the numbers and made our food bank donations, and found that our users have helped provide 118,781 meals in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit. No specific milestone here, we just always love to see that number growing. Every meal counts!

I talked to Andrew recently and he said, “There is still much more work to do to make the most of all of these opportunities, but the future looks bright for GiftAMeal and the ceiling has never been higher for our potential growth.”

How many memberships does RISE Collaborative Workspace have to sell to reach its break-even point? Is is 152? Or 132? Or closer to just 40? It was one of the problems undergraduate business students grappled with in Michael McLaughlin’s “managerial accounting” class last week.

In fact, dozens of them grappled with that and numerous other questions. Three sections of the class, in teams ranging from four to eight students—144 in all—honed their newly formed analytical skills on Stacy Taubman’s real-world business, a women-focused, women-owned co-working space in its first year of operation.

Taubman opened her books to the class hoping a fresh collection of new eyes would uncover new insights into her business, demonstrate support for a planned expansion—and offer a great learning experience for students.

“Theory and practice are often very different,” said Taubman, who, with her team, sat through three sets of presentations from students who had dug into the numbers. “I just wanted a set of really smart eyes taking a look at what we’re doing.”

As it turns out, Taubman said, the third team of 48 students was closest to the real break-even point, but the specifics weren’t really the point.

“Having the opportunity to work alongside a real client in the industry made the material more enjoyable and engaging,” said Ariana Phillips, BSBA ’19, who is majoring in finance and Spanish. “Not only were we able to improve our teamwork skills, but we were also able to network with RISE professionals while better understanding their business model.”

Students dug into a variety of financial components to Taubman’s business, producing analyses of its variable and fixed costs, cost-volume profit, sales and expense budget, most profitable membership types, and a planned expansion to Denver.

Taubman was up-front about her lack of business credentials. Still, RISE is her second startup: She launched a tutoring company in 2013 while still teaching. She said the exercise with McLaughlin’s students gave her comfort that she was on the right track and that the expansion was worth pursuing.

“We wanted this to be real to students,” said McLaughlin, who had been friends with Taubman and knew of her interest in opening up the books for students.

“Our involvement in the RISE project was the quintessential way to apply the accounting knowledge we had accumulated over the course of the semester and actually see how and where it is used in the workplace,” Phillips said.

Pictured above: Student Alissa Geller, BSBA ’20, presents to Stacy Taubman, in the dark dress, center, front row.

Sarah Kaplan, BFA 2018, wrote this post on behalf of the Bauer Leadership Center.

Through a panel discussion cohosted by the Bauer Leadership Center and the Century Club Business Series, the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award honorees shared how value systems have shaped their career paths.

  • Zack Boyers, MBA 01’, chairman and CEO, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., St. Louis.
  • Shirley Cunningham, MBA ’08, executive vice president, AG Business and Enterprise Strategy, CHS Inc., Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
  • Munir Mashooqullah, MBA ’98, founder and custodian, Synergies Worldwide, Thailand.
  • Richard Ritholz, BSBA ’84, partner, senior portfolio manager and head of global commodities trading, Elliott Management Corporation, New York City.

A defining theme throughout the discussion was the significance of having a global perspective while relying on a focused value system.

Global Thinking

Richard Ritholz described not understanding globalization as going into a fight with one arm tied behind your back. In an increasingly “fast-changing and globalized world,” an appreciation for how other people think is incredibly important.

Having spent time abroad in England, Italy, Norway, and Holland working for Mobil Oil, Ritholz had to assimilate across many cultures.

“It really opened up my mind,” he said. “Without the experience of internationalization, I just don’t think I would have thought about things with as open a mind as I was able to, and I am not so sure I would have been as successful.”

Shirley Cunningham likewise shared how in her experience working around the world, a global perspective makes you think more broadly. “It makes you think in a more rounded way if you think about the globe as the opportunity versus just a narrow strip.”

With global opportunity also comes global responsibility. Munir Mashooqullah pointedly stated that all of us now have a global footprint.

“You cannot be a leader or a manager or have skills without understanding how things work around the world,” he said. Mashooqulla shared a tip he picked up from the president/CEO of Bain: CEOs have to be the leader of an ecosystem, not just a singular asset. This applies to not only global corporations, but also national organizations.

As Zach Boyers shared that working in a primarily US-based company, technology and global change still affect national organizations. In handling these global shifts and changes, it is important to have a dedicated core set of values to act upon.

