Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From full-time employee to full-time student

As part of our Meet Our Current Students series, first-year real estate MBA student Jordan Denzer reports on student real estate activities and life in general.

I’ve been in Madison for 2.5 months now. Coming from Texas, I’m thoroughly amazed at the fact that there are actually four seasons, as opposed to just two. Right now the leaves are changing colors and falling, but it’s not the standard Dallas version of trees shedding their foliage, where the leaves fall in two weeks and give an onlooker a limited visual appeal. Fall in Madison has a myriad of colors and seems in no hurry to leave. Unfortunately, both still require the prongs of a rake. I have also jumped into Madison’s bicycle culture, riding my bike as my primary means of transportation and am thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve gotten fenders put on it, so as to effectively navigate wet streets, and I understand that you can even get snow tires for winter riding, but I’ll wait and see how appealing that sounds once the snow starts hitting the ground.

I also have crossed off two items on my Wisconsin bucket list*. I have been both to a Badgers’ and Packers’ football game. While both have their strong suits, I must say that I enjoyed the Badgers’ game more than the Packers’. I love the experience of “sitting” (or more accurately, standing) in the students’ section. The student interaction with the activity of the game is great and keeps you on your toes for the next group response, counting of Bucky’s push-ups after a score or jingling of keys for a kick-off. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the “Jump Around” explosion that happens after every third quarter – those are a blast! Unfortunately though, the Badgers have now lost two games in a row (Michigan St. and Ohio St.), so any hopes of contending for the national championship are down the drain. That said, the Packers are still in the hunt, and I had the pleasure of seeing them dismantle the St. Louis Rams with a fellow international student (Canadian) at Lambeau. An unpleasantry of the Lambeau experience was dealing with scalpers and paying three times face value for our tickets. The game wasn’t nearly as interactive as the Badgers’ game either, but it did have redeeming qualities. First of all, I was in a football shrine at Lambeau and loved it. Second, the group of people I attended the game with moved tailgating from its normal pre-game position, to a 9 to 5 endeavor. Only two of the 20+ in our group went to the game, as all others stayed in the parking lot the entire time, but they weren’t lacking in comforts, as we came with a fully-enclosed packed trailer, a generator and more food and beverages than you could shake a stick at.

*Wisconsin Bucket List:
Badger football game: check
Packer football game: check
Ice fishing: pending

Now regarding academics (what I’m really here for), specifically the real estate program, there is much to be said. Two weeks ago, the Graaskamp Center had the fall meeting of its Board of Advisors, a group of senior level real estate industry leaders who are alumni and friends of the program. The meeting’s theme was, "Real Estate in Recovery: Navigating a New World of Risk and Reward", and the keynote speaker was author, UW professor and geo-political expert Jon Pevehouse. Following dinner at the newly-finished Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Pevehouse spoke regarding geo-political events in the past and present and their impact on current economic situations. One memorable point of the talk was a test that had been used to indicate the corruption level of a nation’s government. Pevehouse cited a study that had been done in New York City on parking tickets received by diplomats of foreign embassies, and he showed that the home countries of the diplomats who received the most parking tickets lined up well with high corruption levels in those countries. The following day was filled with panel discussions on the “New Risks of Global Economy,” “Understanding the Global Economy,” “Public Real Estate Markets,” “Global Strategies of Private Equity in Real Estate,” and “China’s Rise.” Between panel discussions, I had, along with the other MBA students, had the great opportunity to network with board members and discuss current issues in real estate.

On the class work front, my real estate class this semester, Real Estate Finance, has its first exam this week, so it has been a steep learning curve for this career changer (previously I managed corporate flexible spending accounts). Not only am I familiarizing myself with the various financial components involved with real estate, but I am also learning how to use my financial calculator appropriately. I’m currently using a TI BA II Plus calculator, and I encourage any prospective students reading this blog to familiarize themselves with that calculator, unless you already have a financial calculator with which you’re comfortable. The more you have under your belt prior to entering the program, the more it will serve you in the long run, as you’ll be able to focus solely on the course material and will not have to worry regarding calculators and computer programs. That said, I’ve found that classmates who are more advanced in certain subject matters are eager and willing to help you, so it makes for a supportive learning environment. You don’t feel like your out on an island, but that you are in it together with your classmates.

Later this month, I’m looking forward to hearing from Dan McCaffery, Chairman and CEO of McCaffrey Interests in Chicago. He will be the featured speaker in the E.J. Plesko Distinguished Speaker Series in Real Estate Development on November 11. The series features developers who embody the "Wisconsin tradition" in their spirit, imagination, entrepreneurial skills, and enthusiasm for improving the quality of the built environment. It's also a great complement to the Center's real estate curriculum.

Jordan Denzer comes to Madison from Dallas, TX (it is often joked that he is one of the international students). Previously, Jordan managed corporate flexible spending accounts, but decided that he wanted to get into real estate development, which initiated the move to Madison. Currently, Jordan is interested in getting into historic redevelopment and/or mixed-use development projects.

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