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Real Estate Graduate Students Connect with Industry Leaders in Chicago

By Wisconsin School of Business

October 15, 2021

On Wednesday, October 6th, 21 Wisconsin Real Estate graduate students who are enrolled in the Real Estate Private Equity (REPE) and Applied Real Estate Investment Tracks (AREIT) set off to Chicago for a two-day study tour in which they had the opportunity to connect with a diverse group of inspirational leaders within the real estate industry.

Upon arrival, the students joined a dinner hosted by Graaskamp Center’s Irgens Executive Director Michael Brennan at the Langham Hotel in downtown Chicago, where Graaskamp Board members Mike Baucus, Managing Partner of Portfolio Operations at AIC Ventures, and Corey Chisnell, Partner at Artis Advisors, shared their experiences in portfolio management, real estate financing and investment banking, and underwriting investment opportunities. A key underlying theme from both Mike and Corey was the importance of underwriting the sponsor of a deal and ensuring they have a history of integrity, a solid track record, and the current capacity to complete what they set out to do.

About the Applied Real Estate Investment Track (AREIT): The first program of its kind in the country, AREIT is a one-of-a-kind graduate track in which the students have the opportunity to manage a multi-million-dollar U.S. Equity REIT portfolio. An advisory board of REIT industry professionals serves as the client and provides advice and guidance on investment decisions and presentations.  The mission of the track is to develop competent real estate investors who understand the best practices and strategies for investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs). 

About the Real Estate Private Equity (REPE) Track:  The Private Equity Track is a unique student/alumni investment private equity fund where student teams invest outside capital to deliver real returns for investors. The student’s source, underwrite, make investment recommendations, and asset manages a variety of private real estate investment opportunities. The mission of the track is to develop competent real estate investors who understand the real estate private equity organization.

The following morning the two groups of students met with two Heitman executives: John Clement, Executive Vice President of North America Acquisitions and Thomas McCarthy, Senior Managing Director. Both were former colleagues of AREIT’s director, Tim Pire, and shared their experiences during their time at Heitman and discussed current trends in the market, and offered wisdom and advice to the students as they look forward to launching their own careers.

After the morning presentations, the two groups moved forward with separate itineraries for the remainder of the day. The REPE students traveled to Rosemont, IL to meet Michael Brennan at the Headquarters of Brennan Investment Group (BIG). Meanwhile the AREIT students set off to meet with representatives from Heitman, Ventas, Brookfield, and Equity Residential. 


At BIG, the REPE students received an overview on the organizational structure of the company and learned how investment opportunities flow through each department from acquisition/development to disposition.  Michael Brennan, Chairman/CEO, began by discussing the overarching vision he set for the company, and the goals and strategy that the company’s leadership created to achieve the vision. With vision, goals, and strategy in mind, the students next learned about how BIG organizes its internal operations to achieve its vision. Students learned from BIG’s Midwest Region Director, Director of Underwriting and Due Diligence, Director of Capital Markets, General Counsel, Chief Financial Officer, Senior VP of Asset Management, and Investment Analysts and Associates. Learning first-hand about the internal operations of a private equity organization provided the students an immensely valuable experience on how to structure their own operations within the REPE track and in their future careers.

For AREIT, Brain Newman, Portfolio Strategy Officer of Ventas and Managing Director and Portfolio Manager of Ventas’ Life Science and Healthcare Fund, held a discussion with the students around trends in the health care sector, specifically around life science markets, his experience managing a private fund within a public REIT, and offered career advice to the students. 

The AREIT team then met with Larry Antonatos, Managing Director, and members of Brookfield’s Real Estate Public Securities team. Brookfield’s team presented their strategy in which they pursue alpha, provided some commentary on current trends in office and single-family rental, and discussed the AREIT team’s strategy.

Before reuniting with Private Equity team and returning to Madison on Thursday afternoon, the AREIT team met with Marty McKenna, VP of Investor and Public Relations, and Robert Garechana, Executive Vice President and CFO of Equity Residential. During this meeting, the team discussed future trends in residential and office and the possible permanent impacts the global pandemic may have on them.

The Wisconsin Real Estate graduate students and Graaskamp Center team would like to express their appreciation and thank these industry professionals for taking the time to enrich the students with their experiences. The knowledge gained from this trip will certainly be put to use as both teams look to invest their funds throughout the remainder of the semester.

Thank you to our generous hosts and sponsors:

  • Seth Singerman, President and Managing Partner, Singerman Real Estate, LLC
  • Brennan Investment Group (BIG)
  • Equity Residential
  • Ventas’ Life Science and Healthcare Fund
  • Brookfield Properties
  • Heitman
  • Artis Advisors, LLC
  • AIC Ventures