Economists often characterize events that rock financial markets as either “heat waves” or “meteor showers.” The former is regional—a weather event that disrupts trade or slows commerce in a confined area.
In contrast, “meteor showers” are wide-spread, global events, creating long-term disruptions for international supply chains and economic systems. Now, a dozen weeks into the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, we are all perhaps more familiar with metaphorical meteor showers than any of us would like to be.
As I noted in my previous Desk of the Dean column, the effects of this crisis have brought into stark relief the ways we will need to approach business education going forward. The need for a global perspective on business is more imperative than ever. The way we provide that global perspective for our students will likely change—and that change is reflected in a new approach we’ll soon introduce for Olin undergraduates.
A global school—in the heart of the US
Since arriving at Olin, I’ve been keen to ensure 100% of WashU Olin students have a global experience. We took an extraordinary step forward for MBAs in 2019 by launching our three-continent global immersion.
Undergraduates starting in the fall of 2021 will benefit from our latest innovation: a “global mindset” degree requirement for Olin BSBA students, a framework designed to ensure every undergraduate can gain international business experience—whether or not they travel abroad.
Paige LaRose, associate dean and director of undergraduate programs, spent more than a year spearheading the planning for this new degree requirement, which faculty approved on February 10. She has been tremendously skilled at navigating the barriers to implementing such a requirement.
To be sure, a high percentage of our undergraduate students already participate in global experiences through Olin’s comprehensive menu of more than 20 programs including study abroad, international internships and experiential learning projects. More than 60% of BSBA students go abroad as part of their business school experience.
Accommodating various needs
For many students, traveling abroad is not an easy task. Health concerns, student athletics and other issues present challenges, we must acknowledge, that some students cannot overcome. Indeed, our approach perhaps anticipates concerns the pandemic has wrought, while still stressing the importance of that global perspective.
“It’s really about the difference between having a global experience and gaining a global mindset,” Paige explains. “What’s the learning outcome? At graduation time, what sort of competency do we hope our BSBA grads have?”
Focusing on forging a global mindset for our students opened opportunities for us to accommodate students for whom traveling abroad was impossible or inadvisable. Options include independent study coursework focused on global business issues, credit-bearing independent research, and a second major or a minor in a foreign language.
The variety of options fall into two categories: One focuses on academic and professional exposure to global business issues. The other exposes students to global cultures, people or philosophies through volunteerism with immigrant communities, experiential learning projects or new courses still in development.
“There was a recognition that we had to do more,” Paige said. “We had to do more to promote a global mindset. We’re just doing it in some innovative ways.”
Lexi Jackson, BSBA ’20, was the student speaker at her virtual graduation recognition ceremony on May 15. She plans to serve her new St. Louis community as a Lead for America fellow, working to promote environmental justice and economic development in the city’s frontline communities. Today she writes for the Olin Blog about why she made a four-year pledge in support of merit-based scholarships.
I was sitting on a crowded school bus in April 2016 when I received the call. Trying to tune out the background noise, I answered the call from an unknown number with a hesitant greeting. I could have never anticipated the response waiting on the other end.
“Congratulations, Lexi! You have been named a Class of 2020 Dean Scholar, underwritten by Jerry and Judy Kent, for the Olin Business School!”
These words carried with them a full-tuition scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis and membership in a cohort of top scholars from around the country.
Growing up in the small town of Nixa, Missouri, I could have never imagined that I would join the ranks of business scholars who had held internships in high school that would be coveted by any college student. My high school did not offer a robust business curriculum and very few members of my graduating class went on to pursue a four-year professional degree of any kind.
After my father suffered a severe car accident that rendered him disabled and unable to work, I knew my family could not finance an education at a private university. All things considered, the odds were not in my favor to become a Dean Scholar at the Olin Business School…and then Judy and Jerry Kent entered the picture.
The Kent Family has generously established the Judy and Jerry Kent Scholarship Fund, which underwrites scholarships for a cohort of BSBA students each year. As Missouri natives, I related to the Kents’ journeys of working their way through college and their careers to make a difference for so many others.
