Dean’s Q&A: Steven Malter of Washington University

Interest in undergraduate business education continues to explode, with many schools reporting strong application numbers for the most recent application cycle. What are you seeing at your school, and what do you think are some of the reasons for this uptick?  

(waiting to get admissions stats from Olin, so will plug this in when I get it from Malter). The demand is incredibly strong. It is stable but moving up, and we have a lot of very interested individuals applying for business.

I think students in general are really understanding that no matter what major they select they are all going to work for an organization and a lot of these organizations, whether they are a nonprofit or whatever it is, involve concepts of business. If you run an organization you still need to understand how all these things play out together. That has spiked some interest from non-business students who are getting second majors and minors in business, and getting a better understanding of business. Students who are not in the business school can come over and take courses and declare a second major or minor. Potentially, they can transfer. They have those opportunities. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of interest from all over the campus.

As the economy is continuing to recover, I think the wonderful job opportunities our undergraduates have in every discipline certainly helps. I also think students understand that it is business and organizations that have the ability to make an impact on society, and that is really attracting students. We see so many young people coming to us with amazing community service records and an understanding of how business plays an important role in communities.

Who’s doing undergraduate business education differently, and how is Olin’s approach different from other schools?  

I think you see a lot of schools, including Olin, really looking to provide applied learning opportunities, where students can really translate what they are learning in the classroom to practice. I think we’ve been one of the leaders in the field, as well as a number of other schools. At the end of the day we focus on what is right for our students, and how can we make this the best experience possible for our students, and that drives how we look at business education. We are obviously very interested, as are many people, in developing a global mindset. We have semester-long, summer-long and spring break-long immersive experiences. We are trying to provide students with the opportunities to get fantastic skills, no matter what their constraints may be.

How does graduate level business education impact undergraduate education at the school? Is there a trickle-down effect in the classroom?

We work incredibly closely with the graduate program department, and many faculty teach in multiple programs. We are always very tied into what each other is doing. For example, if there is a new specialized master’s program in the graduate school, Olin develops a new expertise. We will then immediately look to see how we can leverage this for undergraduate education. It is an incredibly collaborative working environment for faculty, and we are also very collaborative with our career center. Mahendra Gupta, the dean of the Olin Business School, really encourages this collaboration across programs and across the university. He is really out there leading the way to give our students these amazing opportunities.

What advice do you have for both parents and would-be students in choosing a quality undergraduate business program?

I think really they need to understand the environment and culture of the university and the college, and to really understand what opportunities there are for students. It is not that dissimilar to finding a job. We are collaborative at Olin and the faculty, dean and staff are very student-centered, and that really resonates with a lot of people. Some people would rather be in a more competitive environment. There are some unique programs and opportunities we have here, and the career outcomes are also important. I think they need to look at the total package.

Also, they shouldn’t stress about it. It is about finding what is right for each individual person. I tell them that you have the opportunity to select what institution is right for you. I try to help them understand that they are empowered in the process. All too often students think they are not empowered, and I don’t believe that is the truth.

What are some of your long-term and short-term goals for your deanship? 

The goal I think is to continue to work on curriculum. We have some wonderful and interesting things we are discussing and some innovative new programs and courses of study. We are really focusing on that, and focusing on recruitment. This is an exciting time for us. We have two new buildings that formally opened on March 17. They are beautiful $90 million buildings and the construction is completed. They are unique spaces for different engagements, with new types of classroom and new types of technology. Starting this summer, one of our other buildings, Simon Hall, is going to undergo some fairly substantial renovations slated for this summer and next summer. We have incredible facilities for faculty, and wonderful state of the art facilities that will bring everyone together through social engagement and curricular opportunities.


Lori Rosenkopf of Wharton

Carl Zeithaml Of University of Virginia

Dale Nees of Notre Dame University

Edward McLaughlin Of Cornell

Steven Malter of Washington University

Lawrence Murray of the University of North Carolina  David Platt of University of Texas

Andrea Hershatter of Emory

Lynn Wooten of Michigan

Idalene Kesner of Indiana University

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