Olin earns rare triple accreditation, launches online MBA for digitally enabled leaders

(Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.; graphic by Katie Wools/Washington University)

Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School has climbed to new global heights, joining an elite cohort of triple-accredited business schools, while at the same time adding new degree programs and certifications — including a new online MBA that’s distinguished by its focus on preparing students for leadership in a digitally enabled world.

On April 27, Olin earned accreditation from the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), completing a sweep of all three global accreditation agencies that includes the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). That makes Olin the only highly ranked business school in the United States to earn triple accreditation and places Olin among fewer than 1% of all business schools globally.

Earning triple accreditation puts Olin in the rarefied company of some business school powerhouses as INSEAD, London Business School and HEC Paris.

“Olin’s vision is to promote world-changing business education, research and impact. Embracing the process of triple accreditation affirms our progress toward that vision,” said Mark P. Taylor, dean of Olin. “These bodies have held us accountable for the standards we have set for ourselves.”

Advancing through the third horizon

In addition to earning triple accreditation, Olin is announcing several other developments in 2021 as the school marches toward what Taylor has described as “the third horizon” in business education.

As he sees it, the first horizon came in spring 2020 as educators quickly pivoted to accommodate students dispersed by COVID-19. The second came this past fall as the dean encouraged the school to “up its game,” integrating hybrid in-person and online learning amid the pandemic. Now this third horizon arrives as Olin lifts its sights toward a new global normal to business education.

Dean Mark Taylor addresses the latest updates in Olin’s march toward the third horizon.

New mile-markers in 2021 on the road toward that third horizon include:

  • Introducing three new online graduate business programs allowing students to work toward a specialized masters degree in customer analytics, corporate finance and accounting, while earning certificates along the way.
  • Preparing to launch in January 2022 a separate, online-only MBA program focused on empowering and enabling leaders to harness ever-changing digital technology — such as big data, blockchain, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and more — in the business realm.
  • Raising its global profile with a jump to No. 25 in the most recent Financial Times rankings of the world’s business schools — including a No. 1 global ranking in faculty research.
  • Rescheduling Olin’s global immersion trip for MBA students — nearly six weeks of learning on the ground at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and in Barcelona, Spain, and Lima, Peru (delayed the past year due to the pandemic). First- and second-year MBA cohorts are now scheduled to travel in spring 2022.

Maintaining our commitment

“We remain committed to the successful MBA global immersion experience that we debuted in summer 2019,” Taylor said. “Fulfilling that commitment, while fully reimagining the future of business education in a global and digitally enabled world are cornerstone obligations for us as leaders in business education. We simply must scan beyond where we can see, anticipate what we must do in the world’s new version of normal.”

These developments align with Olin’s five-year strategic plan, outlined shortly after Taylor arrived as dean in December 2016.

The enhanced master’s certification and 30-month online MBA came as a result of surveys that included alumni, faculty and even industry representation. Input from such consulting and advising giants as Deloitte, McKinsey and Bain helped Olin administrators realize there existed a need to imbue the next generation of business leaders with digital competencies and competitiveness.

“Other online MBA programs offer their MBA program online,” Taylor said. “Our program is custom tailored for business leaders who want to lead in a digitally enabled world.”

For example, the new program is designed for people who are: working in a digitally mature company or environment; looking to improve their digital-business acumen; or seeking to lead a digital transformation in a company or industry, including entrepreneurs.

The online MBA will come at a cost of $75,000 for the total 2½-year duration. While its core courses will remain taught by the same faculty as in Olin’s in-person MBA program, the digital nature will change — particularly in light of the past year’s pandemic-related learning curves. The online approach allows for such changes as enhancing standard case studies with live, online presented cases and an abundance of guest presenters.

The broadcasting base for the online MBA is a state-of-the-art facility, the Center for Digital Education, stemming from the school’s strategic plan. With its full-time staff and eight studios, the CDE partners with faculty members, instructional designers and multimedia experts to build their course curriculum for digital delivery, collaborate to coach them using available tools and create digital assets to present course concepts.

Olin’s accreditation from EQUIS follows a renewal of its earlier accreditation by AACSB, the major accrediting organization for North American schools, and its accreditation by AMBA in March 2020. Little more than 100 schools across the world have earned inclusion in all three groups.

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