We sat down with Dave Hartzell to get the inside scoop on UNC Kenan-Flagler’s one-of-a-kind real estate program.
What brought you to UNC Kenan-Flagler?
I vividly remember the first time my wife and I visited Chapel Hill – it was December 7, 1980. It was 72 degrees here and about 50 degrees in D.C., where we had started the day. The UNC men’s basketball team was ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by Sports Illustrated. The campus and the faculty and staff that I visited with were incredibly inspiring. I decided that this was the place I wanted to get my PhD in finance and cancelled all of my trips to other schools. A few years after receiving my PhD, I was lucky enough to be asked to come back to Chapel Hill and have been teaching here ever since.
Tell us about your research.
One thing that is pretty cool about real estate is that the research I am doing is practical and applicable to real-world decision making. An article I wrote with a former colleague, which was just published in a top real estate journal, looks at the performance of real estate private equity funds.
I’m also partnering with faculty from the UNC School of Medicine and the Gillings School of Global Public Health to look at trends in senior housing. Among the things we’re looking at are the reasons behind the increasing percentage of seniors who are moving to Panama, Mexico and other Latin American countries after retiring. Our paper is still in the early stages. We’ve submitted a proposal to the American Seniors Housing Association based on our preliminary results.
Both of these research topics provide useful background and anecdotes for the classroom.
What sets the UNC Kenan-Flagler real estate program apart from other programs?
I believe we have the most comprehensive and coordinated real estate curriculum of any business school in the world. We have four full-time real estate finance faculty members, all of whom are actively engaged in research. We also have an incredibly strong alumni network, and many of our alumni come to campus on a regular basis to share their insights, inside and outside of the classroom. Our students have tremendous access to faculty, staff and alumni. But I think above all else, what separates UNC Kenan-Flagler from other programs is the culture. The MBA program is collaborative and collegial, and nowhere is that more apparent than within the real estate program.
How does UNC Kenan-Flagler give students without prior real estate experience relevant exposure before they begin interviewing with prospective employers?
Our tagline is “Real-World Real Estate.” Our real estate program is designed to give students both academic and real-life experiences while they’re here at UNC Kenan-Flagler. We have a number of course offerings, including the real estate private equity fund – which is, to my knowledge, the only student-managed real estate private equity fund in the U.S. – and the development process course, in which students identify a property, create a financially viable development plan and present their proposal to a group of potential equity investors. We’ve had a number of these projects funded and developed.
In addition, we provide ARGUS training to students, fully underwritten by the Wood Center. The MBA Real Estate Club also does a great job helping students prepare through their “brown bag” educational programs and the career treks that they organize.
The main goal of these offerings is to get everyone up to speed, provide a toolkit of analytical skills and develop real estate intuition so that our students can hit the ground running and create value the day they start their summer internships and full-time careers.
What is a career trek? What kinds of experiences can students expect to have in the various cities they visit?
Career treks are a focal point of the MBA Real Estate Club. Students travel to up to eight cities and meet with more than 50 real estate firms and hundreds of alumni annually. Students on these treks receive unparalleled access to industry leaders in real estate finance, investments and development across all real estate sectors. The treks provide firsthand exposure to decision makers, which enhances the classroom experience.
How does the program expand its presence beyond the Southeast?
While a number of our graduates continue to take jobs in Washington D.C., Raleigh, Charlotte and Atlanta, we now have a strong alumni network across the U.S. – including the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast – and an increasingly international presence. Each year, we try to add a new city to our list of career trek destinations, and it sends a very powerful message to employers when we have upwards of 30-35 students on company visits. The next time they are looking for talented individuals to join their teams, they are going to remember UNC Kenan-Flagler.
What is your vision for the real estate program going forward?
We have made a lot of progress over the past 15 years on both the educational and outreach components of our program. We now have four really strong full-time faculty members in the real estate group, and they each bring something different to the program based on their educational backgrounds and their teaching and research interests.
We’ve also grown the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies, which has become a recognizable entity in its own right. The Wood Center’s reputation is certainly being enhanced by the work of Executive Director Jim Spaeth and his team, which is paying dividends in terms of an increasing number of companies coming to campus to interview our students concentrating in real estate.
Looking forward, my goals for the program are straightforward: If you are a top-quality student interested in real estate, we want UNC Kenan-Flagler to be your first choice. If you are a world-class real estate faculty member, we want the School to be your first choice. If you are a real estate employer hiring MBA-level talent, we want our program and students to be your first choice. And if you are an alum, we want you to be really proud of your experience and of the overall program at UNC Kenan-Flagler, and to stay engaged long after graduation.
Click here to read more about Dave.
By Bob Sincerbeaux (MBA ’17)