Focused Values

In addressing a global business world, all four alums agreed on the importance of not just having core values, but focusing on implementing them within one’s own organization. Boyers got to the heart of the matter: “The question really becomes, what do values mean in practice and in an operating model in your business?”

To implement a core value of teamwork into his own operating model, Ritholz starts by understanding the impact of teamwork, then “I work backward and try to figure out what we need in order to engender that type of teamwork, spirit, and camaraderie.”

Mashooqullah shared another strategy implementing a values-based culture: Values must start at the top.

“We put on our website that reputation is what other people think of you, and that character is what you are,” he said. “Culture is important because without that, you cannot pre-populate an organization with what you think.”

Without a cultivated culture, it is difficult to act on specified values. Cunningham also emphasized a values-based culture. She shared an experience working in a blame-oriented culture.

From relying on her core values of integrity and problem solving, she was able to re-align with a business environment, which also supported that belief system. When it comes to values in a global world, a resounding reminder from these alums is that you cannot just talk to the talk, but you must walk the walk.

Be sure to click this link to see the Distinguished Alumni Symposium on April 12, 2018, or view the video below.

Don Dorsey, pictured in 2004,

Don Dorsey, pictured in 2004

C. Donald Dorsey, a member of Olin’s National Council, a longtime scholarship supporter, and distinguished alumnus, died on Thursday (May 3, 2018). He was 76.

Mr. Dorsey served as a senior executive for PetSmart during its rapid expansion from seven stores to more than 500. He even served a stint as interim CEO for the company’s operations in the UK, where he was credited with stabilizing its operations in the late 1990s and positioning the overseas unit for continuous improvement at that time.

Longtime members of the Olin community recalled Mr. Dorsey as a tireless booster for Olin and Washington University, where he received his BSBA degree in 1964.

“He was pretty close to me,” said Robert Virgil, dean emeritus at Olin. “He was one of my very first students when I started teaching. I go back a long way with him. I remember him well as a good student, a leader of his class and after graduating, a dedicated alum of Washington University—very generous.”

Virgil recalled Mr. Dorsey being very active in Washington University’s Scholarship Initiative Campaign. Indeed, he and his wife have been benefactors of the Donald and Lydia Dorsey Scholarship since 2006. Two years earlier, Mr. Dorsey had received Olin’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his career accomplishments.

“Don was a very special friend for Olin Business School and Washington University,” said Mahendra Gupta, former Olin dean and Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management. “He loved his school and his university and was always there to support them and to be a great ambassador.”

Gupta recalled recruiting a reluctant Mr. Dorsey to the National Council by inviting him to a meeting, where he was impressed by the membership of the group and the intense dedication each member shared for the future of the school. He joined the council in 2009.

“Don was an engaged member of the Olin community through his service on our National Council,” Dean Mark Taylor said. “His commitment to supporting students is inspiring and I am grateful for how welcoming he was during my first year as dean.”

Career Highlights

Mr. Dorsey was a St. Louis native through-and-through, graduating from Normandy High School, attending Washington University, and signing on for his first job with Price Waterhouse locally. He worked there 12 years before moving into general management with retailers in the grocery, automotive, and eye-ware industries.

In 1989, Mr. Dorsey joined PetSmart—three years after it launched—as senior vice president and chief financial officer, helping the company through enormous growth. The chain had blossomed to more than 500 stores and Mr. Dorsey helped guide the company through its 1993 IPO before he retired in 1999.

“Being a CPA was a strong background for moving into general management,” Mr. Dorsey said upon receiving recognition as a distinguished alumnus. “In building PetSmart, we began by working with consumer focus groups to discover what our customers really needed. From that basis, we built on the concept of one-stop service for their pets.”

At about that time, after his leadership, the company’s UK unit was acquired by UK-based Pets at Home in December 1999. PetSmart later went private after its 2015 takeover by BC Partners for $8.7 billion.

Following his retirement, Mr. Dorsey worked as an adviser and investor for several development-stage consumer-related companies such as Ulta Beauty and Five Below.

His wife Lydia and his children were with him at the time of his death. Mr. Dorsey is survived by his wife, Lydia; daughter, Lisa. and son-in-law, Ken Stewart; daughter, Christine Dorsey; stepsons, Eric Bazarnic and Cliff Bazarnic; daughters-in-law, Lynn Ducey and Zoja Bazarnic.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Pictured above: National Council member and BSBA ’64 Don Dorsey with Frank Duan, BSBA ’16, recipient of the Donald and Lydia Dorsey Scholarship.

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