Tag: WashU at Brookings



MBA

The global immersion is back and in full swing! Olin’s MBA Class of ’24 kicked off their six-week global immersion program in Washington, DC, last week. 

They met with policymakers and industry professionals at the Brookings Institution while completing their Global Institutions and Values class, taught by Professors Trish Gorman and Sharon James. The course is designed to give students unique access to experts on global issues through Olin’s partnership with the Brookings Institution, one of the world’s leading think tanks and policy centers. 

Students at the Brookings Institution.

At WashU at Brookings, students were treated to guest lectures by leaders from the Center for European Policy Analysis, American Enterprise Institute, Refugees International and more. 

Students made the most of their trip, visiting the National Mall for a monument tour, browsing through museums to gain relevant knowledge for their team projects and walking through historic Georgetown. The week culminated in the presentation of individual assignments — specifically, access and identify components of an effective COVID-19 policy that incorporates public health as well as business interests.

The global immersion is now truly global: Students landed in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday, July 17, and will travel to Paris and Santiago, Chile, before heading back to St. Louis to begin the fall semester. 

Bon voyage, MBAs!




Kelsey Wortmann, PMBA 49 (with book), asked a question of Ron Christie (on screen, left) during the 90 students

The return to a sense of normalcy and traditional in-person events continued in late April as more than 90 PMBA students arrived in Washington, DC, for their two-day residency at the Brookings Institution.

Students arrived for the trip in time for dinner on April 27 and spent the next two days in conversation with noted political insiders, media experts and policy wonks—all in service of connecting the dots between business, government and policy.

More than 90 PMBA students from four different cohorts went to Washington, DC, in late April 2022 for their two-day residency at the Brookings Institution.

“We spend so much of our time optimizing our market strategy, but there are so many other factors at play,” said Archie Karanwal, PMBA class 48, a product owner at Edward Jones. He said the Brookings residency was a great opportunity to gain an understanding of some of those other factors.

Indeed, the trip is a manifestation of Dean Mark P. Taylor’s oft-stated desire that every WashU Olin student have a Brookings experience during their time. The April residency included students from four different PMBA cohorts: classes 46, 48, 49 and 50. The two-day visit even included an evening tour of DC monuments among the activities on April 28 and 29.

Ian Dubin, associate dean and managing director for WashU at Brookings, exhorted the students to bring their own experiences and professional work with them as they listened to and engaged with the speakers, who covered topics including cyber-security, the government regulatory process and Congress.

“It’s not all like cable news here in Washington, where people are yelling at each other all the time, believe it or not,” Dubin said.

Speakers included Ron Christie, CEO of Christie Strategies and former deputy assistant to the vice president for domestic policy under Dick Cheney, who shed light on the more subtle interactions that occur among policy makers and elected officials—and who reinforced the importance for business leaders of understanding that process.

Students from PMBA 48 including Courtney Kube, left, and, from right, Archit (Archie) Karanwal and Ashley Dowd, went on a nighttime tour of the DC monuments during their April 2022 residency in Washington. Archie’s significant other, Swati Patel, white coat, joined the tour.

Those connections were not lost on Kelsey Wortmann, PMBA 49, a product planner at Emerson. “I hadn’t realized how actual work gets done in Washington. I never really thought before about how easy it is to make connections.”

Other speakers included:

  • Michael Fitzpatrick, director of global strategy and innovation, Google; former associate administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget
  • Jim Papa, senior vice president and managing director, Global Strategy Group; host of Staffer podcast; former special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; former House and Senate senior staffer 
  • Susan Page, author and Washington bureau chief, USA Today 
  • Steven Chabinsky, former deputy assistant director, cyber division, FBI 
  • Hon. Albert Wynn (D-MD), senior director, Greenberg Traurig LLP; former member, energy and commerce committee, US House of Representatives 
  • An assortment of foreign policy experts.

Pictured at top: Kelsey Wortmann, PMBA 49 (with book), asked a question of Ron Christie (on screen, left) during the 90 students’ visit to DC for a two-day residency at the Brookings Institution.




Top row, Seethu Seetharaman, Michael Wall, Anthony Sardella; bottom row, Annie L. Shi, Chenthuran Abeyakaran.

Data scientists from WashU Olin have developed a process for flagging suspicious transactions across 100 pharmaceuticals—a process with a stunningly high level of precision and one that can immediately take aim at curbing the country’s decades-long opioid epidemic.

Working with a US Drug Enforcement Administration database that tracked six years’ worth of pharmaceutical transactions, the five researchers developed an “anomaly detection” system that could flag future suspicious shipments with 100% precision.

In other words, as the researchers noted, when their process says a transaction is suspicious, it is. Basically, their anomaly detection system doesn’t flag a transaction unless it’s sure—which does mean some bad buys could sneak under the radar if they don’t meet the system’s criteria.

