Monday, April 8, 2013

Meet the GREM Students


Pictured from left: Wentao Cai, Jue Shen, Fares Bou Atme, Thomas Sukno

Now in its third year, the Global Real Estate Masters program partners the Wisconsin School of Business real estate program with HEC Paris, Hong Kong UST, INCAE, and Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF), to provide top ranked international business schools access to Wisconsin’s renowned real estate expertise. Currently, four students are living and studying here in Madison.  I sat down with them to learn more about why they pursued the GREM program and see how they are enjoying their time in Madison.

What did you choose the GREM program and what do you hope to get out of it?

Jue Shen (SAIF): With eight years of experience in various capacities in corporate finance at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, I wanted to obtain top notch real estate education as the industry becomes increasingly important in China. Also, gaining understanding between China and the United States markets is a passion of mine, as I wish to help U.S. investors access the Chinese real estate market more effectively.

Wentao Cai (SAIF): Given my current job as an advisor to a firm specializing in new project developments and urban planning in China, I needed a real estate-based educational framework to effectively apply my knowledge on the ground.

Fares Bou Atme (HEC Paris): After graduating from the American University in Beirut with a degree in civil and environmental engineering, and several years working in sustainable structural design, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in real estate. I found HEC Paris attractive, especially when paired with the real estate coursework at Wisconsin. GREM provides a comprehensive global view of real estate, much more than any other program that I researched.

Thomas Sukno (HEC Paris): I was initially attracted by an advertisement at HEC Paris and after a bit of research realized that this was such a highly rated program. My hope for the program is that it will broaden my horizons into real estate finance. So far so good!

What do you like most about the real estate profession?

Jue: I like the finance side of the business, specifically helping small investors gain access to real estate capital. The GREM program has also opened my eyes to the REIT structure and I find it quite interesting.

Fares: I have a passion for the built environment, and a career in real estate provides the best combination of my various interests in architecture, civil engineering, urban planning, finance, entrepreneurship, among others.

Thomas: I appreciate its multi-functional diversity. In real estate, you are not pigeonholed into one function, but can find a job you like whether it be in capital markets, construction, appraisal, development, and so on.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Jue: I picture myself working with an asset management company, along with having a family with a cute kid hopefully!

Fares: Short term, I want to work for a development firm in the Middle East given the region has huge room for growth, and eventually I would like to start my own real estate firm.

Thomas: I will work for a Parisian investment banking firm starting in July that specializes in equity capital markets mainly in Western Europe with some global reach. I hope to leverage that experience with my entrepreneurial spirit to start my own company.

What is your impression of Madison?

Wentao: Madison is the only city I have visited in America so it’s tough to compare to other cities, but I can say that it is very livable.

Thomas: It was different than how I pictured a typical American city. The sense of community is striking and really sets it apart from other cities.

Jue: The people and community here are great. Madison is a very suitable place to live. The winter months are interesting to say the least. I am amazed by both the amount of snow and the fact that people sit in the middle of a frozen lake to ice fish!


Thank you to each student for answering our questions and it certainly has been great getting to know them this semester!

Jonathan Brown comes to Madison from Washington, DC, where he managed downtown Class A office buildings for Tishman Speyer. Jonathan plans to leverage his prior experience with financial and analytic tools gained during the MBA program to eventually start his own real estate investment firm.

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