Unifying WashU executive education and Brookings

  • October 2, 2019
  • By Mark Taylor
  • 3 minute read

The roots of executive education run deep in St. Louis and in Washington, DC, at our partner, The Brookings Institution. They’re about to run deeper.

In St. Louis, our expertise in executive education runs back at least to 1955, when Lee M. Liberman wrote to a colleague about a faculty-led management seminar he’d attended as a 34-year-old. Liberman later served four decades on the WashU’s board of trustees alongside two chancellors.

Also, in the late ’50s, Brookings launched two-week conferences aimed at “men of high caliber at the executive level,” according to a journal writeup at the time. Jointly, Olin and Brookings have partnered for years on leadership and management education in DC, taught by Olin faculty.

Although we’re already highly ranked globally for executive education—12th in the nation and 32nd worldwide, according to the Financial Times—we know we can lead further on the strengths we already have.

Leveraging our unique partnership with Brookings, we’ve created a joint organization that deeply entwines Olin’s research-based leadership in executive education with the global policy and economic expertise at the world’s premier think-tank. We’ve already rebranded the existing program as WashU at Brookings. We envision the relationship growing further still.

“The leaders of the future need to be able to navigate a set of questions that Brookings brings to the table,” said Kelly Bean, senior associate dean and the Charles F. Knight Distinguished Director of Executive Education at WashU Olin. Based at Brookings, commuting between DC and St. Louis, she is charged with unifying and expanding executive education operations in both locations.

As Kelly sees it, Brookings sits at the nexus of business, governmental policy and social impact. “That’s the sweet spot where we want to be able to help leaders in their organizations: How can that integration impact their own organizations?”

At the same time, our St. Louis-based operation continues to draw business from corporate partners eager for access to our expertise on leadership development, change management and strategic alignment our faculty experts can provide. Sam Chun, assistant dean and director of executive education, is about to depart for the Netherlands, for example, to begin delivering Olin’s first international exec ed program in leadership development for Rabobank, a Dutch multinational financial services firm.

Other new partners for Olin exec ed include distribution service provider Bunzl Distribution, pharmaceutical maker Pfizer, and AB InBev—which was attracted by the closer connection and program potential of our Brookings relationship. “We’re designing the program with AB InBev as we speak,” Sam said.

“That’s key,” Sam says. We don’t simply build programs and hope executives show up in the classroom. “We ask the market and design a program for them. And because of that, they come.”

With a deeper connection to Brookings, we anticipate DC-based policy experts leading courses for executives in St. Louis, with content delivered either in person or through our Center for Digital Education. Likewise, we see a world with expanded content from Olin faculty in St. Louis offered to executives in the DC area.

Those issues align deeply with Olin’s own DNA, focused as we are on values-based, data-driven decision-making in a global context and equipping leaders with the tools to change the world, for good. It’s just a bonus that the nation’s top CEOs, through the influential Business Roundtable, are coming around to our way of thinking about executive leadership.

“I think the historical connection between Brookings and WashU makes this so effective,” Kelly said.

Our focus on executive education isn’t new, but it’s more important today than ever. We all thrive when, as Olin deans realized decades ago, we serve the needs of corporate partners, bringing the latest business research into the boardroom. It also remains an important part of Olin’s mission of lifelong learning.

It’s the future of executive education—and WashU Olin is leading the way.

Pictured above: An Olin-led executive education class underway at Brookings in our newly expanded space.

About the Author


Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor joined Olin Business School on Dec. 1, 2016, as its dean, serving in that role until July 2022. He is one of the most frequently cited researchers in the areas of international finance and monetary economics in the world. He has served as an economist at the IMF and Bank of England; and as an investment fund manager for Barclays (now BlackRock). Previously, he was dean at Warwick Business School, UK, and a professor of economics at Oxford among other European universities and a visiting professor at NYU.

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