The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is the ideal place for a real estate center, Dean Scott DeRue says. Among the most successful real estate professionals in the world are Michigan alumni, including Sam Zell, founder of Equity Group Investments, and the namesake of the school, Stephen Ross, who founded and still heads the largest real estate development company in the country.
Another alum, Ron Weiser, founded national real estate investment firm McKinley Associates in 1968; that company now owns or manages real estate in 20 states valued in excess of $2.8 billion. Weiser, a University of Michigan regent who earned his bachelor’s degree from the business school in 1966, agreed with DeRue that Michigan Ross is the perfect place for a real estate center. And so with a $10 million gift, the Weiser Center for Real Estate was born.
“The Ross School has a long history of excellence in real estate and I think this is just going to amplify that long history,” DeRue says of the school’s announcement of the launch of the new center. “I would hope that we are regarded already, globally, as one of the leaders in this space, and I think the Weiser Center for Real Estate is only going to further elevate our excellence in real estate and give students new opportunities that no other business school offers.”
BIG PLANS FOR THE NEW WEISER CENTER
In the Ross School’s most recent MBA employment report, 4.1% of 2019 graduates worked in real estate by function, earning a base median salary of $112,504. The average base salary for these grads was $110,272, lowest of any category. The base salary range was $58,000 to $130,000; 83% reported receiving bonuses, with a median bonus of $22,500.
The 4.1% by function is a high number relative to Michigan’s peer schools. In fact, only one school with a major real estate pathway in its MBA beats Ross: UNC’s Kenan-Flagler-Flagler Business School sent 10% into real estate by function in 2019. Everyone else of note — including UCLA Anderson, Wharton, Columbia, and Northwestern Kellogg — had a smaller percentage go into real estate last year. Already, the Ross School offers a real estate certificate for graduate students that is a joint partnership with the the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, allowing students to complement their MBA with a certificate in real estate.
“We have a curriculum and faculty who are doing really interesting and cutting-edge work in real estate today, both here at the business school and at our Taubman College,” DeRue tells Poets&Quants. “It’s one of the best architecture/urban planning schools in the world, and there’s some people there that are doing some interesting work in this space already. The Weiser Center is going to bring those activities together, I think, in really innovative and creative ways, and then provide a platform to build on top of that.”
In the center’s first year, the Ross School will begin to bring new faculty on board in the real estate space as professors of practice and start to build out some of its new academic programs and curricular and co-curricular elements, DeRue says. By the end of year two the school is expected to “be in a steady state of building the center in its entirety,” including adding elements to the MBA real estate certificate “that I think make it even more attractive to our students, as well as to the students in architecture.” Within the first two years, he says, the center will have a professional-in-residence program with real estate experts who will offer professional development workshops, mentorship, career coaching, and more.
Another key aspect of the center: money for needful students. Besides a new Weiser Scholars Fellowship, through which up to six students will be accepted annually for student support and fellowship activities, additional scholarships and paid internships also will be available.
At the undergraduate level, a minor in real estate is in the works, DeRue says, again as a partnership with the Taubman College. The minor will be for undergraduate students “who are interested in leveraging whatever they’re studying as a major — whether that be business or architecture or urban planning, history, whatever it may be — and combining that with some expertise and experiences in real estate.”
A LONG HISTORY OF GIVING TO U-M
Even before donating $10 million to establish the Weiser Center, Ron Weiser and his wife Eileen, a graduate of the Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, have given a great deal of money to the University of Michigan over the years: more than $100 million to date. Besides Ron’s role on the university’s Board of Regents, both Weisers have served as vice-chairs of the Victors for Michigan campaign and support a wide range of programs across all three campuses of the university, including the Weiser Diplomacy Center, Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, Michigan Medicine’s Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center, and the Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center. In addition, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Michigan Medicine; School of Music, Theatre & Dance; UM-Dearborn; and dozens of other units have been beneficiaries of the Weisers’ giving.
The new Weiser Center for Real Estate will serve as a comprehensive real estate center that offers a suite of practice-oriented courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels focused at the intersection of business and real estate, where students will learn from real estate professionals, apply their knowledge in practice, and prepare for the complex field of real estate business. The center will collaborate with schools across the U-M campus, including the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and real estate firms to offer Multidisciplinary Action Projects and other action-based learning experiences, in addition to courses on real estate finance, real estate law, real estate investing, asset and property management, sustainable development, and more.
“The Weiser Center for Real Estate will transform the real estate offerings at Ross and the university by providing students with practical training, supporting applied research and thought leadership, and serving as a catalyst for interdisciplinary collaboration at Michigan and beyond,” DeRue said in the school’s announcement for the new center. “Students will gain the knowledge, skills and connections they need to launch successful careers in real estate. Students will also learn how real estate plays an important role in all types of business, and how understanding the principles of real estate is essential for managing global and distributed organizations. The center’s engagement with industry professionals and companies will elevate our reputation as a leading center of excellence in this exciting field.”
“I look forward to the center becoming the hub for real estate at the university and Ross,” Ron Weiser said in the school’s news release. “I am thrilled to be able to help bring this exciting program to fruition at Michigan Ross.”
See the next page for a short Q&A with Michigan Ross Dean Scott DeRue about the new Weiser Center for Real Estate.