New York, Silicon Valley, Austin. Maybe LA and DC too. This is where the action happens. This is where you will find the best minds and the greatest opportunities. At least, that’s what you’ll hear sometimes. The Midwest? It is cold. There is nothing to do. Just those rusty towns along fetid rivers, tired, faded flyovers, their best days behind them.
What can MBAs find there?
Pretty much anything – if you head to Olin Business School in St. Louis and Washington University. Take Olin. Last week, the school fell from 41st to 19th place in The Economist’s latest full-time MBA rankings. Here, Olin garnered the 4th highest alumni scores for faculty quality and program content. At the same time, Olin’s business program continues to rank among the best for undergraduate research and teaching. That’s not even counting Olin finishing 1st in Entrepreneurship for three straight years.
THE MECCA FOR STARTUPS AND INNOVATION
One of the reasons for Olin’s success in entrepreneurship is St. Louis itself. The ecosystem has already produced unicorns like Varsity Tutors (Nerdy), Benson Hill and Gainsight. It also includes several public-private partnerships, such as Arch Grants and the St. Louis Small Business Empowerment Center, which support these startups with funding, workspaces, training, and competitions. At the same time, several Fortune 500 powerhouses maintain a deep footprint in the region, including Emerson Electric, Edward Jones Investments, Monsanto and Anheuser-Busch. This presence allows startups to tap into expertise in the region, while forming potential partnerships in spaces ranging from Agtech to Fintech.
One of Saint-Louis’ successes is the Cortex Innovation Hub. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the hub has hosted more than 400 businesses, creating 15,000 jobs and $2 billion in economic activity. More recently, it hosted Wugen, a pharmaceutical company whose cancer drugs have raised over $200 million in venture capital funding. Another is the T-Rex space, home to 200 businesses, it has generated over 4,300 jobs over the past decade, with current and past residents generating over $600 million in annual revenue.
Lloyd Yates, a 22-year-old honors graduate, credits the successful launch of his business to the 1-2 punch of the St. Louis community and Olin’s MBA program. “The folks at STL embrace theirs like I’ve never seen them and position you to succeed. Here at Olin, I also met my partner and CTO. If it weren’t for my teachers and mentors, I’m afraid we’ve missed the big picture at hand. Their passion, dedication and contributions to the work that myself and my entrepreneurship classmates do is unmatched. »
A ‘GATEWAY’ TO MUCH MORE
For the Class of 2023, the thriving business scene isn’t necessarily the best part of the St. Louis experience. You just have to ask Rick Desloge, who grew up in St. Louis but moved to Brooklyn to pursue a theatrical career. He describes it as a “small town, big town”.
“St. Louis has nearly all the amenities of a big city: awesome professional sports, great (and free) cultural institutions, and great nightlife. At the same time, meeting classmates in the Central West End or the Loop is currency and it takes no more than 15 minutes to get anywhere.As a leading contributor to the cultural fabric of St. Louis, Olin Business School does a great job of leveraging its position to easily connect students to leaders that have a global impact on our world.
There is also plenty to do in St. Louis. Forget the Ark, Union Station and Six Flags. For one, the zoo is free. The area is also full of museums ranging from contemporary vintage art to motorcycles. You’ll find many of these museums in the Class of 2023’s favorite haunt: Forest Park, says Maria Espitiaa project manager from Columbia.
“While St Louis offers a wide range of activities such as a botanical garden, zoo and museums among others, Forest Park has been my favorite place since my first visit. It is popularly known as the heart of St Louis,” she says. P&Q. “I like going to Forest Park to play tennis and take long walks; it helps me not to think about school while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
FROM JERSEY BOY TO OLIN MBA
Justin Matthews is equally bullish on St. Louis. Originally from Alabama accustomed to southern hospitality, he loves the welcome of the Midwest… before throwing himself on Forest Park like his classmates. “So far, the Midwest hasn’t let me down when it comes to friendliness of strangers,” he points out. “A close second favorite is Forest Park; it literally has everything and it’s just down the street from my apartment. I went to the zoo in the park (which is free!), rode my bike and saw The sound of music at the Muny theater in the park.
