Tag: Undergraduate



Picture is of a smiling young white woman with long green hair wearing a long-sleeved gray shirt with arms crossed. She is standing outside with track and field equipment under a blue sky with puffy white clouds.

Leah Wren Hardgrove came to Washington University in St. Louis with the desire to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for people with disabilities.

Born legally blind, Hardgrove grew up understanding that society was not built for her.

“I would not be who I am without my disability, and I would never choose to not have my disability. The discomfort I’ve experienced is what motivates me to make the world a better place,” Hardgrove said.

She envisioned going to law school, but discovered a different path though business. Her “aha” moment came when Starbucks announced its eco-friendly plan to eliminate plastic straws.

“It wasn’t legislation; the company had the power. And it had a ripple effect on others,” said Hardgrove, noting the move came at a cost: some people with disabilities need straws. “Clearly, if I want to make lasting societal changes, I need to be in business.” 

Hardgrove is set to graduate in May with dual degrees in marketing and organization and strategic management from Olin Business School. Marketing, she said, has the power to normalize disabilities through better representation. Yet many aspects of marketing — like print ads — are not accessible for people with certain disabilities.

Hardgrove was selected as a Lime Connect Fellow, a highly competitive leadership development program, where she connected with other student leaders with disabilities. She also interned at Google, where she contributed to an accessible marketing guide for advertisers and hosted talks about good representation in media.

“Google is the industry leader. If they adopt accessibility practices, it will have a domino effect on others,” she said. 

At Washington University, Hardgrove was a thrower for the track and field team and a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. Over the last year, she has made and donated face masks with a clear plastic mouth covering so others can read lips.

After graduation, Hardgrove returns to Google, where she will serve as associate product manager. “Society is not built to include people with visible and invisible disabilities, and I’m going to change that through strategic product development, people management and brand management,” she said. “Nobody should feel less valuable because of a physical or developmental difference.”

Leah Hardgrove, a member of the track and field team, will work at Google to make products more accessible for people with disabilities. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)




In the past decade, the art world has witnessed the rise of historical, museum-quality blockbuster exhibitions in commercial art galleries.

They are a sign of a changing environment. Traditional roles are interchangeable and boundaries are blurring. Why and how are these expensive shows conceived and put together? What is their goal? And what are the results for the galleries that organize them?

Valentina Castellani, former director of New York’s Gagosian Gallery, discussed these questions and more in the inaugural Women and the Kemper Public Lecture on February 20.

In her talk, “Blurring the Boundaries: The Rise of Blockbuster Museum-Quality Exhibitions in Commercial Galleries,” she focused the Gagosian exhibitions Picasso: Mosqueteros and Piero Manzoni: A Retrospective.

Women and the Kemper and Olin Business School cosponsored the event. Olin offers a minor in the Business of the Arts. Visit olin.wustl.edu/arts, or contact us at 314-935-3329, sandraphilius@wustl.edu.

Watch the event and Castellani’s lecture here:

Photo: Frances Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo




Russ Shaw, BSBA ’85, was one of three people the Queen of England recognized as a commander of the British Empire in 2021. Shaw received the honor for his contributions to technology and business in London. Here, he describes how his Olin education helped him get there.

My Olin education covered four years, receiving a BSBA and majoring in accounting and receiving minors in economics and Spanish. I also participated in a number of extracurricular activities, with a particular highlight being a student representative to the Washington University Board of Trustees.

I certainly used the knowledge gained in my coursework in many aspects of my career. Some of the standout courses for me were macroeconomics, statistics, finance, marketing and a great course in leadership during my senior year.

My days are never the same as founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. I meet with many startups, scale-ups and investors across many tech hubs around the world. I talk to journalists and do media interviews frequently, and I am in contact with various UK government agencies.

Many tech hubs

Through Global Tech Advocates I have travelled to many tech hubs both large and not-so-large, meeting amazing entrepreneurs with great visions and aspirations. I have hosted tech events spanning from San Francisco and New York to Shanghai, Bangalore, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Bogotá, Madrid, Shenzhen, Milan, Stockholm and, of course, London.

A key part of my role is to put the spotlight on critical issues that impact tech ecosystems. This includes issues around talent, diversity & inclusion, digital skills, infrastructure and access to funding.

I was honoured to be recognised by the Queen in her New Year’s Honours list as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).  This is one of the highest levels of recognition in the United Kingdom by Her Majesty. The CBE has been awarded for service to business and technology.  I was honoured to meet Queen Elizabeth several years ago when she and Prince Philip hosted a technology reception at Buckingham Palace.

In terms of advice as students embark on their careers, I always say that there are two components that are integral to any career journey: reputation and network of contacts.  Both need to be nurtured and developed throughout a career. I also encourage students to travel and see the world, to keep expanding their horizons and to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.




In “The Business of Elections” (I60 BEYOND 102), over 70 students examined the 2020 presidential campaign through the lenses of both political science and business. Andrew Reeves, associate professor and associate chair of political science in Arts & Sciences, and Steven Malter, senior associate dean of experiential learning and strategic programs in the Olin Business School, co-taught the course.

The class was part of Beyond Boundaries, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program. In it, first-year students tackle big societal and intellectual challenges over a two-year course of study. About half the class were Beyond Boundaries students and half were other first-year students.

Real-time study of an unprecedented year

As the campaign progressed throughout the fall, students explored the latest developments in class.

“We were living and breathing it along with everybody else, and it was just omnipresent in our discussions,” Reeves says.

