Shari Hubert is associate dean of admissions at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, where she is responsible for overseeing recruitment and admissions for their Daytime MBA, Weekend Executive MBA, Global Executive MBA, and two Specialty Masters' Degree Programs. Prior to Fuqua, she was in charge of admissions for the Full-time and Evening MBA programs at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. Hubert has extensive experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, and entered higher education after working for the Peace Corps as director of recruitment within the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection. In this capacity, she was responsible for the strategy to attract and recruit over 4,000 volunteers annually and managed the operations of nine regional recruitment offices across the United States.
What impact did HBS have on your life and the life of others?
A few years after graduating from HBS, Shari Hubert was at a crossroads. Happily employed at the Partnership for New York City, she still questioned her path, wondering whether to stay in the nonprofit sector or explore human resources, despite the fact that HR is an atypical career for MBAs. Hubert was also grappling with the recent death of her mother, a single parent who had made enormous sacrifices to ensure her daughter's education and future. Digging deep, Hubert gave herself a talking to: "You know what, Shari? You need to be confident enough to follow your own path and not succumb to preconceived notions of the careers HBS alums tend to pursue. Try to find a place where your passion meets your strengths."
Not long after that, an acquaintance contacted Hubert to see if she could help him fill a position at NBCUniversal. "I was on a bunch of different professional listservs," she recalls. "I sent him a slate of résumés, and he said, 'The people you sent me were better than what we had from our search firm. How did you do that?' It wasn't my day job. I just wanted to fulfill a need of his.
"I've always been a connector," Hubert says. "I don't know where it comes from. It's just that it brings me joy."
That favor opened a series of doors, leading to a role as director of community programs at NBCUniversal, then as manager of campus relations at General Electric, a position focused on recruiting for the corporation's leadership programs. From there she moved to Citi, heading up its recruitment efforts for undergraduates and MBAs interested in investment and corporate banking. "It was a larger budget that I had overseen in the past, and I was managing a team of recruiters directly, so it took a leap of faith on their part," she recalls. "It was an exciting time to be in financial services." Late in 2008, however, Hubert was downsized in the wake of the financial crisis.
"I looked at it as a blessing in disguise because it always comes back to, okay, well, what else might I want to do? When one door closes, another always opens," she says philosophically. "By then I knew that I liked connecting people with opportunities, and I'd always been attracted to strong, global brands." At that point, Hubert says, she happened to see a post for director of volunteer recruitment at the Peace Corps. "I knew it would be the kind of work that feeds my spirit," she says, "and it was in Washington, D.C., right when Obama became president, so I thought that would be fun, too."
The job more than lived up to Hubert's expectations, providing the opportunity to help potential recruits think about their careers and work in the public sector for a mission-oriented agency. It also offered the bigger-picture work of overseeing a network of offices and virtual teams around the country. Like many government positions, however, it came with a time limit. "I don't like the grass to grow under my feet, which is sometimes good and sometimes not," says Hubert, "but I also didn't want to wait until the very end of my posting to think about what's next." For a while, she had been in roles with a tangential relationship to higher education; working at a university, she thought, might be an interesting and fun change.
Another factor driving that curiosity was Hubert's own, transformative experience at Dartmouth, where she majored in French and studied abroad in Lyon. "That was such a pivotal part of my life," she recalls. "It helped me gain confidence and opened my eyes in ways that I never could have imagined." It was easy to imagine the rewards of working with students to achieve the same results.
Growing up in Indianapolis, Hubert had learned of Dartmouth from an alum's presentation at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, which she attended freshman year. (When the tuition became too much of a financial hardship, Hubert and her mother, an employee of a subsidiary of General Motors, moved to an Indianapolis suburb with a good public high school.)
Funding Dartmouth was also a challenge. Hubert held various jobs on campus as a work-study student; her mother also took an early buyout from her company and relocated to New York, working as a nanny to save on living expenses and devoting her earnings to tuition. "I feel like I owe my mother everything," says Hubert. "She was very much an advocate for education, although she never had the opportunity to finish college."
When a position as associate dean of MBA admissions opened up at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, Hubert knew it would be a good fit. "I love the MBA population and could relate to them, having benefited from the degree myself," she says. "I was also drawn to the notion of being on the front end, having worked in campus recruiting for so many years and helping hire great junior talent. I enjoy helping people navigate the admissions process, explore their career aspirations, and realize the value of an MBA." Hubert joined the department at the end of 2012 and hasn't been disappointed with her latest move: "I love my job and feel as if my career has come full circle," she says, adding, "I get inspiration from helping people fulfill their promise, whether or not they come to our program." That sentiment has held true with Hubert's October 2017 move to Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, where she is currently associate dean of admissions.
Hubert's own time at HBS yielded plenty of learning experiences. The first was finding her voice—almost literally. A natural introvert with a quiet voice, Hubert could appreciate the humor of the gag gift—a megaphone—that her sectionmates gave her at the end of first year. "I also learned not to be overly focused on academics and scared of failure at the expense of developing authentic relationships outside the classroom," she says. "I didn't like drinking beer, so I wouldn't go to pub nights—plus I wanted to make sure I studied every word of every case. But when it came to classroom interactions, there was a higher level of credibility and trust between people who took part in those nights out. Now I tell students that you can increase your confidence and reinforce your impact inside the classroom by building relationships outside of it."
She also calls on her experience when counseling students to avoid the herd mentality. The natural tendency to be influenced by a group preference is what led her, she says, to the Boston Consulting Group for her first job out of HBS. Despite the firm's prestige and global cachet, Hubert soon realized the work didn't align with her skills and interests. "I left on good terms, but initially that felt like a failure," she says. "Now I know that every experience is worthwhile in terms of figuring out the path you do or don't want to chart for yourself." Students, she adds, sometimes focus too much on their first job out of business school: "It really is a marathon, not a sprint. If you take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and perform the heck out of them, other paths will open up."