Anyone anxiously awaiting an interview invitation from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business? Well, we can’t make them roll out any sooner—but we can offer you something you should read while you wait.
Shari Hubert, who had been in charge of admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business since 2013, choose to move south last fall to North Carolina to lead admissions at Fuqua.
“Shari stood out in an incredibly talented and competitive pool of candidates,” Russ Morgan, Fuqua senior associate dean for full-time programs, said announcing her hiring. “Shari is a terrific fit within our culture. She is a demonstrated collaborative leader with a track record of making the people around her better. Her former colleagues at Georgetown describe her as a perennial optimist.”
She is also a highly skilled recruiter, have served as director of recruitment for the Peace Corps’ Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection prior to McDonough. In that role, she was responsible for recruiting 4,000 volunteers annually and managed the operations of nine regional recruitment offices across the United States. Before that, she led campus recruitment for Citi’s Global Bank in North America and served as the manager for campus relations in corporate recruiting at GE’s corporate headquarters. She also led the Executive Leadership and Civic Development Program at the Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy association focused on public and private partnerships.
Hubert also knows business school admissions from the applicant’s point of view—and not only because she applied herself. (Her MBA is from Harvard Business School) . Well beyond her own applicant experience, she has remained on the experience of other applicants through the admissions process—specifically on how it could be better. At McDonough, she led an initiative to map applicants’ journey through 22 steps in the application process, measuring their highs and lows along the way. And then she helped implement changes to increase the highs and reduce the lows and leave even those who didn’t get in coming away with a positive feeling about the school.
We caught up with Hubert several months into the new job and asked her to reflect on the differences between McDonough and Fuqua from her unique vantage point, having led admissions at both. We asked her for tips on approaching the essays. (Her tips are excellent though now moot for Round 1 applicants—sorry!) We asked her how she likes Durham. (She LOVES it.) Finally, we asked her the best way to prepare for a Fuqua interview. (For that you’ll have to read on.)
Clear Admit: What best practices from the McDonough admissions process do you plan to incorporate at Fuqua?
Shari Hubert: First, I am so very appreciative of my experience at McDonough and the team and colleagues I had the good fortune of working with. I am still really good friends with the folks over at Georgetown.
I spent the first several months at Fuqua really getting to know the team. I was pleased to find how dedicated they are to carrying on the notion of Team Fuqua—which is basically a commitment to working collaboratively to pull out the strengths in others. I have seen that not only in the students, but also in the staff and faculty.
One of the things I’m focused on at Fuqua is trying to find more ways to attract women and other diverse candidates. This includes leveraging partnerships with organizations like the Forté Foundation and others to find additional financial and non-financial resources to allow us to support more individuals. We are also partnering with Forté on an initiative to increase women protagonists in business school cases. And I have been working with a Male Allies group at Fuqua. There are more than 100 male allies here, which reflects a great commitment to gender equity and inclusion.
I think any school can benefit from a fresh pair of eyes in terms of systems and processes, so I brought that with me when I came from McDonough. I am a big proponent of streamlining the admissions process as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of learning, listening, and learning some more with students, my team, and the faculty.
I am very passionate about putting ourselves in the shoes of the applicant and understanding their experience. I want the process to be very customer experience–focused, with the customers in this case being the applicants. I want them to feel like everyone they interact with at Fuqua—beginning with the person at the front desk—is interested in the applicant experience.
We need to step back and learn how we do what we do now and where it makes sense to make some changes. One of the things I have done is listen more—and take advantage of some of the different ways there are to listen, either directly through surveys or feedback from our students or less directly through social media.
CA: What are you most pleased to inherit as part of the Fuqua admissions process?
SH: I am excited about the team I have joined. It is large and diverse in terms of the programs we manage, but everyone is so collaborative and tries to keep the big Fuqua hat on even as they work within individual programs. We read every application file for our daytime program twice and take note of additional letters from alumni and other people who advocate on behalf of applicants. That’s been kind of different and new.
I have also been blown away by the level of involvement our students have in admission. They manage our student visit program—it’s pretty much 100 percent student run. The same is true for our interviews. We have trained admissions fellows—second-year students—who conduct our interviews, which is pretty rare.
I’m also impressed by how big our Admitted Students’ Days are. I really encourage candidates if they can come to do so. It’s so important to making sure that you feel welcome and at home and get a real sense of the community. Having experienced Blue Devil Weekend myself, I can say it really lives up to the hype.
And then there’s the level of financial aid resources available. Fuqua is a participant in the in the Yellow Ribbon Program, available to qualifying veterans. Fuqua will contribute up to $18,000 a year in support, which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will match. To support as many service members as possible, there is no cap on the number of participants in the program.
There are also no-cosigner loans that allow international students to borrow up to 90 percent of the cost of attendance. I am not advocating taking on more debt—but it is important for students to have this additional capacity to take out more loans to finance their education if they need to. I am cognizant of how challenging it is for all students, but especially international students, so we are looking for ways to reduce barriers as much as we can.
CA: What difference between the two schools takes the most getting used to?
SH: I would say probably just the sheer size. It feels very corporate compared to what I was used to in DC. Fuqua is a very well-run business school. Many departments work collaboratively and cross functionally to get things done.
At Fuqua there is also a broader portfolio of programs—from the 10-month Master of Quantitative Management (MQM) program in data analytics to the traditional full-time daytime MBA program to weekend and global executive programs. We also have a new online format, and an MQM program in health analytics that is 100 percent online.
It’s very interesting to have this new dimension in terms of the types of profiles we need to recruit. But that was also part of what was really attractive to me.
There’s also quite an advantage to being in the south east. I love living in Durham. It’s very eclectic, hipster, feels like Brooklyn or Austin. There’s so much intellectual diversity in the midst of the Research Triangle, and it’s easy get in and out of the airport. I can literally leave my office half an hour to 45 minutes before I have to board and be good to go.
I am also struck by the diversity here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. There are incubators, construction happening daily, and a really vibrant culture. I literally live 10 minutes from campus, and I don’t miss the DC traffic!