And it was not just the inhabitants of Saint-Louis who marked those early years. They also enjoyed spending time with their classmates, adds Stephanie Emmanuelle Mbida, an alum from the northwest and originally from Cameroon. “In our cohort, we are fortunate to have people who come from all walks of life, from teachers and nonprofit volunteers to former Wall Street brokers and Broadway actors. Our strength is our versatility, as we all learn from each other’s very different experiences and perspectives. So, when applying to Olin, it is very important to understand and embrace who you are so that your strengths come out as clearly as possible.
The Broadway actor would be Rick Desloge, who recently starred in the national tour of Boys jersey. “Although I’ve had some very visible success working on stage – playing Frankie Valli in Boys jerseyBoq in Nastyor Quasimodo in Hunchback— the achievement of which I am most proud took place behind the scenes. While working in Los Angeles, I produced a benefit show of The Rocky Horror Show at the historic Fonda Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. In one night, our company raised over $50,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and helped countless people obtain much-needed services. While directing the production, I helped connect some of Broadway’s most talented performers with an exuberant audience of over 1,000. I will never forget the incredible energy of the performance.
SERVANTS AND ANIMATORS
Desloge isn’t the only member of the Class of 2023 with an artistic background. Derek W.Hawkes was most recently Assistant Principal Second Trombone for the Nashville Symphony. However, his greatest achievement, he says, was excellent preparation for business school.
“I was a member of the bargaining committee during my time at the Jacksonville Symphony, which facilitated 35% raises and a longer contract for my fellow musicians under a successive five-year collective agreement. It really changed the perception of the organization at the time, both in the music community and in the North Florida area; it is rather difficult to negotiate such a progressive and historic agreement in an industry like the performing arts.
Public service is another theme in abundance with the class of 2023. Brendan Barry, a graduate of the University of Missouri, served in the US Marine Corps as an infantry bureau. His best service story: The base was regularly confused by who-was-who, as his twin brother was also serving in his unit. Laurent Toomey became a battalion operations officer in the U.S. Army, where he considers his proudest moment to be bringing his 136 soldiers without loss of life. At the same time, Livi Logan Wood helped with the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, which ranged from providing research to executing deliverables.
“In early 2020, I began working on the Center for Presidential Transition team at the Partnership for Public Service, which is a nonpartisan DC nonprofit organization focused on improving government effectiveness. Every four years, the Center for Presidential Transition plays a supporting role to the current administration, career federal employees, and opposing transition teams before and after the election. It was an honor to inform such a key process. in our democracy at a time filled with critical challenges around COVID-19, election verification, and threats to Congress. I am proud of the work I have done advocating specifically for improved policies around the hiring and onboarding political appointees to better equip new administrations facing a multitude of challenges from day one.
IN THE EAR OF A PRESIDENT
In Cameroon, Stéphanie Emmanuelle Mbida was to start university after she turned 14. However, she decided to bypass school to volunteer for four years on youth issues such as unemployment and homelessness. Canal+, a French channel, even made a documentary about his work – which was noticed at the highest levels of government.
“During my last year there, after having traveled the country extensively, I wrote a letter to the President of Cameroon, in which I presented him with a summary of my general observations and proposed a project to help meet certain of the greatest concerns of young people”, she says P&Q. “He read my letter and sent it to five government ministers asking them to find ways to put my suggestion into practice and report back to him afterwards.”
Over the past year, many of the suggestions from the class have been taken very seriously. Brendan Barry, for his part, helped a local company develop a go-to-market strategy, while Livi Logan-Wood’s team landed 3rd place in the Smeal MBA Sustainability Case Competition thanks to their knowledge of waste electronics. In contrast, Derek W. Hawkes earned points with his classmates by establishing the Olin Beer & Mead Society which “creates[ed] opportunities for my colleagues to experience tastings and learn about different nationalities, ingredients, processes and styles of beer and mead. These tastings would also have been useful for Susan Luo. His great achievement?
“I survived my summer semester with all the good students, while taking care of two young children!”
Next page: Interview with Mark Taylor
Page 3: Profiles of 10 Olin MBA Students