Behind closed doors, they sit in judgment, grading applicants on different dimensions from academic brilliance, professional accomplishments, even character and personality. For every invitation offered by these highly selective business schools, there are multiple rejections.
As agonizing as it often is for a candidate to get a ding, the admissions directors say that to deny entry to a highly qualified applicant is one of the worst parts of their job. They know that a ‘yes’ will make someone feel some sort of superior combination of Steve Jobs, Mary Barra and Yoda. They also know that a ‘no’ can kill a life-long dream and plummet a person into an existential life crisis.
Most élite business schools rely heavily on the GMAT. Yet there’s no reason to believe that a person’s score on the exam bears any relation to how good an entrepreneur or a business leader he or she will be. A business school that wants to select the best possible leaders has to use a very different admissions process from a school that wants to select the best possible MBA students. And that is why there are essays and recommendation letters, interviews and trick questions.
While the process of admissions to a selective MBA program seems subjective and opaque, the people behind the decisions are anything but. The business of selection is generally populated by gregarious matchmakers, people who enjoy opening the door to a new world of opportunities. Here are a few of them:
GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY McDONOUGH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
If anyone has done it all, it is Shari Hubert, the associate dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Hubert has been a drug rep, worked in consulting and investment management, managed the Rockefeller Fellowship Program and worked in campus recruitment for General Electric, CITI and the PeaceCorps. And she has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
“I am a big believer in not getting pigeon holed and keeping my options open,” says Hubert.
She has seen nearly all sides of business. Yet her passion lies in career management and guidance and the collegial atmosphere. Not to mention she is a big believer in the value and power of the MBA.
“I have been in their shoes,” Hubert says. “I can relate to the MBA experience. And I love being around the campus environment. I love that each day is slightly different. I love the growth and learning surrounding a college campus.”
Hubert loves the atmosphere so much, she elected to live in the dorms during her two years spent at Harvard Business School even though she had already worked for five years and was one of the older students in her class.
Akin to most admissions staff members at a top business school, Hubert is passionate about and spends a lot of time traveling. She has been to all continents besides Australia and Antarctica but hopes to check them off the list soon. When she does have spare time it is spent working out. Hubert hits the local 6 a.m. spinning class five days a week. She likes to golf. She can even hold her own on a black diamond ski run.
But most importantly to Hubert is helping MBA candidates live out their goals and affirmations and take their skill sets to the next level. She describes her job as a Godsend to life.
“This has been invigorating,” Hubert says. “I enjoy seeing the transformation of students over a two-year period of time. I enjoy my colleagues and team members. This institution lives its values. There is a genuine caring for the person and serving others. This particular role allows me to continue to use and garner my different skills.”
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS OLIN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
What Hubert has done in the professional world, Evan Bouffides, director of MBA admissions at Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis has done in the academic world.
“I went to college like a lot of people out of high school,” Bouffides says. “Then I spent the next dozen years or so getting degrees.”
Bouffides has attended Tufts University, the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa and the University of Southern California. He began with undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology, psychology and bio-psychology. During his time doing “psycho pharmacology” research, he developed a passion for film. He then received a masters in fine arts in film production with another masters in communication studies because, why not?
This led Bouffides to L.A. where he learned about the Business of Entertainment Certificate offered at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Hanging on the “periphery of the business school” led Bouffides to teach in the MBA program. While reading hundreds of screenplays and trying to get into the movie biz, Bouffides began working part-time in the admissions office at Marshall. Oh yeah, and he decided to earn another master’s degree in professional writing and screenwriting.
Before long, Bouffides found himself full-time in an admissions role.
“I went into the initial program at USC without having a high degree of focus other than wanting to be in California,” says Bouffides. “I figured I would work in admissions for a few years and then move on. But it was truly enjoyable and fit my personality in a lot of ways.”
Bouffides found it natural and easy to promote and recruit for a school he loved so much. In 2005, Bouffides was recruited by Olin for an assistant dean of admissions program for the full-time MBA program. At USC, Bouffides mainly worked with the part-time and executive MBA recruiting. The opportunity to have a large impact with full-time MBA students was too much for Bouffides to pass up.
“I believe in education and helping others get the opportunity to learn,” says Bouffides.
In his spare time, Bouffides can be found living a lost childhood of not having pets by playing with the three dogs that make up a family with his recent marriage. Bouffides also still enjoys film and tries to take as many high altitude adventures in the mountains—a passion that has taken him to many far-flung corners of the globe.