“I can confidently say that my time at Olin is going to propel me to entrepreneurial success.”
While looking for opportunities to develop professionally, Dallas native Lori Witherspoon prioritized searching for MBA programs with goals that closely aligned with her way of thinking. Olin’s focus on value-based, data-driven leadership was something she believed in.
“I wanted to find an institution that valued the truth beneath the data and one that taught its students to use that truth to make decisions that will benefit society,” she said. “I believe that is precisely what Olin stands for and is preparing me for.”
An artistic flair
Witherspoon’s path to Olin and WashU is one that may surprise some. She takes an artistic approach to her MBA, thanks to her visual communications degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Focusing her energy on the marketing side of her education while also completing a master of science in customer analytics, Witherspoon is using her opportunities to expand her horizons and become a more complete entrepreneur.
“The degree has helped to stretch my mind creatively and helped me become a better businesswoman,” Witherspoon said. “Having the skills to communicate, as well as understanding the importance of visual cues, makes building relationships and delivering messages in any business setting so much easier.”
On Olin's commitment to diversity
“In my lifetime, I have never seen major institutions put this amount of money toward understanding the impact diversity has on their bottom lines,” Witherspoon said. “That is something I feel all MBA students need to be prepared for when they enter into the next phase of their professional careers.”
She was impressed by how Olin, above other schools she considered, was proactive about tackling this new reality. She praised the work Dean Taylor and the Olin staff did—and continue to do—to position their students for success.
“That work is unmatched,” she said, “and is the primary reason why I chose Olin.”
An idea sparked abroad
Many students gain valuable experience and personal development while taking part in Olin’s three-continent global immersion program at the start of the MBA experience. Witherspoon was no different. The 38-day trip inspired the to grow her business and gain valuable partners on her path to success.
“I remember riding a bus in Spain during the global immersion and talking to my incredibly supportive academic adviser about my business idea,” Witherspoon said. “She talked through my idea with me and encouraged me to pursue it during my time at Olin.”
As soon as she returned, she emailed Olin’s academic director for entrepreneurship, hoping to pick his brain. “He generously took the time to give me his perspective as well as suggested classes that I should take,” she said.
Strong leadership in Olin
When Witherspoon faces challenges during her time at Olin, she credits her ability to get through with the help she received from her mentor, Ashley Macrander, assistant dean and director of graduate programs.
“She has guided me, encouraged me and been my talisman on the most trying of days,” Witherspoon said, noting that as a woman of color herself, with a PhD in education from Washington University, Macrander “has been a strong advocate for improving the student experience, as well as upholding the values of experiential learning, cultural awareness and diversity.”
Lori Witherspoon, MBA/MSCA 2020
MBA Internship: The Hershey Company
Pre-MBA: marketing supervisor, EPIC Systems Group, LLC
Education: BSBA and international business, Howard University; AA, design and visual communications, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising
Hometown: O'Fallon, IL, by way of Dallas, TX
Key Olin success drivers
Values-based, data-driven mindset
Olin's collaborative environment
Key Olin pillars of excellence
Values-based, data-driven mindset