It gives me great pleasure to welcome back to AST Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of Admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Shari earned her BA at Dartmouth and her MBA at Harvard. She worked at several elite companies, and in 2009 became Director of Recruitment for the Peace Corps. In 2012 she returned to the MBA world when she became the Associate Dean of MBA Admissions for Georgetown McDonough, and she joined Duke Fuqua as Associate Dean of Admissions in October.
Can you give an overview of the Duke Fuqua FT MBA program for those listeners who aren’t that familiar with it, perhaps focusing on its more distinctive elements? [1:32]
All of our programs excel at creating a certain type of leader – one who collaborates well with others. We call it Team Fuqua, which we define as a special way of working that brings out the strengths in others to work toward a common goal. You are required to work in teams for much of the program. The teams are intentionally diverse in order to learn from each other – not just gender and race diversity but functional background and industry as well. Team Fuqua is not just a student concept but it follows into your career as well. Tim Cook is arguably our most famous alum, and he talks about how he developed his own collaborative style from Fuqua. The program taught him how to learn, collaborate, and think.
From an academic perspective, our faculty are developing new courses for the ever complex world we live in. We were one of the first business schools to offer courses in block chain (cryptocurrency). Cam Harvey, a faculty member, is one of the experts. Last month we started a new course, CEO Activism, which is about the decision-making process in complex situations that leaders have to go through to decide whether to speak out about a political or social issue or not.
Finally, one thing I’ve been impressed with is the student-led culture. Students are constantly organizing events and conferences with high level people, and they manage the campus visit program. Students are always finding ways to learn from each other. One example is from a student who was in the military who founded Operation Blue Devil which gives students a firsthand perspective about what it’s like to serve. Another example is Fuqua Talks and Fuqua Listens – initiatives that help develop a more inclusive culture. With Fuqua Talks anyone can get up and talk about what they feel is important. With Fuqua Listens there is a topic of discussion – the most recent one was about professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem.
What does it mean to be a consequential leader? [6:21]
Team Fuqua embodies what it means to be a consequential leader, and is synonymous with demonstrating collaborative leadership, which is the ability to pull out the strengths of others to make the best team. This is the key to innovation – it’s not just a nice concept but a winning strategy to harness the best team.
One great example of this type of leadership is when a research firm interviewed recruiters about the value of our graduates. One recruiter mentioned an exercise where MBA students from several schools came in to solve a problem in the same room. Not surprisingly, most students approached the situation by highlighting their own strengths, hoping to land that job offer. The recruiter said that Fuqua students were generally different. Instead of discussing their own strengths they worked to understand the other team members’ strengths, and built relationships to solve the problem collectively. This is such a great demonstration of being a collaborative leader of consequence and the value of Team Fuqua.
What’s an example of something entrepreneurial and really cool that a Fuqua student or alum is doing? [9:58]
Anne Steptoe is a recent alum with a passion for healthcare as a tool to improve communities. She felt strongly that if more med students were exposed to the power of primary care in their communities they would choose that route. She herself was a medical student who decided to get her MBA. She started MedServe, which is kind of like Teach For America for med students. The non-profit sends med students to underserved communities to work in primary care. The program has been highly successful and she credits many of her successes to Fuqua.
We have a number of resources for those with an entrepreneurial mindset, to support their ventures in business school. The Bullpen is our Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, which is an incubator. They also partner with American Underground which is another well-known incubator and accelerator in the downtown Durham area. We also have P for E (Program for Entrepreneurs), which is a series of activities, and 25% of the course credit is given to students for working on their own startups. We also have Duke Gen which provides students, staff, and faculty resources to start up their own business, and we have the Duke StartUp Challenge which provides $100K in cash prizes for teams with the strongest startup ideas. We have a number of alumni mentors who’ve started their own businesses who mentor our MBAs. We also have the Legal Clinic with Duke law students, which focuses on issues associated with starting businesses. The Career Center also has resources to connect with startups for internships and full-time jobs.