Student projects included examinations of a presidential debate, the election outcome, the effect of candidate policy positions on the business sector, and the future of either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

The intersection of business and politics

In addition to analyzing the daily grind of the campaign, the course explored the similarities between business theory and political science. Malter and Reeves compared building a coalition of voters to building a customer base. Where political scientists might consider the effectiveness of get-out-the-vote strategies, entrepreneurs examine return on investment and market share. This analogy was evident during the 2020 campaign, they concluded.

“There were times when it was evident the president was just worried about his base and wasn’t looking to expand the market share,” Malter says, comparing that approach to Apple only focusing on existing iPhone users instead of finding new customers.

Studying campaigns as startups

One of the class goals was to help students understand that the entrepreneurial mindset can apply to a wide variety of endeavors, including social ventures, nonprofits, medical practices and even campaigns.

“A startup is going to produce a product, whether it be toothpaste or an app. What does that product look like from the perspective of a campaign? It’s an elected official who’s going to run the country potentially,” Reeves says.

The challenges of teaching during COVID-19

COVID-19 moved the course online and forced Malter and Reeves to rethink their plans, including hosting the election night watch party on Zoom. However, their biggest concern was connecting with students.

“These are first-year students,” Reeves says, “and the most frustrating part was to not be able to be with them in the same room.”

“But I think we were both really surprised because we had an incredibly engaged class for being 100% virtual,” Malter says. They credited their three teaching assistants with making it possible to have meaningful dialogues with students in the Zoom breakout rooms.

A silver lining to virtual classes is the ability to bring in speakers from across the country, such as a Florida pollster and a policy adviser to previous presidential candidates.

Looking to the future

Malter and Reeves believe the course was a success and look forward to teaching it again.

“I think everyone really enjoyed it,” Malter says. “It was a unique approach to traditional topics.”

They also look forward to meeting someday.

“Steve and I have no idea how tall each other are — we’ve never been in the same room together,” Reeves laughs.

Julie Kennedy is a senior editor for Washington University’s Office of Public Affairs.




A new WashU course, Innovation for Defense, will give students a chance to define and solve problems facing the US intelligence community starting in spring.

An inter-disciplinary entrepreneurial course, Innovation for Defense is open to students from McKelvey School of Engineering and Olin Business School. The class (consisting of roughly 10 Olin students and 10 McKelvey students) is co-taught by Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship at Olin, and Peggy Matson, professor of practice, Sever Institute, McKelvey. The course brings together people from the Olin business community and the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Exploring current problems—like moving people and supplies through checkpoints in a secure way, helping pilots quickly acclimate to a variety of aircraft and reducing technology downtime by using IT data to create proactive solutions—will be a driving force behind the student’s learning.

Each class problem has a dedicated sponsor from the Department of Defense who will be regularly engaged with the team. Student teams will learn to use the Lean Startup methodology and Mission Model Canvas, made famous by Stanford University, to iteratively cut through the complexities of these issues.  

The Innovating for Defense course is building on the partnership with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), and includes the recently awarded National Security Academic Accelerator grant which seeks to launch new ‘dual-use ventures’ from the University’s existing intellectual property.

Jake Laktas, university program director at WashU, representing NSIN says, “This course’s model is unique because it can be an equally valuable learning experience for DoD partners as it is for the students. University problem solvers who are unencumbered by existing thought processes can lend brand new approaches and unique contributions to our nation’s most difficult technology and security challenges.”

It is interesting to note that a student does not have to be a citizen of the United States to take this course and none of the DoD problems are confidential.

“None of these business problems are classified. It is not innovating for war, or something secret; it is innovating for large organizations. It will teach students what the DoD is, how to interact with it, how to support it, and how to ultimately support the economy,” Villhard said. “It’s almost like a mirror of the commercial market when you consider how many different things there are to do within the DoD.”

The course was created to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to students and introduce the concept of interdisciplinary teams. These students will gain hands-on experience that can be useful in any work situation in the future and will look excellent on their resumes. It teaches how to seek out problems, find solutions, and consider monetization.

Find the original post on the Innovation for Defense class, from the Skandalaris Center, here.

Above: Credit, Shutterstock.




Snacklins, a company that produces plant-based alternatives to pork rinds, nearly tripled its sales in 2020 in the highly competitive snack food industry.

Jeremy Sherman

Fans of NBC’s “Shark Tank”might recognize the brand from its appearance on the show in 2019, when founder Sam Kobrosly walked away with an investment from Mark Cuban.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, Snacklins has continued to pursue industry success, undergoing a major rebrand to create a more interactive, internet-accessible brand. The effort to differentiate Snacklins and draw consumer attention was led by Olin alum and Snacklins Marketing and E-Commerce Manager Jeremy Sherman, BSBA ’15.

Consumers seek products online

Sherman and his team noticed that the pandemic pushed consumers to seek out products online. They struck out to create a brand that offers both a great product and an interactive, fun and personable online experience. They decided to launch a complete rebrand, selling the same product using a new website, new packaging, new flavors and bigger bag sizes.

The key to the rebrand, Sherman said, was to “create a whole personality around” Snacklins.” The goal was to make its product “not just fun to snack on, but to interact with.” The company had to be innovative, while incorporating its core personality and spirit in its new marketing campaign. To do this, the Snacklins team kept a simple and bold design and introduced engaging new features on its website, including a game called SNAC-MAN .

Snacklins has been recognized for the success of its rebrand, earning a feature in Forbes magazine.

Olin’s influence

Sherman credits Olin’s influence with allowing him to consider himself a “business generalist, with the ability to think about economics, operations, supply chain and marketing.”

Olin provided him with a valuable foundation of business knowledge, he says. He credits his Introduction to Entrepreneurship class for arming him with the ability to understand the mechanics of entrepreneurship, especially how to transform a vague idea into a complete business plan. The creativity and entrepreneurial spirit he acquired during his time at Olin still guides his work today, he said.