2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Elizabeth “Elle” Berger, Washington University (Olin)

Elizabeth “Elle” Berger

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

“I am loyal, honest, focused, outgoing, hardworking, anxious, yet determined to make differences that truly matter.”

Hometown: Belleville, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I can rapid-fire recite all 50 United States in alphabetical order.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Southwestern Illinois College—Associate of Arts and Associate of Science

Harris Stowe State University—Bachelor of Science in Biology

Washington University in St. Louis—Master of Engineering in Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering and Master of Business Administration, Consulting Platform

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Before my acceptance to Olin, I worked on campus at the Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center as an Access Control Host/Membership Specialist.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? During the summer of 2022, I had already started at WashU Olin and spent six unforgettable weeks of that summer studying in Washington, DC and then abroad in Spain, France, and Chile as part of the incredible Global Immersion program. This experience sets our institution far apart from others.

Where will you be working after graduation? Upon graduation, I will be working for ExxonMobil as a Commercial Advisor.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  1. Chancellor Scholar
  2. Forté Fellow
  3. Olin Scholars in Business Program: Jeanne & Robert Golden Scholar
  4. Olin Women in Business, Vice President of Alumni Relations
  5. Olin Finance Club
  6. Olin Strategy and Consulting Association
  7. Olin Entrepreneurship and Venture Capitalist Association
  8. Graduate Professional Council
  9. Graduate and Professional Student Advisory Council
  10. Association of Graduate Engineering Students (former Executive Board)
  11. WashU Energy Club (President, Co-Chair of Reinstatement)
  12. American Institute of Chemical Engineers
  13. Society of Women Engineers
  14. Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization
  15. WashU Women in STEM
  16. WashU Energy Alliance
  17. Clair County (Illinois) Jr. Service Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was one of a three-person student team comprised of MBA students from varied disciplines, including engineering, business, and social work, invited by Professor Peter Boumgarden to represent WashU at the Cornell Case Competition for Family Ownership. I had zero knowledge of case competitions, but I immediately set my nerves aside and committed to the challenge as I had a feeling it would be a great experience. Plus, WashU fully funded it.

A week before flying to Cornell Tech in New York City, our team gathered to strategize and prepare a cohesive slideshow that dissected, per a strict set of parameters, our assigned family-owned energy company. The weekend event consisted of two rounds of high-pressure presentations to a C-suite executive representing the company, other students, and a panel of carefully selected and experienced judges from a wide variety of business spaces. The first presentation was the slideshow we had prepared that week. For the other presentation, we had one evening to prepare using information gathered during that day.

Ultimately, our Team WashU brought home second place, an extraordinary accomplishment considering this was the first foray for WashU, and we were competing against seasoned case competitor second-year MBAs. Rising to this challenge gave me even more pride in my beloved WashU and more love for public speaking. It further solidified my competitive spirit and renewed within me faith that I am capable, versatile, and able to conquer any challenge put in front of me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At 22 years-old, my professional career has been part-time employment paired with rigorous academics in multiple collegiate environments, including junior college and an HBCU for my undergraduate work. My proudest achievement is my anticipated May 2023 graduation from WashU with two master’s degrees and to have already secured a fantastic job opportunity with ExxonMobil.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Olin because I wanted to be a part of history, a part of something way bigger than myself, and a part of the power and prestige that embodies campus. Growing up, we took one-day field trips to St. Louis, and I would walk the beautiful campus with my family. I remember I could almost feel the brain power and prestige emanating from the sidewalks and historic arches of Brookings Hall—and I feel the same to this day. I knew there was a tight network of WashU alumni, all wildly successful in their careers and dedicated to the success of the university and the promotion of student success.

I chose Olin because I wanted to be part of all of that. Attending Olin is a dream I never thought I could dream, let alone achieve. It is hard to encapsulate into words the excitement and pride I felt when Dean Taylor reached out to me to apply for my MBA. Then there was the disbelief I felt when I was accepted topped off by receiving a Chancellor Scholarship and Forté Fellowship. I chose Olin, and Olin chose me, and I have never felt more appreciation and admiration for a campus of dedicated professionals, there solely to help make my dreams come true.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This was the toughest question because, without exception, every professor has helped me in some way. For me, though, the standout is Professor Peter Boumgarden, who routinely goes above and beyond to excavate student interests, applies his knowledge, and unselfishly shares his vast network of business professionals to help students.