“The signals of anomaly detection are very strong for these egregiously suspicious buyers,” the study’s authors wrote. “This renders our algorithm very valuable for practical use.”

Built to guide the fight

The system was conceived as a tool to help deploy limited resources as authorities tackle illicit trafficking in narcotics.

“Having 100% precision is a very important feature of our (process),” the research team wrote in its paper, under review with the Journal of Marketing. “We are willing to sacrifice some recall (and increase false negative errors) in order to enable the practical adoption of our proposed algorithm.”

The research team—all associated with Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights—includes Annie L. Shi, a doctoral student in marketing; Seethu Seetharaman, co-director of CABI and Olin’s W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing; Anthony Sardella, CABI senior research advisor; Michael Wall, co-director of CABI and a professor of practice in marketing; and Chenthuran Abeyakaran, BS ’21/SI ’23.

Their work comes under the auspices of the Olin Brookings Commission, a project operated by WashU Olin and the Brookings Institution to address critical policy issues affecting communities. The project is funded through a grant from The Bellwether Foundation.

Organizers of the first commission under the Bellwether grant focused on the opioid epidemic that’s killed half a million individuals in the US in the past two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In July, the federal government reached a $26 billion settlement with the country’s three major drug distributors and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for their roles in the epidemic.

“Addressing this issue and enabling distributors to have a predictive system that can be used to flag and halt suspicious orders of opioid drugs, is the central focus of this study,” the research team wrote in its paper, “Nip it in the Bud! Managing the Opioid Crisis: Supply Chain Response to Anomalous Buyer Behavior.”

Training the anomaly detector

The team “trained” its anomaly detection system by using a recently released DEA database called Automated Reports and Consolidated Ordering System—or ARCOS.

That database tracked millions of prescription drug transactions—their manufacture and distribution—spanning 2006 to 2012. By zeroing in on opioid transactions, with the guidance of a smaller database of known illicit transactions, the research team identified patterns of behavior across 40 different criteria. The scholars also developed a standard they called “morphine milligram equivalents”—or “MME”—to create reliable comparisons among various opioid transactions.

Ultimately, they found that seven criteria were enough to create an extraordinarily precise tool to flag suspicious transactions. For example, when looking at “average MME purchased per transaction,” suspicious buyers purchased almost 10 times as much as legitimate buyers. When they looked at “median MME purchased per transaction,” suspicious buyers purchased almost 20 times as much.

In the context of the research team’s detection and alert system, members of the Olin Brookings Commission will likely investigate proposals that affect public policy affecting the trafficking of illicit narcotics. Some of those policy areas could include:

  • data sharing and cross-agency communication;
  • revised and modernized data reporting;
  • funding sources and spending needs for system maintenance;
  • response guidance when transactions are flagged.

Pictured at top: top row, Seethu Seetharaman, Michael Wall, Anthony Sardella; bottom row, Annie L. Shi, Chenthuran Abeyakaran.


“Sixty-five years after Emmett Till’s death, we’re in the middle of this long summer of Black death. How did we get here?”

Vice Provost Adrienne Davis

On a Zoom webinar attended by more than 200 individuals, moderator Adrienne Davis, vice provost and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity at Washington University, set the tone for an evening of frank and honest discussion on race. Davis reminded attendees of the upcoming 65-year anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till at the hands of white supremacists.

Moments earlier, Dean Mark Taylor had introduced the evening with a nod to Jacob Blake, a Black man shot several times by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and who lay in a hospital as the panelists spoke—one of countless recent victims of state-sanctioned racial violence.

So began the WashU at Brookings-hosted event, “From Ferguson to Minneapolis: Where do we go from here?” a conversation on race, values and equity in light of current events. Moderated by Davis, the event featured Missouri State Sen. Brian Williams and Brookings Institution fellow Andre Perry.

Williams represents Missouri district 14, part of St. Louis County. He is a member of multiple committees and serves as a board director for People’s Health Center, where he helped develop a behavioral healthcare center for children in underserved communities.

Perry is a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. A nationally known commentator on race, structural inequality and education, he is the author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.” Perry is a regular contributor to MSNBC and has been published by The New York TimesThe NationThe Washington Post, TheRoot.com and CNN.com.

‘It’s personal to me’

The conversation was far from theoretical; Perry and Williams both shared their own experiences with racial profiling. “If I take off this pin,” Williams said, gesturing to the lapel pin indicating his status as a state senator, “I’m no different than George Floyd, or Michael Brown.”

Perry agreed, sharing, “This is an ongoing conversation I have with my child, with myself. This is something that’s become a 400-year long epidemic, plaguing our communities.”

The theme of an epidemic echoed throughout the evening; Williams asserted that “racism, like COVID-19, is a virus that has yet to eradicate itself.”

Rooted in data

In addition to sharing historical information that contextualized the state of racial tension in the United States, Perry and Williams looked to concrete examples of the present-day roots of racism, and how those roots expand beyond racist attitudes or policing.