Durham and Research Triangle Park is a haven for entrepreneurship and startups, and Durham also has a rich history of supporting black-owned businesses and diverse entrepreneurs as well.
How does Fuqua’s location on the Duke campus and in the heart of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, but far from the business centers of NYC, Boston, or Silicon Valley provide opportunity to Fuqua students? [13:41]
Fuqua’s location is a huge bonus for us. Durham is a wonderful place with great food, an eclectic community, arts and culture, and a hipster vibe similar to Brooklyn or Austin. As a result, students tend to stay in Durham on weekends and bond rather than disperse. In 2016, the Northeast was the number one destination for graduates, and the West Coast was number one for interns in 2017. The South was number three in employment. The majority of students do want to venture out, and we organize structured travel over fall and winter breaks to visit companies in fields of interest outside of the area. In the most recent employer report, the median pay for the Class of 2017 was $145K with 96% employment three months out.
Applicants should not be concerned about achieving their career aspirations wherever they may be.
Recruiting is changing. There are more recruiters, and more opportunities, but the hiring path is more diverse and splintered than it was ten years ago. How is Fuqua adapting to those changes? [16:52]
Our approach is twofold. One is to offer multiple channels that meet company hiring needs, and the other is to teach students about the skills needed for the job search so they can tap into channels that are more network focused.
For instance, even within what might be considered traditional campus recruiting we offer lunch and learns – so more informal events. We offer video sessions and interviews for those who don’t want to travel to campus. We support Just In Time recruiting needs by actively posting jobs – those types accounted for 15% of internships last year. We host spring events outside of the normal fall recruiting timeframe in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, and we partner with the Duke Center for Entrepreneurship for students who want to work with startups in particular.
In terms of educating students about job search skills, one requirement is for students to set up an informational interview with someone outside of the traditional recruiting construct. The purpose of this is to help them become more familiar with the real world process and think beyond companies that come on campus. Essentially we are equipping our students for the worst case scenario, regardless of their interests, to hit the ground running, network, and do the research they need to find unique opportunities. Essentially we are preparing them for the post-post MBA job search.
Duke Fuqua accepted slightly less than 1 out of every 4 applicants. Who gets interview invitations? From those invited to interview, who gets accepted? How do you winnow it down? [20:29]
Every application is reviewed and discussed by the adcom, and we want to talk to as many people as possible, so much so that we offer an open interview schedule in September to take away the uncertainty. This allows us to hear everyone’s story who would like to tell it to us. The rest is by invitation only.
Every application is read a second time and discussed a second time after the interview, and we look to admit people who are most likely to attend but also have the most positive impact on the community while here.
As an aside, people believe we don’t admit anyone in Round 3, but we do admit in every stage of the process, so submit whenever you have the strongest application. It’s never too late to think about applying. One caveat to that is from an international applicant perspective, we do encourage them to apply in Round 2 for visa reasons.
One of the Fuqua essays is to share 25 unique things about yourself. We are told members of the adcom need to share the same thing. What are some of the things you shared? [24:17]
I am named after Shari Lewis of the Shari Lewis and Lambchop show. My favorite female actor is Meryl Streep and male actor is Robert DeNiro. I enjoy karaoke but am tone deaf. I love Brussels sprouts and eat them whenever I can. I grew up with a single mom in Indianapolis, IN, and she put me through college which I am forever grateful for. I am an avid spinner. I am deathly afraid of horror movies and rollercoasters – if you get me on a rollercoaster I will cry. I am the worst travel partner because I fall asleep in any moving object even if I just drank a cup of coffee. In theory I could become a vegetarian, but in practice I’m held back because I love pork even more. I am in the best place because in North Carolina there is a pork restaurant on every corner.
What advice do you have for applicants putting together answers to Fuqua’s essay questions? [26:36]
Our questions are really designed to get to know you. When people try to fake their way through the 25 random questions or tell us what we think they want us to hear it is easy to see through that. Stay away from simple things like “My favorite team is…” or “I was born in…” We get it that it’s hard to come up with 25, but we encourage people to share context and how it will make you a better or more unique MBA candidate, or insights behind random facts you are sharing, like how these facts shape who you are today.
