As the American real estate market continues to stabilize and grow, so does the amount of real estate firms looking to hire MBAs. Existing home sales jumped again in March and the overall global real estate market seems to be increasingly knocking on the doors of business schools. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business is answering those knocks with a brand new real estate center.
Today (April 23), the school announced the official opening of the Steers Center for Global Real Estate. A $5 million donation for the center came from real estate tycoon and McDonough graduate, Robert Steers and his wife, Lauren. It’s a major upgrade to the already established Real Estate Finance Initiative, which was formed by a prior $5 million donation from Steers.
The center will provide an extension of the hands-on real estate approach of the Real Estate Finance Initiative. Additionally, MBAs and undergraduates alike will have the opportunity to meet individually with faculty, experts in residence, and alumni mentors. The center will also play home for the previously established Real Estate Clinic and Real Estate Laboratory. Professor Matt Cypher will head the new center.
“I’ve hired and worked with a lot of young people and I think I know what they need to know,” Cypher says. “If you think about how we train doctors and lawyers, it is clinic focused. Real estate should be the same. Students will have the opportunity to ‘do’ before they are trying to get a job.”
A DONATED LABORATORY FOR TRANSACTION ANALYSIS
Through the clinic, MBA students have already worked with Invesco to underwrite more than $1 billion in live real estate transactions. The laboratory will give undergraduate and MBA students the opportunity to see and work on the entirety of projects ranging from building valuation to studying how to maximize parking revenue.
“An alum with an office building approached us and basically said, ‘Here, use this building to teach your students,’” says Cypher. “What he’s done is provide us access to every shred of information to allow students to understand the interaction between physical and financial assets.”
Cypher believes the center combined with the traditional rigorous academics of Georgetown and location in Washington D.C. makes this program unmatched by any other school.
“With all due respect to our peers, Columbia, Wharton, North Carolina and Wisconsin, for examples, what we provide to a student if they come here is you actually get to do everything involved in real estate financing,” Cypher explains. “Undergraduates are going through physical assets and ascertaining how it relates to financial assets. MBAs are underwriting investments for a global management firm. I’ll go toe-to-toe with anyone about the quality of market in Washington D.C. Every country in the world is represented on Massachusetts Avenue. Being in D.C. is transformative.”
REAL ESTATE ROOTS RUN DEEP AND FAR
McDonough dean David Thomas says alumni dedication sets the program apart. “Alums of Georgetown have an intrinsic commitment to not just sharing knowledge, but to develop young individuals,” Thomas says. “Undergraduates get to work with the same mentors for three or four years and they get to know them well. We think the program is enhanced by being able to take advantage of the alumni section in real estate.”
If anyone can speak to the success of Georgetown alums in real estate, it is Steers.
“Most important real estate banks in the world have alums and are involved,” Steers says. “We believe a critical value at the MBA level is networking. Not just meeting someone at a social event but spending time with someone. Members of the (advisory) board are real estate leaders. And they are here because they want to network with and get to know these talented young people.”
Indeed, the committees involved with the implementation of the center have alumni from organizations such as Enterprise Advisors, JOSS Reality Partners, The JBG Companies, and RBC Capital Markets, to name a few. In addition to the live real estate transaction analysis all students do through the clinic, MBA students must participate in a global real estate experience in which they conduct a consulting project for an international business and then travel to present the recommendations.
BEING ABLE TO TALK THE TALK
The integration of experiential learning with personalized career coaching is what Cypher believes will set the Steers Center apart from other centers housed in business schools, such as Columbia’s Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, Wharton’s Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, and Wisconsin’s James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate.
“In the context of a job interview, our students will be able to cite actual live transitions they have analyzed,” Cypher says. “Our MBAs will be able to talk about underwriting experience. And then they will be able to leverage those relationships built with mentors.”