Do you believe the company you work for cares about you? Do you feel you have a purpose at work?
“Sixty percent of employees express a need for purpose at work,” Anjan Thakor, Olin’s John E. Simon Professor of Finance, said during a recent Business Research Series event. “But they don’t get it at work.”
In addition, “88% of employees in US companies feel that the company they work for does not care for them,” Thakor said in his March 3 virtual presentation titled “How Can You Create a Purpose-Driven Organization?”
“Everybody hungers for purpose.”
The answer lies in organizations’ embracing an authentic higher purpose, he said, with the higher purpose as the “arbiter of all decisions.”
This election year, WashU Olin students, faculty and staff are making values-based, data-driven decisions as they vote early, vote in person or return their absentee ballots. Our community is driven by the desire to change the world, for good, by voting with their values and researching what’s on the ballot.
For some in our community, this election was their first. Kristy Chan, EMBA advisor, shared that she was “excited to vote for the first time as an American citizen!” Others waited in long election day lines, volunteered at the polls or helped to get out the vote.
Check out scenes from WashU Olin’s community of values-based, data-driven voters.
Katherine Dudley, BSBA ’22, is a Wood Scholarship recipient, part of Olin’s Scholars in Business Program. This year, Howard and Marilyn Wood have generously committed to match all new and increased gifts and multi-year pledge payments for undergraduate and graduate scholarships—up to a total of $400,000, through June 30, 2021. Dudley shares how the Wood Scholarship has impacted her studies.
I remember my first visit to Washington University. When I walked on campus I just knew this school was the best fit for me.
I remember telling my mom on the campus tour, “This is it. This is where I have to go to school. I love everything about it. It’s perfect.”
My mind buzzing with possibility, I started working on my application the day I got back home. I applied early decision, which meant that I checked my email obsessively throughout the beginning December, hoping with my whole my heart that WashU would welcome me to its freshman class.
There was one day, though, that I did not check my email. It had been a busier day than usual, and my dad took one of my three sisters and me to watch a collegiate volleyball game. We arrived home to the house decorated with red and green balloons and streamers: My mom had seen the news of my acceptance to the school of my dreams. My future never felt brighter!
Then came the tough part. How could my family possibly afford to send me to WashU?
I am the oldest of four girls, and I grew up rarely seeing my dad due to his ever-changing, chaotic work schedule. He was always there for me—and when it came to my education, he said, “That school is worth every penny of the tuition. If she can get in, I’ll make it work. I’ll add shifts, I’ll do whatever it takes because Olin is worth it, and so is Kat’s future.”
For me, to hear his response now fills me with joy that my dad was so proud and loved me so much that he was willing to add to his work load. Yet, hearing his response also adds new perspective. Extra shifts would mean that he would be away from my mom and sisters even more than he already is.
With my family and future at Olin in mind, I got to work writing essays for scholarships. I applied for each of the five scholarships available to Olin students. And in the same way the news of my acceptance to WashU became an unforgettable moment, Dean Malter’s phone call to personally tell me he loved my essay changed my life once again. In my essay I had written about my experience with Athleta, a national athleisure fashion company, and the nonprofit that I started in my hometown called Koats4Kids. Both experiences reflected my passion for helping kids and teens through clothing.
I was on the treadmill completing a track workout at the local rec center when my mom ran over shouting, “Kat, Kat, Dean Malter is on the phone!” I immediately pulled the emergency treadmill cord, jumped off, grabbed the phone and ran to the empty dance room to find some quiet.
Breathing heavily and drenched in sweat, my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest from nervous excitement. My mind was spinning. Dean Malter shared that Olin would like to offer me a full-ride scholarship.
In shock, my legs gave out from under me and I collapsed into a crouched position. I turned to my mom and with tears in my eyes mouthed, “full-ride.” And I can honestly say I don’t remember much of what happened right after that because I was so happy and excited that I just started to laugh and cry, and I think I remember my mom cheering and crying too. The best part of this story was telling my dad, who has been my biggest supporter and has made so many sacrifices for my family and me.
The Wood Scholarship has given me the gift of time and focus. Without the pressure to find part-time work, I have been able to commit myself wholeheartedly to academics, track and leadership roles at Olin. I will be able to study abroad, represent Olin as a rising intern and engage fully in all of the opportunities Olin provides outside of the classroom. The college experience I have dreamed of is now possible because of the generosity of the Wood family. My family’s and my profound gratitude for the Wood Scholarship is matched by our pride as a WashU family.
