The primary goal of the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at UNC Kenan-Flagler is to “create a community of real estate practitioners engaged in lifelong learning and career development.” This emphasis on community building is evident in the many ways the Wood Center connects MBA students with UNC’s extensive, highly engaged real estate alumni network. These include sponsoring well-known initiatives – such as the annual UNC Real Estate Conference, career trek receptions and the alumni mentorship program through the MBA Real Estate Club – as well as a new effort to facilitate interaction on a smaller scale.
This past fall, the Wood Center brought together current students and alumni in a series of intimate conversations. Four to eight students signed up for an extended exchange with a senior real estate professional. The alumni participants, who were already set to speak to the second-year MBA real estate development class, maximized the impact of their time on campus by hosting these mentoring meetings.
These small group sessions offered several benefits not found in other networking formats. First, they allowed students to receive personalized, unfiltered advice that went beyond the standard industry fodder. During my conversations with Chris Keber (MBA ‘02), senior managing director at Hines, and Kai Reynolds (MBA ‘00), partner at The JBG Companies, we discussed such topics as navigating cross-generational challenges in the hiring process, setting audacious goals, placing our first post-MBA job into a broader career plan, and balancing work and life throughout our careers.
Second, the alumni participants all possessed sufficient experience to provide valuable insights and expressed their vested interests in the students’ success. In addition to those mentioned above, other alumni hosts included: Jonathan Carr (MBA ‘07), senior vice president at Grosvenor; Pete Otteni (MBA ‘00), senior vice president at Boston Properties; and Preston Meyer (MBA ‘07), executive director at JPMorgan.
Finally, the environment fostered by the Wood Center forged trust and promoted openness within the group that enabled meaningful dialogue. The dedicated time and space encouraged a “low pressure” interaction that is often fleeting in traditional networking forums.
There is no question that the ties that bind the UNC Real Estate community are rooted in the experiences and values shared across many generations of alumni. It is equally true that the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies nurtures these common bonds by strengthening the relationships between current students and graduates through many interactions, big and small.
By C.J. Overly (MBA ’17)