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Fall 2019 Graaskamp Center Update

Posted By Mandy Kaegy, Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association, Inc., Monday, December 16, 2019


Dear Alumni and Friends,


It’s exam week on campus, that time of year that produces recurring nightmares decades after graduation!  One of the privileges of being an academic is the cycle of the school year.  Students come back to campus at the start of the semester excited to catch up with old friends, learn new things, and forge a life path, then journey through the semester picking up life lessons and new knowledge. From a faculty member’s perspective, we too are excited about a classroom full of new students at the commencement of the semester and enjoy the end of semester lull in activity that allows us to focus on research projects and other initiatives.


My focus this “off season” is on a top-to-bottom review of the undergraduate curriculum.  Using input from dozens of you and 30 position descriptions, we have constructed a series of market-based learning outcomes.  With those learning outcomes in hand we have mapped where students are introduced to a subject (class discussion and readings), experience a subject (a course assignment), and master a subject (a course assignment using live real estate information).  In short, the goal is to provide the conceptual context and analysis methods to address a real estate problem and know where and how to source real-time data to solve the problem.


Student learning outcomes that were communicated by alums and present in job descriptions include:

  • Technical Skills such as Excel, Argus, or CoStar; which leads to:
  • Conceptual Knowledge such as constructing an income proforma, comparable grids, and debt/equity investment analyses; which are evaluated through:
  • Critical Thinking where students analyze the size and impact of capital expenditures in a property income proforma, the subtle differences between rent comparables and the subject property in a property valuation, and balance the cash flow benefits with the income volatility risks inherent in property debt and equity underwriting; and conceptualizing this all through the:
  • Commercial Real Estate Landscape where students synthesize the fussy details of the lease agreement into a discounted cash flow analysis and managing the municipal goals and community social needs of a commercial real estate development.

The learning outcomes and process reflect how Jim Graaskamp taught risk management fundamentals and the fit of a development in the built environment.  Our goal is to provide the undergraduates with the expertise to be real estate entrepreneurs with “ . . . . the creativity of Leonardo da Vinci, the sensitivity of the natural world of John Muir, and the political humanity with cash management for profit of James Rouse.  Of course, the graduate student should be something more!”[1]


It has been a whirlwind 15 months since I returned to the UW.  I have the privilege of working with remarkable faculty and staff here in Madison.  From the department chair to the full-time faculty to staff in the Center, I am surrounded by tremendous talent.  In 2019 the Program had several talent additions including Associate Director of the Graaskamp Center, Greg Reed, a proud UW Political Science and MS in Real Estate alum with appraisal, asset management, and CMBS rating agency experience; Senior Lecturer, Bill Camp, an equally proud UW Engineering alum and eight year CFO of a publicly traded REIT; and Academic Department Specialist, Miranda Zuo, who is an excellent administrator and is fluent in Mandarin.  We are currently looking for talented new and engaged faculty to replace Andra Ghent and Moussa Diop who left the WSB last Spring.


Undergraduate enrollment at the WSB is 3,200, up 1,000 students over the past 10 years and is expected to grow another 1,000 in the next five years.  At 4,000 undergrads, the WSB will be about 13% of all majors at UW-Madison, still less than the business majors many other universities report.


Undergraduate Real Estate enrollment is 538 students for the 2019-2020 year (sophomores, juniors and seniors).  This is an all-time high enrollment and compares positively with 194 students in 2007-08 and 134 students in 2011-2012.  The 538 undergraduate majors make Real Estate the third largest undergraduate major in the WSB, larger than accounting, supply chain, and IT among other majors.  Having an abundance of real estate undergraduate students comes with the challenge of providing them with excellence in applied learning experiences.  Recall how transformative your real estate club road trip or case competition or site visit was to your formation?  We need to continue that path of excellence in non-classroom learning experiences for each of our undergraduate students.  One wildly successful example of this non-classroom student learning was the Real Estate Club trip to Denver this Fall where the WREAA Denver team provided a series of memorable tours and presentations.  Another example was the Fall Career Fair with 47 companies represented, 100 company employees available to engage students, and 250 student attendees.  Real estate undergraduate students continue to have little difficulty finding full-time employment with an average Real Estate Analyst salary of $62,300 last year.


We admitted the first MS students in the re-activated MS Real Estate program for the Fall 2019 semester.  These students joined the MBA students and Global Real Estate Masters (GREM) students in class. Real Estate MBA starting salaries in 2019 averaged just north of $100,000.  Our graduate students have the opportunity to participate in leadership roles as teaching assistants, Real Estate Club Executive Committee members and as participants in case competitions and AREIT presentations.


One new potential program for 2020 is a graduate track in Real Estate Private Equity.  We are diligently working with the WREAA on offering a graduate career track in private equity where students will invest funds in private equity investments.  Course instruction will be provided by Mike Brennan, Irgens Executive Director of the Graaskamp Center and Chairman of Brennan Investment Group with the assistance of an active Fund board of directors.


To continue with these successes, we need your help.  First, the Dean is pushing us to grow the graduate real estate programs to 50 students. Please send us the best and brightest undergraduate students and early career professionals to follow in your legacy of graduating from the Real Estate Program at the University of Wisconsin.  Next, we need your assistance in providing the students with best-in-class applied learning experiences.  As I mentioned earlier, these mentorships, site visits, road trips and case competitions are transformative experiences that make us the first choice for college talent and for the real estate firms that hire our students. We need to grow these experiences in scope and scale and will be reaching out to you to share your wisdom and experience with eager and engaged students.


In signing off, the end of the semester is a rich time for me to reflect on the many privileges I have been afforded.  One of those privileges is the wonderful support and kindness that many of you have provided to me in my journey back to our alma mater – I am gratified to be back!


Good luck to our Badgers as they go Duck hunting on New Year’s Day!!!


On Wisconsin!


Mark Eppli, Director,

James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate


[1] James A. Graaskamp quote from Graaskamp on Real Estate by Stephen P. Jarchow.

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