In class on Wednesday prior to Spring Break, half the class threw their hands up with gusto as I completed an overview of an upcoming assignment. Delighted with the engaged response, I called on a student where I learned that her interest was not in the assignment, rather it was concern about the University text they received moments earlier (my rapt lectures are no competition for a University text, maybe any text!) announcing that all in-class meetings were canceled.
Last week we started teaching all courses remotely which will continue through final exams. Additionally, WSB faculty, students, and staff were instructed not to enter Grainger Hall without leadership approval. As university IT systems are stressed by the spike in internet use, advances in remote teaching and collaboration software made the transition to online relatively smooth with reasonable expectations of solid learning academic outcomes. However, almost all co-curricular learning opportunities have been curtailed including Real Estate Club meetings, Graaskamp on the Road in Atlanta, Graaskamp Center Board Meeting in Chicago, among many other group learning opportunities. We apologize to all of you who are inconvenienced – welcome to the world of social distancing, self-isolation, and the COVID-19 curve.
Best in Class Faculty
Our three steps forward are significant and will set the path of the Program for years to come. The first step forward is the hiring of three talented faculty:
- Dr. Lu Han will join the Wisconsin Real Estate Program from the Rotman School of business where she is Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy and Chief Scientist at the Behavior Economics in Action Center. Dr. Han comes with a distinguished resume of top journal publications and numerous teaching awards. Dr. Han received her Ph.D. from Stanford in 2005 and currently teaches Real Estate Finance and Real Estate Economics.
- Dayin Zhang is a Ph.D. student in Finance and Real Estate at the University of California – Berkeley where he anticipates completing his Ph.D. in May 2020. Dayin is a teaching assistant in Real Estate Finance in the Haas School of Business, his job market paper focuses on the role that the Federal Home Loan Bank System plays in providing liquidity to member banks.
- Asad Khan expects to receive his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign in 2020. He too comes with teaching awards, research awards, and best paper awards. It was a very good year to hire new talent!
Interdisciplinary education is the hallmark of the Real Estate Program at Wisconsin where complex cross-discipline classroom learning is paired with dynamic co-curricular learning activities. Undergraduate student learning takes many forms including:
- Technical Skills such as Excel, Argus, ArcGIS, or CoStar;
- Conceptual Skills such as constructing an income proforma, a comparable grid, a debt or equity investment analysis;
- Critical Thinking Skills that include evaluating and synthesizing the role of capital expenditures in a property income proforma, interpreting the subtleties of rent and sale comparables, or managing risk in the capital stack;
- Conceptualizing the Commercial Real Estate Landscape where the fussy details of lease agreements to the municipal policy and community social needs are folded into applied learning experiences that shape context and form of a real estate development.
Vital dynamic interactions come from co-curricular activities that illuminate classroom teaching. Co-curricular learning opportunities guide, mentor, and teach students to critically think about the commercial real estate landscape. Where critical thinking transcends narrowly-siloed decisions and examines the fit of a real estate development through alternative viewpoints. Seeing the tangible impact that real estate decisions have on the built environment allows students to take the entrepreneurial and intellectual leap of dreaming about that which might be for a site as oppose to that which currently exists – like most of you do every day! Stay tuned for more details on the reshaping of the undergraduate curriculum.
Being Something More
Chief believed that the graduate student should “ . . . be something more” and embody the sensitivities of John Muir, Leonard DiVinci, and Jim Rouse. We are working on just that with four proposed career tracks that provide students with “best-in-class” learning opportunities with 12-credit hours of concentrated education in four specializations – (1) real estate development, (2) private equity, (3) applied real estate investment analysis, and (4) sustainable housing. Differentiating the graduate student from the undergraduate student comes in the graduate student’s ability to effectively industry interface – from presenting in a board room to delivering a compelling investment overview in a 30 second elevator trip. The graduate student’s ability to transcend, organize, and present commercial real estate analysis from theory to application is core to the experience in each of the four career tracks. Please share applied learning opportunities with potential MS candidates.
Going Forward – Maintaining and Growing the Wisconsin Real Estate Legacy
Maintaining and growing the Wisconsin legacy in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics through undergraduate co-curricular opportunities and graduate career tracks is critical as the number of undergraduate real estate has grown to over 500 students since 2012 and the re-activated MS is expected to enroll 35 new students a year. Please pitch in if you have the opportunity to support a real estate club field trip or mentor or hire a student through their years at your alma mater. Alternatively, please consider financially supporting curricular and co-curricular experiences that shaped your professional life.
GO BUCKY . . . .and be safe out there!
Mark Eppli, Graaskamp Center Director