“This issue is bigger than police,” said Perry. “There’s nothing that says a Black person doesn’t belong in the economy more than a police officer snuffing his life out. That’s a values statement—and I’m glad we’re having this conversation in a business school. You can’t separate social and economic issues of racism: these attitudes are shared throughout all of society. They just look different.”

Perry cited statistics from his new book—including a study that controlled for education, crime and walkability—and found that homes in Black neighborhoods are undervalued by about 23% in the United States.

Looking to the future

When Davis asked what disparities each panelist would solve if they were given a magic wand, their answers were immediate. For Perry, it would be economic justice—which includes reparations, “not just because of the wealth it would create, but because it’s morally the right thing to do. We’re owed that money.”

Williams focused on education: “I would fully invest our public education system to ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity for a quality education.”

Though the topic was tough, the evening inspired hope for a brighter future. “I’m feeling hope in a way I haven’t before,” said Perry. “What’s new right now, is I’m seeing young people of different races and people from around the world demanding change.”

William shared his plans for a comprehensive police reform bill, introduced as Senate bill 16 in the Missouri legislature—and reminded viewers of their civic duty. “It’s time to turn that energy into action—and we do that at the ballot box. This isn’t about you or me. It’s about the future we want for our families and communities.”

Perry encouraged participants to get involved with an organization focused on racial justice—and make realistic steps toward making a difference. “Being remarkable isn’t about you—it’s about joining a remarkable movement.”




Zandy Schorsch, MBA ’19, contributed this blog post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

Oscar Wilde once said that rugby is a good occasion for keeping 30 bullies far from the center of a city. This semester, students from the undergraduate and graduate levels of Washington University Olin Business School have been working with the Center for Experiential Learning to perform the opposite—assess the viability of bringing a professional rugby team to the city of St. Louis.

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, and Major League Rugby was founded last year to provide fans with professional-level rugby competition here in the states. The league kicked off its inaugural season with seven original teams. With nationally televised games on CBS and sold out tickets in many of the cities, there is a growing sense of optimism as MLR prepares for its second season.

The league has aggressive plans for expansion, with teams in New York and Toronto joining for the 2019 season and Atlanta, D.C., and Boston joining in 2020. St. Louis has emerged as one of the potential cities for an MLR expansion team, and the CEL was hired by a local entrepreneur to determine whether such a venture is feasible.

The CEL’s client, a husband and wife duo with a lifelong passion for rugby, believe the loss of the city’s football franchise has created an opening for rugby. Through dozens of interviews with rugby players, coaches, executives, and MLR league officials, the CEL team developed a strong understanding of how a rugby team in St. Louis would operate and the number of fans it would be able to attract.

Although St. Louis has always been a baseball town, there are hundreds of registered rugby players in the local area across all levels of the sport, as well as several nationally recognized rugby programs.

While the CEL team was able to develop a demand forecast for rugby in St. Louis, only so much can be learned about stadium financing and team operations from phone interviews and emails. As a result, the client decided to bring the CEL team to Glendale, Colorado, to meet with the Raptors, the MLR regular season champions, to learn more about the business side of rugby operations.

Learning about rugby operations from the Raptors.

During a full-day of meetings with the Raptors, the CEL team learned about stadium financing, team and stadium operating costs, revenue drivers, marketing and sales strategies, and unexpected expenses associated with managing a professional sports team.

The CEL team also got to learn the fundamentals of rugby from some of the professional players, such as tackling techniques and field goal mechanics.

While the CEL team requires more practice if they hope to play professionally, the data the team was able to collect from the Raptors proved invaluable for their analysis. The client capped off the trip with dinner at a local pub, a great opportunity for the student team to connect with their client informally.

Upon returning to St. Louis, the CEL team took the lessons learned from the Raptors to develop a financial model the client could use to make an informed decision about bringing professional rugby to St. Louis. The team developed an intuitive financial model that accounted for attendance numbers, concession sales, merchandise sales, stadium costs, advertising, and a host of other variables posed several challenges.

Effectively communicating the outputs from the financial model, as well as highlighting the key assumptions and inputs that produce those outputs, was also critically important.

By building a strong relationship with the client throughout the semester, and leveraging the abundant resources of the CEL and Washington University, the CEL team was able to provide a final deliverable that gave the client a holistic view of everything that goes into managing a professional sports team and stadium.

The financial analysis demonstrated that a team in St. Louis is feasible, so be on the lookout for a local MLR team in near future.

Overall, the CEL is a unique opportunity for students to work on real-world projects that have a direct impact on their community. Bringing a professional sports team to St. Louis is the type of project that major consulting firms and investment banks would be envious of, and for the clients who hire the CEL, they get to receive professional-level services from the very students who, upon graduation, will be joining those types of companies.