New Regent Brings Passion and Perspective

Sarah Hubbard savors the opportunity to serve on the U-M board of regents following her November election.
By Daniel P. Smith


Read time: 3 minutes

The empty candy wrappers told the story of someone who cares.

As Sarah Hubbard, ’90, MBA’07, watched election results roll in on the evening of Nov. 3, she felt her anxiety rise, emotions she attempted to calm with leftover Halloween candy. Seeking a spot on the eight-member U-M board of regents in her maiden run for political office, Hubbard fretted over the results, which saw her carry a slim lead over incumbent Shauna Ryder Diggs, ’91, MD’94, MDRES’98, into the following day.

“But nothing is complete until you see Wayne County,” Hubbard says of the state’s most populous county.

It would be two more nerve-wracking, sugar-infused days before Michigan election officials confirmed her victory over Diggs by a mere 4,200 votes. Hubbard, a Republican, and incumbent Democrat Mark Bernstein begin their eight-year terms this month.

“Going in, I was prepared to lose. But when it looked like I might win, all my thoughts turned to excitement,” Hubbard says. “I’ve been active with the University of Michigan my entire adult life and wanted an opportunity to provide my perspective.”

Calling the role of regent “meaningful yet often overlooked,” Hubbard ran for the elected position — the only office she says she has ever considered — to bring more diversity of thought to the board.

No stranger to the legislative world, Hubbard spent 17 years as senior vice president of government relations with the Detroit Regional Chamber before joining the Lansing, Michigan-based government relations firm Acuitas in 2010 — two experiences she believes will help her represent students and voters as a regent.

“Every day, I’m managing minor crises in the legislative arena. I understand how to advocate for stakeholders, how to communicate issues, and value strong, bipartisan relationships,” says Hubbard, who also holds a master of public administration degree from Western Michigan University. “In addition, I’m a small business owner who understands what it takes to meet a payroll, provide strong customer service, and keep customers happy.”

Hubbard aims to use that acumen to protect freedom of speech on campus and to promote the accessibility of a U-M education, including the exploration of creative funding streams to limit tuition increases. A Pell Grant-eligible student who changed majors during her U-M academic career, Hubbard felt the pressure to graduate in four years and acknowledges the struggles, including financial burdens, many students face to accomplish their goals.

“I find it motivating and important to represent these issues,” says Hubbard, a native of rural Union City, Michigan, who originally enrolled in the College of Engineering before switching to a psychology-political science double major. “I appreciate the wide variety of students who come to Michigan and know the sacrifice and attention to detail it takes to cross that finish line.”

Long involved with alumni matters — Hubbard is a past member of the Alumni Association board of directors and former president of the U-M Club of Lansing — she also looks to champion the significance of alumni over her eight-year term and to identify avenues to boost alumni engagement.

“Alumni play an important role in driving future students, fundraising, and the overall spirit of the University,” Hubbard says, “and I want to ensure that remains lively and valued.”

Most immediately, though, she sets her focus on COVID-19, which has challenged the entire University community, from research and academics to enrollment and budgets.

“The board needs to take an active role in responding to the pandemic because if we don’t get this right, it’s going to impact the University long term,” she says. As a regent, she hopes to collaborate with her board peers and University administration to ensure the vitality of U-M, propelling its healthy existence with a mix of passion, purpose, and thoughtful action.

“I hope to find places to make a difference and help the University of Michigan thrive,” Hubbard says. “People voted for me to do this, and I have a responsibility to represent them. That’s something I take seriously and am excited to do.”

And that explains the Election Night candy wrappers.

A frequent contributor to Michigan Alumnus, Daniel P. Smith has penned profiles of notable alumni such as business tycoon Sam Zell, U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, and Five Guys’ founder Jerry Murrell.

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