They saw a potential in me that not even I was able to uncover. Through their generosity and support, I attended one of the most prestigious universities in the world and graduated from a top-ranked business school.
I am especially grateful for the opportunity to have put a name and face to those that made my education possible. Through the Scholars in Business program, I was able to connect with the Kents every year, write to them every semester, and learn from them every day.
The value of my university education is priceless. It has opened doors that would have never been possible for me otherwise.
I am inspired by the Kents’ generosity and am forever grateful for my Olin education. As I enter the professional world as an alumna, I pledge to make the same commitment to future scholars of the Olin Business School. While my initial donation was meager, I plan to substantiate my pledge as I progress through my career.
If I could one day provide the same opportunity to another student that the Kents provided to me, it would be the greatest honor of my life.
I encourage the Class of 2020 to take up a similar charge. We are graduating in the midst of one of the most uncertain and destabilizing moments in time. While our class will forever be immortalized in history, it is up to us to immortalize our legacy. Contributing to the future of our institution and its scholars is one of the most meaningful ways to do just that.
Thank you, Judy and Jerry Kent, for giving me the gift of education. I have cherished every moment of my time at Olin Business School and will carry its lessons with me throughout my life and career. Through contributions to the Scholars in Business program, I hope to make the same opportunity possible for other students for years to come.
The classmates of Lexi Jackson, BSBA ’20, chose her to deliver the student speech at their graduation recognition ceremony this year. This is the speech she delivered.
To the Olin Business School Class of 2020, I am honored to be addressing you today from my small Missouri hometown to the corners of the universe you all call your home.
For those that may not know me, my name is Lexi Jackson, I am a double major in organization and strategic management and political science, and I feel just the way I am sure all of you feel right now: reflective. We are reflecting on our past four years and the abrupt end that we could have never expected.
We are contemplating our future plans and how they may have dramatically changed within the past few weeks.
Most of all, however, we are considering how our time at the Olin Business School has cultivated a new knowledge base, connected us to tomorrow’s leaders, and prepared us to enter this world that is more rapidly-changing than ever before.
Early memories from Olin
I remember my first day at the Olin Business School. I walked by the BSBA office only to be greeted by Dean LaRose and Dean Malter who both knew my name (even when I, admittedly, hadn’t yet learned theirs). I remember my sophomore year when Professor McLaughlin sat down with me in the Einstein Bagel’s atrium to learn about my passion for public service and non-profit work and to share some advice of his own.
I remember BSBA adviser Analisa Ortiz visiting our cohort in Chile while we were studying abroad our Junior Spring, sending her heartfelt condolences to learn about the passing of my father just a few weeks before. I remember walking around at the senior social just a few weeks before spring break, reconnecting with various former group project members, MGT 100 class members, and the people who had become to feel more like family members than peers.
These memories do not just happen at every business school. But Olin isn’t like any other business school. We are graduating from a business school that emphasizes ethical leadership above any profit-seeking motives. We are graduating from a business school that recognizes the global impact of our actions, and does not work to benefit one country alone.
We are graduating from a business school that inspires the entrepreneurial change maker in all of us—whether we are starting our own company or simply innovating an existing workplace from the inside out.
Succeeding in a post-COVID world
These are the skills we will need to succeed not only in the COVID and post-COVID worlds, but throughout our careers in the public and private sectors. As Olin graduates, we will be leaders in our companies and organizations—leaders that are not afraid to take calculated risks to produce change or to make the right decision no matter its impact on the bottom line. The type of leaders this world desperately needs.
So, class of 2020, as you watch this speech today and receive your diploma from a postal worker that you can only imagine to be Dean Taylor, I encourage you to continue the reflection that quarantine has naturally begun.
Reflect on the memories that Olin has brought you—the functional AND dysfunctional group settings, the sunsets through the Bauer Hall windows that cast a shadow on another problem set started a bit too late, the waves from professors, friends, and peers in the endless Simon hallways.
Reflect on the lessons Olin has taught you—the values-based, data-driven approach to learning and leadership that makes our community unlike any other.
