Thursday, October 28, 2010

ULI Fall Meeting-Intensive but Enjoyable

Continuing Series: Meet Our Current Students

A small group of MBA students and I spent three days in Washington, DC for ULI’s Fall Meeting. The time there was very intense but very enjoyable. More than 5,000 people attended this year’s meeting, and I had the chance to enjoy all kinds of insightful panels. I think it was a good opportunity for me to understand real estate markets as well as a good networking opportunity to reach out and get to know industry leaders.

It was really difficult task to choose the panels to attend as there were so many good ones. So we turned to Graaskamp Center Executive Director Michael Brennan for help. He went through the panel schedule with me and suggested some good choices; my personal favorites: “Capital Market: What Do Today and Tomorrow Look Like” and the “Office Trends: Here, Now, and Beyond”. The first one gave me an overview of the current market and the investment opportunities in the emerging market such as China, while the second one helped me dig deeper into the office market. Wisconsin alumni Brian D. Berry, Managing Director of Tishman Speyer, was the discussion leader for the “Office Trends” panel. He shared his industry experience and his viewpoints for the office market. He thought there would heavy demand for flexibility of the office space as corporate clients are more efficient than before.

Wisconsin Real Estate had a booth in university row in the main expo hall which welcomed alumni and potential applicants. We also got to know some of the graduate students from other real estate programs such as Columbia, MIT and Cornell. We had a good discussion on the international capital market and its impact on the global real estate industry. I think ULI is a good platform for us to get to know more friends and to learn from each other.

On Thursday October 14th, the WREAA and the Graaskamp Center hosted a networking reception. It was a big success, attended by over 50 alumni and potential applicants for the program. We met some people interested in our program, and we were glad to introduce our wonderful experience as a first year MBA students. Backed up by Professor and Academic Director Stephen Malpezzi who explained further about the program’s curriculum and the strength of the program.

If you would like to learn more about the Wisconsin MBA program or about upcoming events, visit our website at

Julia Xia is a first-year MBA student in the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate. Formerly a real estate consultant and asset manager in Beijing, Julia graduated from Peking University with a bachelor's degree in finance and banking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Business and personal priorities in a 40-year career

by Michael Brennan, Executive Director of the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate

James P. Grusecki, Chairman and CEO of Northern Builders, was the honoree of the E.J. Plesko Distinguished Speaker in Real Estate Development Award given to those who embody the Wisconsin Tradition in their spirit, imagination, entrepreneurial skills and enthusiasm for improving the built environment. The event was held on October 22, 2010 at the Fluno Center and was attended by both MBA and undergraduate real estate majors, members of faculty, and numerous outside guests interested in learning more about the successful history of one of Chicago’s leading industrial development companies.

The E.J. Plesko Speaker Series is funded by a gift from developer E.J. Plesko, a Graaskamp Center Board Member and President of E.J. Plesko & Associates, a real estate development and management company based in Madison.

Jim’s talk revealed the remarkable growth not only of Northern Builders, but of Jim’s personal growth as a businessman and an executive leader of his firm.

Northern Builders was started in the late 1920’s by Mr. Grusecki’s father, originally in the residential business, slowly making the transition into industrial development and ownership. “In the beginning, we were a family business in every sense. On our first build-to-suit with Ingersoll-Rand, my mom, dad, and my siblings were all partners. My dad told me that I would have to pay $24,000 for my share of the deal. Somehow, I scraped it together. Those days taught me valuable lessons.” Northern Builders today owns over 5 million square feet of Class A industrial property, as well as a few office and retail properties.

Jim offered a few personal insights, on aspects of his life he was most proud of and suggestions for those starting their careers. “I take great pride in meeting my obligations…Northern has never given back a property to a lender.” Jim continued by saying that while he certainly faced times of adversity, the business model of savings, and reinvestment, helped them weather the often severe cycles of development.

Jim offered several interesting perspectives for those beginning their careers. “Do not become impatient in your career…opportunities open up for those who are dedicated.” Jim further remarked that “there is an interconnected, three-legged stool- family, business, health – that has to be properly balanced. Each one affects the other.”

Jim Grusecki resides in Chicago and has now assumed the role of non-executive chairman of Northern Builders. Jim is active in numerous civic and charitable organizations including a family foundation whose mission is to support education, the arts, and to provide housing to single parent households.

The next E.J. Plesko Series Speaker event will occur in the Spring of 2011.

Photo of James Grusecki, flanked by E.J. Plesko (left), Stephen Malpezzi (right) and Michael Brennan (far right).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Setting off for Seattle

Students and members of the UW Real Estate Club are traveling to Seattle this week on the fall semester field trip.

With support and assistance from local alumni, over two days, they will visit sites including Russell Investments Center, Bellevue Towers, Melrose Market, and others. The Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association has organized a welcome reception for the club Wednesday evening October 27th. Please visit for details and to register.

The Real Estate Club, which is open to both undergraduate and MBA students in real estate, takes a field trip to a key U.S. real estate market each semester. Previous trips have visited Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and New York to name a few.

Photo by Robert Badgley via stock.xchng

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back from ULI Fall 2010

The Wisconsin Real Estate delegation of students and staff is back in Madison after a successful visit to Washington, DC for the Fall 2010 meeting of the Urban Land Institute. Having attended the show for a long time, we decided this year to set up a booth in the expo hall as well. And we're so glad we did! Not only did we attend some very informative sessions, we had a central gathering point for alumni, board members, prospective employers, potential students and more. Wisconsin Real Estate was well represented at the show!