I am also grateful for my growing relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Wood. Their generosity continues to change the lives of students like me. In later years, when I am a successful Olin alumna, I will pay the Wood’s kindness forward, with the goal of impacting the lives of future Olin students, just as the Woods have forever changed mine.
About Howard Wood
Howard Wood, BSBA ’61, grew up in the lead mining community of Bonne Terre, Missouri, just sixty miles south of St. Louis. His parents, both schoolteachers, wanted him to attend college, but they did not have the financial means to support his education. Howard and his brother, Donald Wood, BSBA ’66, received scholarships from Henry Day, president of a mining and manufacturing business in Bonne Terre.
After graduating from Olin, he went on to have a successful accounting career at Arthur Andersen & Co., quickly rising through the ranks. Switching gears, he took on the roles
of CFO and CEO of Cencom Cable Television before co-founding two telecommunications companies, Charter Communications Inc. and Cequel III LLC.
Howard has been a champion of WashU Olin Business School for decades. Since 1995, Howard has served in leadership roles for the Olin Alumni Association and Olin National Council. In 1998, he established the Wood Leadership Fellows Program, which evolved into the Wood Scholars Program in 2016. Wood Scholars receive significant awards to attend Olin each year.
Howard also served on the Washington University Board of Trustees beginning
in 2000 and was named an emeritus trustee in 2011. He has been heavily involved in the success of the university and Olin and hopes to ensure a bright future for even more students through this challenge.
Samuel Chun is assistant dean, director of executive education and a professor of management practice for WashU Olin Business School. In his role, he’s collaborating with colleagues from the business school and the Brookings Institution to transform how executive education is delivered during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. He responded to questions for the Olin Blog.
How has the pandemic affected the way your team thinks about executive education?
Well, it’s been a transformation. First of all, the core of our activity until February 2020 was the face-to-face executive education offering that’s been every school’s standard—emphasis on “was.” Obviously, that’s not possible for probably another year or so.
So, everything we’ve managed to save has been converted to some kind of electronic delivery. A few years ago, Professor Tom Fields and I experimented with virtual programming. While it worked well enough, I think the assessment was that without face-to-face, the networking aspect really fell off. Really, until seven months ago, no one actually thought executive education could, or should, be done electronically.
Now there’s no choice: we are all learning how to teach, learn and network in novel ways.
How do you see your offerings evolving over the next few years?
What we’re mostly doing right now is what we call “virtual education.” In essence, that means taking our standard classroom materials and piping it through a platform, like Zoom, or Teams. Once we can get back to face-to-face, I think most of that will go away.
Someday, executive education may offer purely online, asynchronous programming that people can take whenever they want, but that’s a pretty full and competitive space.
So, “online” is probably a longer-term proposition. What we’ll probably develop and keep are “digital executive education” programs, which combine our live [electronic] connections with asynchronous online content. I think that’s a viable—and value-adding—proposition for several of our clients. Digital education will be here to stay.
In a recent Olin town hall, you mentioned that the Center for Digital Education has developed a learning management system for use with outside clients. Tell us more.
Ray Irving and his CDE team have been developing a Canvas-like platform (Learn.Washu) we can use for non-WashU affiliates such as corporate clients. It’s phenomenal, and they’ve made incredible progress since we piloted it during the MBA program’s global immersion experience last year.
It’s got course material storage and delivery, interactive communication features, video capabilities, announcements and a lot more. It helps us integrate our clients into the Olin community, which is something our Washington University systems don’t allow.
On top of that, it will have an alumni/lifelong learning area that will also be accessible to our clients. That’s a kind of continuity that we’re really looking forward to being able to offer.
So where does executive education go from here?
Well, the first priority is to re-engage clients who’ve elected to postpone until the pandemic is over. Basically, I’ve heard our physician community suggest this is not going away anytime soon, so “waiting for this to end” isn’t an acceptable option for any company that wants to keep up with executive development.
The next thing would be to continue expanding our offerings in the digital space. Finally, broadening our geographical (and client) reach is definitely something we’re already pursuing. I think digital education and Learn.Washu will take us a long way towards those goals.
Pictured above: Sam on a break from teaching an executive education course from his home teaching studio.
“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.
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.”