And reflect on the role YOU will play in enacting change at every stage in your life and career. They say COVID-19 will make the history books, but so will we. Congratulations to the Olin Business School Class of 2020! Let’s go make history!
Brock Mullen, BSBA ’23, wrote this for the Olin Blog. He is majoring in finance and Chinese.
We all have difficulty processing change – not knowing what the future holds can be intimidating. However, by embracing differences and learning to love them, we can improve our future.
On my first day at WashU, my dorm went through a roll call to make sure everyone had moved in. While waiting to be called, I realized I had never heard almost any of the names being called out: “Ezinne,” “Ishana,” “Hans,” “Karinne.” These were nothing like the names from back home; I was used to the five Jakes and seven Graces I had grown up with since preschool. I later recognized I had been presented with the first major change of my college experience, and I knew there would be a lot more heading my way.
My hometown of Parker, Colorado, is quite different from WashU. Parker is virtually homogenous racially, politically and economically. I got used to being around people just like me, so it was uncomfortable to be around so much newness. In my initial shock, I wasn’t sure how to address the variety of novel perspectives now presenting themselves as names, ideologies and more. I knew that this change was happening whether I wanted it to or not. I needed to learn how to cope.
Coping with change
I spent a lot of time reflecting on my new experiences. Soon after processing the new faces, ideas and perspectives, I came to realize that college is about more than learning from lectures and textbooks. It’s about learning how to handle change. Life is not predictable. So, in order to take full advantage of my life and time at WashU, I needed to master the skill that is processing and internalizing change.
To grasp change and make it easier to handle, I always look for the positive in every situation. There is always something good to cling to! Through my optimism, I enhance my ability to accept change. Focusing on the benefits, especially when facing inevitably uncomfortable situations, will allow you to overcome them and seize the opportunity to learn.
Since learning how to embrace change, I have been the recipient of seemingly endless benefits. Still, it’s not easy to immediately absorb and accept the changes thrust upon my day-to-day. It is through consistent reflection that I continue to learn so much about other cultures, people, and lifestyles different from mine back in Parker. By seeking out opportunities to engage with change, I am a more well-rounded person and better prepared to tackle the future challenges of my life.
One day, early in the coronavirus crisis, one of Camryn
Okere’s favorite off-campus restaurants closed forever. And that’s when she
realized she had to do something.
After Bobo Noodle House shuttered, and as other small businesses were suffering, the soon-to-graduate WashU BSBA student knew she could help. Two weeks later, she’d recruited WashU classmates and business students from a dozen other schools to join her. Rem and Company was born.
“Seeing a local business I love permanently close
was heartbreaking,” Okere said. “When I see
problems in my everyday life, my community and my environments, I am inspired
to work to implement change.”
In just a few weeks, Okere’s initiative — “a social impact initiative focusing on keeping doors open and dreams alive” — has helped small businesses stay up to date on industry trends, learn new approaches from peers, build networks and adapt as the world changes. In many ways, Rem and Company has begun solving problems on two fronts.
On one front, as small
businesses and nonprofits fight for their lives through the global pandemic,
students and recent graduates are banding together to offer free consulting
support to help proprietors engage with customers, reimagine business models and
diversify product offerings.
At the same time, as the
crisis wreaks havoc on corporate hiring, those same students are confronting a
summer without jobs and internships by putting their education into practice.
students are sitting at home right now and they don’t feel valued,” said Okere, who named the initiative after the stage of sleep in which
people tend to dream vividly—because the coronavirus pandemic is something of a
nightmare. “Our mission and core values provide many individuals—especially
students uncertain about their next career steps—with a sense of value and
From zero to helping in weeks
From conceiving Rem and Company to
launch took about two weeks. Today, more than 80 students and recent
graduates have banded together, representing schools including Wharton,
Harvard, Duke, Northwestern, Columbia, Vanderbilt, and, of course,
cooperative, which stays connected through Slack and Google Drive, is also
drawing on experienced mentors from organizations such as Google, McKinsey
& Co., Morgan Stanley and The Wall Street Journal.