Professor Boumgarden’s involvement on campus as the Koch Professor of Practice for Family Enterprise has put me in the enviable position to learn from industry greats in the classroom, at campus symposiums, and at networking events. Professor Boumgarden’s positivity, energy, support, and encouragement have boosted my confidence and have helped solidify my affinity for business, especially the intricacies of family business and how that relates to the world.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? As a dual degree master’s student, I witnessed Commencement Day. It instantly struck me as my favorite campus event, not because graduation means leaving but because of the attention to detail and the love that goes into putting that entire event together. Last spring’s Commencement happened to be a hot, sunny day. The campus was so beautiful, with flowerpots and perfectly pruned shrubs in carefully-tended planting beds along sidewalks cooled by the shade of giant hardwood trees that hold untold stories of the past. Campus comes alive, and the day is dedicated to students, their families, and friends, mingling among beloved faculty cloaked in goosebump-worthy collegiate regalia. Everyone is gathered to celebrate outstanding collective accomplishments. Brookings is the most sublime and stately backdrop to the lower campus festival featuring local food trucks, games, photo booths, drink stands, and campus swag stations. It gave me a sense of pride, and I felt grateful to have another year on campus. This year, however, my favorite event will bring with it a heavy heart as I will be facing the exit from my WashU campus home.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I work hard never to have regrets, but one is not investigating further a course offered over winter break that involved a trip abroad to Israel. The experiences overseas that Olin promotes and facilitates have provided me with a worldview that I would likely never have gotten otherwise.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about my school is the prestige the university has worked long and hard to earn rightfully, which somehow makes it snooty. This could not be farther from the truth. From day one, I was embraced by campus staff, including academic advisors, who were the epitome of professionalism and displayed unmatched attention to detail in advocacy for student success. Olin hosts multiple events that help new students get acquainted, including “Admits Weekend,” which is full of mixers, networking events, shared meals, group activities, and fun opportunities to be gifted with coveted WashU swag. Everyone knows each other by name before setting foot in the classroom, which speaks to the dedication Olin has to set the stage for a fantastic campus experience.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most about business school was how approachable every professor has been. In my mind, I had concluded that, as a STEM brain, I would have difficulty integrating. Quite to the contrary, Olin has further highlighted my inquisitive nature and helped me finetune my ability to excavate answers, a skill I developed early on and continued to build on as I navigated the challenges of the WashU engineering program.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I firmly believe that people do not care what you know until they know you care. To that end, from the moment I even considered throwing my hat in the WashU admissions process, I set about networking, creating, and cultivating a robust tapestry of brilliant WashU minds who willingly fielded my zillion questions on the application process. So that I was able to have meaningful conversations, I did professional research on every person who interviewed me. As it turned out, through organic conversation, I figured out that I had a mutual professional connection with one interviewer, and I believe that my ability to be conversational and establish that one small-world connection helped place my hand firmly on the doorknob of WashU, that ultimately opened and led to my admission, not once but twice.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire so many of my classmates, but I choose Corinne Hibbett as the most admired. In the short time I have known Corinne, she has taken the time to get to know me and has always been a safe person to be myself around. Corinne is beautiful inside-and-out. She is smart, creative, giving, and so funny! During Global Immersion, we bonded over our love of fashion and photography. In France, we were invited by a WashU faculty member to tour KCD Paris, one of the best-known marketing/PR firms for industry greats such as Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Tiffany & Co. Our time together abroad helped us develop a friendship for which I am forever grateful. I cannot wait to see where Corinne goes in life because she sparkles, so whatever she chooses, I know she will be a spectacular success.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? At the top of my professional bucket list is to do public speaking engagements in front of large audiences, and next is to remodel an old filling station into a smash burger joint with my best friend/dad as “chief flipper,” aptly named Berger2.

What made Elle such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“I got to know Elle early in her Olin experience through our Global Immersion in Barcelona. Demonstrated in both the group work and broader class engagement, Elle was a wonderful mix of ambition and learning orientation. She brought a focused clarity about where she wanted to go from within the industry and was strategic in crafting a personal approach around those development goals. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Elle identified particular growth areas and then worked to build an intentional learning plan around these needs. When thinking of people who would make a natural fit to represent Olin at the Cornell Case Competition, Elle’s name rose to the top of the list—and she thrived with the team bringing home silver in our first engagement in the competition. In short, people like Elle bring intensity to their studies, pushing other students to match that posture, all of which enhances the learning environment. It was an honor to have Elle at Olin, and I can’t wait to see the impact she makes moving forward.”

Professor Peter Boumgarden
Koch Family Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise
Director of the Koch Family Center for Family Enterprise
Academic Director of the Center for Experiential Learning


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