Meet Washington Olin’s MBA Class Of 2020

Dean Mark Taylor with Assistant Dean Ruthie Pyle (Center) and a student.


Academically, the class earned undergraduate degrees in a wide range of fields. Business and Social Sciences represent the largest segments of the class at 26% each. Technically, STEM majors are the biggest bloc, however. Combined, Engineering (21%) and Natural Sciences (11%) take up 32% of class seats. At the same time, Economics (10%), and Humanities (6%) make up the rest of the class. Professionally, the school doesn’t report the industry backgrounds of its first years.

Like any home, the Olin Business School requires renovation. Let’s just say Dean Mark Taylor is doing far more than a fresh paint job according to a 2018 interview with P&Q, Taking a page out of the London Business School, Taylor shares that his team is making the MBA more flexible, with departure options ranging from 14 months to 2 years. The goal, he says, will be to “accelerate their studies and enter the workforce faster, or combine their MBA training with a specialized master’s degree in accounting, finance, business analytics, or supply chain management.”

Taylor also reveals that program was beefing up its career center staff by a third, with staffers now found on the east and coasts – and China too. “One highlight of the past 12 months is a top-to-bottom restructuring of Olin Business School’s Weston Career Center” he tells P&Q in a September statement. “In partnership with Boston Consulting Group—which independently engaged with students and recruiters to understand their needs while conducting a competitive analysis—Olin implemented sweeping changes aimed at better aligning support for students, capitalizing on emerging employment trends, and providing a singular point of contact for students throughout their Olin career. The restructuring centralized Olin’s corporate relations and business development to further generate and expand existing career opportunities across industries, functions, and the globe.”

An Olin MBA classroom.


“The global” is critical for Dean Taylor, who hopes his legacy includes making Olin “the most international program in the world.” That will start with a mandatory six week global immersion to kick off the program. “Students starting Olin’s full-time MBA in 2019 will embark on the nation’s – and possibly the world’s – richest global experience in business education,” he explains. “Our newly redesigned program, well into the planning stages, will take beginning MBA students around the world at the start of their studies. They’ll become deeply grounded in the principles of business management and leadership—but they’ll do it in the context of a series of global experiences.”

How will it work? Well, Dean Taylor has it already plotted out. “They’ll spend a week emerged in the intersection of business and policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, leveraging a partnership with the world’s premier think-tank that’s unique in business education,” he writes. “They’ll spend two weeks in Barcelona, following by 17 days in Shanghai, learning core business principles in the morning and applying them to real-world situations through team projects, in-depth research, and engagement with corporate partners on the ground. They’ll return to the WashU campus with an appreciation for how business works—and leadership decisions are affected—by the global context in which they work.”

Such global programming will only increase the program’s appeal to incoming students like Lizaveta Miadzvedskaya, a Belarus native who studied chemistry as an undergrad. “As a first-generation immigrant, I have first-hand experience navigating two different cultures and have found that understanding a culture can completely change the world of opportunities for an individual or a company. I chose Olin because its programs, diverse student body, and study abroad opportunities will allow me to gain the cultural competency that I need to succeed in my career.”


Olin MBA students in a conference room.

What does Dean Taylor that applicants knew more about? That would come down to the program’s rich tradition – and broader vision for the future. While he wouldn’t characterize the program as “underrated,” Dean Taylor does consider it more “understated.”

“From our beginning in 1917, Olin has been a leading influence on business, cultivating leaders who make decisions based on their individual, corporate, or societal values—grounded in their rich analysis of the data and the evidence,” he adds. “With the launch of our strategic plan in 2017, we’ve made a bold claim on what’s always been in our DNA: That we develop business leaders skilled at applying that appreciation for data and values—creating change, for good.”

That’s not to say the program won’t continue to play to its traditional strengths. The investment in the Weston Career Center comes amid the program continuously ranking among the top MBA programs for placement. Within three months of graduation, for example, 97.2% of the Class of 2017 had already landed jobs, with starting pay coming out to $149,407. That school also features an unexpected benefit: St. Louis itself. Home to 10 Fortune 500 firms – including Express Scripts, Centene, Emerson Electric, Monsanto and Edward Jones. On top of that, the Gateway City has emerged as a tech and startup hub, ranking among the top metros for both tech jobs (ZipRecruiter) and young entrepreneurs (Lending Tree).

“The key factor that led me to choose this program was its location in St. Louis,” says Shaun Brij Vaid. “The city has become a center for innovation in the tech industry and continues to make incredible strides in the fight for racial equity.”


Where is the Class of 2020 starting after arriving on campus? Many are making a b-line to Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), where students can apply what they learned in partnership with real companies on real projects. In the process, students are gaining resume-building experience during CEL, with the goal of formulating lasting solutions.

Olin students gather after class.

“You are paired with a company, startup, local nonprofit, or national NGO to dig in and solve critical issues facing their organization,” Kris Fenn explains. “I am excited to work with nonprofits in St. Louis—an area I am quickly falling in love with! I also plan to be a part of the Olin Women in Business organization. They have several exciting initiatives happening around equity and ally ship I am eager to explore.”

This eagerness will soon be turned to startup pursuits. Looking ahead, Erik Andrew, for example, plans to start a business that serves the St. Louis community. Felicia Kola-Amodu’s plans are even bigger, as she is already laying plans for her “Adopt a Child’s Education” non-profit. More personally, Bruno Moreira Yamamura is dreaming of stepping out of the family business and launching a startup of his own.

For her part, Jessica Sanchez Chavez hopes to become an example for what others can achieve.

I see myself in a recognized position, managing a great team and solving complex problems. Every MBA’s dream, right? I want to do different things that I’m really passionate about at my job, and I see myself transmitting that to others.”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates. 


Student Hometown Alma Mater Last Employer
Erik Andrew St. Louis, MO University of Missouri US Marine Corps
Kris Fenn Salt Lake City, UT Wesleyan College University of Utah (Eccles School of Business)
Brinda Gupta Naperville, IL Saint Louis University Washington University (Brown School)
Abraham Kola-Amodu Lagos, Nigeria Bowen University KPMG
Felicia Kola-Amodu Oyo, Nigeria Bowen University Enterprise Holdings
Lizaveta Miadzvedskaya Krichev, Belarus University of Texas-Dallas Baker Botts
Bruno Moreira Yamamura São Paulo, Brazil University of Campinas Ponta Iluminação
Richard Obiora Atlanta, GA Emory University Logicworks
Claudia Ortiz Albert Valencia, Spain Campbell University Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria S.A.
Jessica Sanchez Chavez Havana, Cuba University of Havana Citibank
Justin Smith Granite City, IL Southern Illinois University United States Army
Shaun Brij Vaid St. Louis, MO George Washington University BJC Healthcare

Meet the Class of 2020 Series

London Business School

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

MIT Sloan School of Management

Columbia Business School

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

Yale School of Mnnagement

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

New York University’s Stern School of Business

Emory’s Goizueta School of Business

Washington University’s Olin Business School

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