We take the essays and interviews very seriously, paying particular attention to the quality of the content in the essays. We look for people who will change the world for the better and with humility lead and bring out the best in others.
What can those invited to interview expect? [30:24]
A very warm and welcoming experience. In the US we require that you come to campus, unless you live on or close to the west coast because we believe it is critical to come here and see our culture in person. If you are on the west coast we have interview hubs. For those who come to campus they can expect to be interviewed by one of our many second year students who are trained (admissions fellows). Interviews off campus are by our alums.
Outside of the US we have international hubs as well in geographically dispersed areas with the nearest alum. If people are really remote we set up a Skype with a second year student.
In terms of the interview format, they are 30-45 minutes and behavioral-based, nothing tricky, and all the interviews are in English. Although we will be getting to know you and assessing fit, this is also the opportunity for applicants to ask us questions as well. If you come to campus it includes a class visit, or a student or alum panel if on Super Saturdays. During open interviews there are classes as well to attend.
If invited to interview outside the open interview period, you will see a list of activities available that day in and around your interview. We also provide weekend interview dates in case you can’t get off work.
For listeners living in China, interviews will be earlier than in the past – just before the Spring Festival.
The interviews are blind (nothing other than the resume), and the location of the interview does not influence outcome at all.
What advice would you give to someone thinking ahead to a Fall 2018 application? [33:40]
Give yourself plenty of time. There is lots of soul searching in the application process, and you don’t want to feel rushed. You want to be able to think through why you want an MBA and how it accomplishes your goals. Make sure you build in time to visit schools on your short list if you can, as it makes a difference for your own perspective. You learn so much from being on campus interacting with students and staff. Take advantage of open interview periods. We begin traveling in June for events so check our calendar and meet us on the road. Reach out to alums in your network. We offer unique and cool diversity weekends for veterans, women, LGBT, and an underrepresented diversity workshop as well.
What do you see coming down the pike for the MBA program at Fuqua? MBA education in general? [35:09]
Dean Boulding is really focused on making sure this education remains relevant. We will continue to watch what’s happening in industry and adapt our program accordingly. For example with data analytics there is now a focus on key insights; this was a direct result from hearing about this gap from industry that students were very tech savvy but unable to gain insights.
We will also adapt curriculum to focus on challenges that business leaders face, like the CEO Activism course I mentioned earlier. Professor Aaron Chatterji is one of few studying this and how it’s been shifting.
One thing we are already working on is the new certificate in data analytics (Management Science and Technology Management) which requires completion of eight electives. Faculty approved it really quickly and it allows us to shape data analytics in all areas of business.
We also have our one year Master of Quantitative Management which is new as of last year. Our Master of Quantitative Management in Health Analytics online will launch this fall. Faculty have taken really great care to make it authentic to our on-campus programs. It will have about 40 students assigned in teams of five, with synchronous and asynchronous content, so with flexibility built in, and an in person orientation and capstone at the end.
Changes in our EMBA program address accessibility and diversity, now with one single Global Executive MBA program to be more diverse in ages and stages. With the Weekend MBA it now meets once a month instead of every other week to provide more flexibility for those outside of the Durham area and for working parents.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [40:10]
One thing I’ve been really encouraged by is our resources for international students. We have a genuine commitment to diversity. We offer so much help to them. We have increased the no cosigner international student loan borrowing eligibility from 80% to 90%. We also have visa services, an international house to help with driver’s licenses and other paperwork, and we introduce international families to each other, teach students how to approach companies that sponsor, etc.
• Duke Fuqua Admissions
• Shari’s blog post – “25 Random Things About Yourself”
• Shari’s blog post – “How Fuqua Welcomes and Supports Our International Students”
• CEO Activism Class and the Professor Teaching It
• Accepted’s Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• MBA Admissions Consulting Services