Meet Washington University’s Olin MBA Class of 2017

Members of the Class of 2017 at Washington University's Olin School in St. Louis

Members of the Class of 2017 at Washington University’s Olin School in St. Louis

How is this for an eclectic class? At one end, you’ll find Richa Gangopadhyay, a former Miss India USA who has starred in Tollywood blockbusters alongside celebrities like Daggubati Venkatesh and Dhanush. At the other end, there is Markey Culver, who founded The Women’s Bakery, whose business model is designed to provide jobs for women in Rwanda and Tanzania. In between, you’ll find West Point’s Danny Henry, who went from being a U.S. Army Infantry Officer to a business development manager. Or, how about Cambrie Nelson, a middle and high school history teacher who co-founded a social impact firm that develops events and training for community partners.


That’s just a small slice of the 2017 Class at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.  Long known as an academic powerhouse, Olin’s full-time MBA program was ranked 4th for “intellectual capital” (i.e. research prowess) by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014. That’s better than B-school faculty earned at Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, or Columbia. Despite its “brainy” reputation, don’t assume Olin’s curriculum is predicated on “sage on the stage” lectures – or where students are simply a means to fund research. Instead, you could describe the Olin’s approach as experiential and collaborative, with a hands-on faculty and a strong emphasis on critical thinking.

With just 280 full-time MBAs, Olin is also the smallest of the Top 20 programs. Olin’s class size presents several benefits, say students. “Having attended a smaller university after coming back from my five-year pursuit in films to finish my undergraduate degree, I know the value of one-on-one connection with faculty,” Gangopadhyay shares. “You are not ‘just a number’ here, and faculty members really invest in your personal and professional growth. A smaller community really allows you to forge life-long bonds with your fellow students and professors, and that is invaluable.”

Beyond access and personal attention, the size also amplifies student involvement and accountability. “I loved how small the program was because my goal is to develop into a more vocal leader, adds Courtney Lee, who graduated from Brown and most recently worked for Franklin Templeton Investments. “A small program makes it hard to hide in the masses.”

Evan Bouffides

Evan Bouffides

Not that you’ll find any wallflowers in this class. As a whole, you could describe them as seasoned and purpose-driven, says Evan Bouffides, the school’s assistant dean and director of graduate admissions and financial aid. “What strikes me most about this group is [their] awareness of the broader environment within which businesses operate,” he tells Poets&Quants. “Time and time again throughout the admissions process, we read or heard stories about individuals who are looking beyond having a great professional career trajectory. These students are seeking an education that will provide a platform upon which they can offer meaningful growth and change in their neighborhoods and communities, their cities and towns, and in their countries.  We are proud of their achievements and look forward to what they will become.”


For the 141-member 2017 class, Olin drew 1,581 applications, down from 1,685 apps for the previous year. The school reported a 30% acceptance rate, up from 26.7% with the 2016 Class. Academically, the median GMAT rose to 710 from 700 in the previous year, with the mean GMAT slipping to 695 from 699 (a point higher than Texas McCombs). The overall GMAT ranged from 570 to 770. In terms of undergraduate grades, the mean GPA also dipped from 3.43 to 3.40 (The same GPA as incoming students at Ross, Goizueta, and Kenan-Flagler), with averages stretching from 2.6 to 4.0.

However, the big difference in the 2017 Class involves women, whose presence jumped from 28% to 40% in one year. This places Olin nearly neck-and-neck with Harvard and Haas in terms of female enrollment. At the same time, the incoming class’ percentage of international students sunk from 39% to 35%, with the percentage of underrepresented American minorities rising from 15% to 17%. Both the percentage of women and minorities are all-time highs for Olin, with Bouffides adding that 2017 represents the second-largest class of military candidates in school history.

Overall, the incoming class comes from 17 different countries. They also bring 52 months of work experience (compared to 48 months from the 2016 Class). Over a third – 36% – earned engineering and science degrees as undergraduates, giving the class a strong STEM backbone. Business and economics (35%) and humanities and social sciences (29%) majors constitute the remainder of the class.

Go to next page to access student profiles of this year’s incoming class. 

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.