HARDLY A MIDWEST SCHOOL
2017 was a good year to be an Olin grad. The graduating class pulled down $108,000 median bases and $25,000 median bonuses, with nearly half of the class entering financial services and consulting. Despite Olin’s ‘reputation’ as a regional school, just 44% of the class remained in the Midwest. Instead, over a third of 2017 grads struck out for the coasts. “While you certainly can get a job in St. Louis or the Midwest at Olin, the opportunities at the school are all over, says Conn Davis, a 2017 Best & Brightest MBA who landed a job at Bain & Company. We have students that are going to the East Coast, the West Coast and all over the world. Olin may be in St. Louis, but it opens doors to wherever you want to go.”
Olin has also gained some momentum from bringing Mark Taylor over from Warwick to serve as dean. Ruthie Pyles, the school’s assistant dean and director of admissions, notes that “a spirit of innovation, change, and entrepreneurship has swept through the halls” in a statement to Poets&Quants, “His depth of experience and expertise in academia and industry, combined with his intellectual curiosity and passion for education, has energized our community and provided inspiration that will take Olin to new heights,” she says.
Pyles cites other positives over the past year. Notably, Olin ranked as Poets&Quants’ top undergraduate business program in 2016, a testament to the program’s top-to-bottom excellence. In addition, the school celebrated its centennial, a chance for the Olin community, from staff to alumni, to reflect on the school’s history of accomplishments as it opens a new chapter. Thus far, the story ahead looks quite promising, as the school begins laying out a new vision that leverages its strengths while expanding opportunities for its students.
NEW DEAN PUTTING PROGRAM UNDER A “STRATEGIC REFRESH”
“Dean Taylor and his senior leadership team have been diligently working on a five-year strategic plan that will provide a dynamic new vision for Olin Business School,” Pyles adds. “The classes of 2020 and 2021 can expect a world-changing business education—one that will help them become leaders of integrity with a strong value system, the ability to solve complex problems, and a global viewpoint, no matter the size or location of their organization.”
In an October interview with Poets&Quants, Taylor portrayed this process as a “strategic refresh,” with options like adding a one-year program on the table. “If you want to do the 12-month MBA perhaps you can use the second year to get some applied experience in an extended internship in a company with a data-rich environment and then some online learning that could provide a second master’s degree in data analytics,” he says. “So after your two years you could have a lot of experience, an MBA and a master’s in data analytics. I think that would be very attractive to some people.”
If you asked Taylor what separates Olin, he would probably frame its value proposition this way: “Olin Business School offers world class instruction, faculty that is second to none in the world and who are very approachable,” he says. “There is an intimacy in the classroom between faculty and students that would be hard to find elsewhere in top schools. Everyone who comes to Olin has a name and a story. You are well known by the faculty and supported by an excellent staff.”
WORLD CLASS CAREER CENTER PRODUCES 97% PLACEMENT RATE
This pitch, however, overlooks some key elements of the Olin experience. Like the larger university, Olin is known as a research-driven and highly academic program. What’s more, the school has increasingly devoted resources to entrepreneurship and hands-on learning. In particular, the school operates a Center for Experiential Learning, a project funnel that provides experience to students with Fortune 500 and St. Louis firms alike.
However, the most impressive tool in Olin’s arsenal is the Weston Career Center. It’s no accident that the 2017 Class boasted a 97% three month placement rate – a number that’s consistent with past classes and ranks among the best in the world. At Olin, the center acts like a hub, partnering with faculty to embed career content in core courses and electives. At the same time, the center coordinates closely with students by divvying out the funding to their clubs. As a result, career development is top of mind across the business school.
That said, St. Louis may be the school’s most underrated asset. The $150 billion dollar economy boasts 18 Fortune 1000 companies, including Monsanto, Emerson Electric, and Edward Jones – not to mention the iconic Anheuser-Busch InBev. It is also home to a booming entrepreneurial scene. At its center, you’ll find the bustling Cortex Innovation Community, home to nearly 250 companies near the city’s park district. In recent years, the region has also produced big name startups like Answers.com, Aisle411, and Lockerdome – with Confluence Life Sciences taking a $100 million dollar exit in 2017 as well.
For entrepreneurial-minded students looking to become first adopters, St. Louis is the perfect place to set up shop. “St. Louis is a very affordable city for any full-time student trying to live frugally,” observes Cassis. “Also, this city has a booming start-up scene, an established business district, and many companies that are connected to Olin.”
The Midwest aesthetic only enhances the value of Olin grads in the marketplace adds Taylor. “There is this strong Midwestern culture which is very open. There is a strong work ethic. It is based on integrity and straightforwardness which I think is very valuable in business life. Rather than be a bolt on, ethics is integrated in all our coursework.”
THE HIGHER THE DISCOMFORT, THE HIGHER THE SUCCESS
What’s ahead for the Class of 2019? Palmer will measure the success of his first year by how much value he can bring to his class. “In the Army,” he says, “we used to start our days repeating our warrior creed, which contained a line I’ve always loved that states: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” In the military, our success was not heightened when a comrade failed, and here at Olin I really believe that the more success we individually and collectively experience, the better off we all are. If I can be a resource and not a liability to both the program and my peers, I’ll feel successful.”
Amatya will hold off judging her experience until she starts back in medical school next year. For her, business school is an avenue that will enable her to bring greater value to her patients when she returns to healthcare. “I would consider it a success if I could transfer skills I learned from Olin to improve patient care. In fact, I chose to do the MBA before my 3rd year of medical school in order to hone skills like critical thinking, effective communication, and teamwork.”
However, Edwards plans to spend this next year becoming very uncomfortable. In the past, he regrets playing it safe, avoiding courses and activities that stretched him. Now, he plans to indulge in what might scare or embarrass him.
“I plan to give up looking good,” he states. “I’m going to step far out of my comfort zone because I need to extend my leadership skills and technical competencies in ways I haven’t. I plan on taking a supply chain course even though I’m concentrating in brand management. I’m going to join the case study competition team despite my fear of public speaking. I’ll also be attending every corporate networking mixer to learn from industry leaders even though I am quite the introvert. I’m finally going to invest in my learning, and I’m looking forward to my failures.”
To read profiles of incoming Olin students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.
|Rina Amatya||Marina Del Rey, CA||Princeton University||Washington University School of Medicine|
|Madalyn Cassis||Millis, MA||Simmons College||The Food Project|
|Bhuvi Chopra||United Arab Emirates||Delhi Technological University||Toshiba Corporation|
|Gheremey Edwards||Memphis, TN||Vanderbilt University||Frayser Achievement Elementary School|
|Susan Fontana||St. Louis, MO||Creighton University||Conagra Brands, Inc.|
|Naveh Malihi||Tel Aviv, Israel||Technion – Israel Institute of Technology||Intel|
|Ricardo Marrujo Mexia||Covina, CA||St. Johns University||Ladder Up Financial Services|
|Sharon Mazimba||Lusaka, Zambia||St. Lawrence University||Akros, USAID Systems For Better Health|
|Hyrum Palmer||Auckland, New Zealand||Brigham Young University||Concerned Veterans for America|
|Bryant Powell||Philadelphia, PA||Penn State University||iN Demand|
|Ashia Powers||Detroit, MI||North Carolina State University||State Farm Matt Voorhees Agency|
|Candice Yi||Chicago, IL||University of Illinois-Chicago||Nancy M. Vizer P.C.|