Some members of our board of advisors attended the ULI Foundation's retreat where even ULI's CEO Patrick Phillips sported Wisconsin Real Estate red!

Maybe that was the extra karma needed to help put the Badgers over the Buckeyes last weekend--the lead-up to the game was a hot topic of conversation at the show.

If you didn't have a chance to stop by our booth or join the Center's and WREAA's reception or even if you didn't attend the show, we'd like to connect with you. Bookmark this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter (via Constant Contact), follow us on Facebook or Twitter--whatever you prefer!

On Wisconsin!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Action-Packed Week at the Graaskamp Center!

Today, first-year MBA student Ben Schmidt contributes a post to our Meet Our Current Students series:

As Eric talked about in his recent post, we’ve been fortunate to host a steady stream of guests at the Grasskamp Center recently. This week it’s time to turn the tables: instead of numerous alumni and guest speakers coming to campus, the Graaskamp Center is hitting the road!

A number of faculty, staff and students--including Academic Director Stephen Malpezzi, Executive Director Michael Brennan, Senior Associate Director Kris Hammargren and fellow first-year MBA student Julia Xia --are attending ULI’s Fall Conference this week in Washington, D.C.

The Graaskamp Center will be hosting a networking reception TODAY (October 14) from 6:00-8:00 PM in Room 209C of the convention center. Alumni, board members, and friends of the Wisconsin Real Estate Program are welcome -- you need not be a Conference participant to attend. We hope you will also say hello at the Graaskamp Center booth (#723 in the convention center).

While many of us will be traveling this week, that’s not to say that life around campus will slow down at all. In fact, we’ve hit that point in the semester where things really start to ramp up. The foundations were laid in the first few weeks of classes, and now we students are being called upon to apply what we’ve learned. That means assignments and exams: Monday was our first midterm exam in Accounting, last week required the submission of our first Data to Decisions (data analysis) assignment, and we have two assignments due this week in Real Estate Finance.

In between, we’re getting another visitor: alumnus Terrance Wall, Founder, Chairman and CEO of T. Wall Properties, will be speaking to our Real Estate Finance class while Professor Abdullah Yavas will be attending to his duties as a member of the Monetary Policy Committee with the Central Bank of Turkey.

So things are busy for everyone! Hopefully, you’re staying just as busy, too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wisconsin at ULI Fall 2010!

Wisconsin Real Estate will be in Washington DC next week at ULI's Fall 2010 Meeting. Visit our booth #723 in the Expo Hall.

And join us Thursday evening October 14th 6:00-8:00 pm in Room 209C for a reception for alumni and friends of the program.

We hope to see you there!

Friday, October 1, 2010

No slowing down

Today, first-year MBA student Eric Dowling contributes a post to our Meet Our Current Students series:

Our first week of classes was just four weeks ago, and real estate MBA students like me have gotten off to a very busy start on top of the rigors of classes. On Wednesday, September 15, approximately 35 members of the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate Board of Advisors met in Madison, along with distinguished guests and panelists, current MBA students, and faculty and staff, at the Fluno Center to kick off the fall board meeting. After a reception and dinner, there was a presentation by Alan Berube, Senior Fellow and Research Director, Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, on the changing demographics within the United States. The following day’s activities included several panel discussions and a networking session.

But it didn't stop there. The evening of Thursday, September 16 brought over 300 Wisconsin real estate alumni to Madison for the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association Biennial Conference. One of the highlights was the presentation of the Wisconsin Award, the WREAA's highest recognition of a distinguished member of the real estate community who has successfully and creatively integrated both a business and social ethic within the real estate process. This year's honoree was the evening’s keynote speaker John Buck, Chairman and CEO of The John Buck Company. Even the university’s marching band joined in the festivities at the end of the night by playing a few songs, including, of course, “On, Wisconsin!” Throughout the day on Friday, September 17, there were several panel discussions, speeches, and networking sessions. There was also a tailgate for the real estate alumni held on Saturday for the football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Badgers won…by one point.

Several speakers have also visited campus this month. Brad Olsen, Managing Partner and CEO of Atlantic Partners, spoke to undergraduate and graduate real estate students on Wednesday the 22nd about international real estate. Topics included everything from the possible effects of the troubles in the EMU to growth possibilities in China and India. The next night at the students' Real Estate Club meeting, David Brain, President and CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust (NYSE: EPR), received the Innovator Award, which is given in recognition of outstanding individuals who have made a creative mark on the real estate industry. Mr. Brain spoke at length to the club about how EPR has developed, its current opportunities and obstacles, and its future growth possibilities. Chuck Carpenter, Managing Director of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and a UW alum, spoke to real estate students on Friday, September 24 about what SWIB is and their overall market and investment viewpoint. And finally, on Thursday the 30th, representatives from developer Tishman Speyer were on campus to talk to the Real Estate Club about their firm and discuss financing strategies that they have used during the economic downturn.

There is no slowing down heading into October for the MBA real estate students. Paul Boneham, SVP of Acquisitions at Kennedy Associates, will speak on Friday, October 15th. Simon Property Group will be on campus towards the end of the month. And finally the Real Estate Club is leading a two-night trip to Seattle where current students will meet with industry alumni as well as tour commercial real estate projects in the area.

Eric Dowling is a first-year MBA student in the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate. Eric plans to combine his previous real estate experience with his MBA education to establish a career in private equity investments.

Visit the Wisconsin Real Estate Program website for news and upcoming events. Join our mailing list (via Constant Contact) to receive our monthly newsletter and invitations to our public events.