“The real idea is to empower the
students,” said Janine Toro, user experience designer and researcher for The Wall Street Journal, who managed Okere
when she was a summer intern last year. “She’s picking the projects
and assigning the right people to them. I’m more of the resource provider for
Toro isn’t surprised
that Okere so quickly got her inspiration up and running. “I was referring to
her as the person who I will work for in five years,” she said. “When I first
met her, I could tell she was very driven.”
At least six small businesses as
close to WashU as St. Louis and as far as India have signed on for consulting
support. Okere spends a lot of time outlining initial client needs
and coordinating team assignments, evaluating which volunteers have
the complementary expertise to support which projects. Their consulting teams
provide small businesses with the opportunity to identify and prioritize business
issues, propose innovative strategies and execute.
Engaging with customers
“I’m very super excited to have some support,” said Ann Lederman, executive director for The Buddy Fund, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that provides athletic equipment to organizations serving at-risk youth. As the sole employee of the 58-year-old organization, “My position has been taxed in the areas of branding, board engagement and being present online.”
She’s seeking help from
Rem and Company to maintain donor relationships and prepare for the possibility
that the organization’s largest annual fundraiser—a golf tournament—might not
be able to happen in September as planned.
Rem and Company helped a
Philadelphia-area rock-climbing company develop an innovative engagement
strategy around virtual experiences. Student teams have also worked with
small businesses or nonprofits in New York, Connecticut, DC, and
other US cities, as well as international locations such as India and Finland.
The cooperative is focusing for now on organizations within the fashion, nonprofit, dining and fitness industries. Once she and her colleagues weather the pandemic, Okere said her next steps might be to develop a long-term business plan and eventually see how Rem and Company can get funding.
“It’s been amazing to see this all mobilize in such a short amount of time and the outpouring of support from the WashU community,” Okere said. “I’m not someone who is going to just sit around.”
To learn more about the ways Washington University students, faculty, staff and alumni are caring for one another and our communities, visit #WashUtogether.
The 100 teams, including 243 students across programs, each submitted a two-minute elevator pitch-style video describing their innovative product idea. Pitches were then reviewed by a panel of 87 judges, including alumni and St. Louis entrepreneurs and funders like Carl Casale, Maxine Clark and Valerie Toothman.
Submissions came from Olin and non-Olin students in every
grade and program, including students in the first-year Management 150 course
who pitched a product as part of their final projects.
“Entrepreneurship is one of our core pillars at Olin—and we’re proud of the entrepreneurial ecosystem St. Louis has achieved,” Dean Mark P. Taylor said during program to reveal the winners. “Being part of that is so important to the school—and this contest has in its first year proven to be a great way to bring us together and celebrate the creation of new business ideas.”
Doug Villhard, director of entrepreneurship for WashU Olin, announced the award of four top prizes, including first- and second-place awards for both graduate and undergraduate students.
First place: Pareto
The pitch: An innovative solution to the multi-billion dollar problem of infusion drug wasting every year. Pitched by Mitchell Lynn, Rachel Heymach and Kelley Coalier
Second place: Lifted Pouches
The pitch: A pre-workout supplement in pouch form. Pitched by Derek Leiter, Tyler Edwards and Irina Grekova
First place: 3Dux Design
The pitch: An architectural modeling system consisting of cardboard connectors and curriculum that supports STEM education globally. Pitched by Ayana Klein
Second place: Alms Banking
The pitch: A credit union that generates revenue and donates it to charities. Pitched by Chase Kallhoff
Villhard announced 50 runners up, a mix of undergraduate and graduate student projects who each received a small grant.
Runners up listed in order from first to 50th.
Sanitek | A health club yoga mat sanitation solution.
Z Education | Education consulting focusing on helping Chinese students find universities in the United States.
Empower Through Health | Empowering marginalized societies to achieve self-sufficiency.
Sirona | A digital health platform where medical data can be accessed at any time, anywhere.
Localize | Simply connecting users to volunteer opportunities.
SpanAbility |Virtual reality games for stroke rehabilitation.
Halo |A durable, yet fashionable bracelet that tests for drink-spiking drugs.
True You | Concierge name-change service for individuals to claim or reclaim their identity after a major life event.